Purple and Black
Taking Independent and Unofficial Back

Post-election, widespread, renewed assault on voting rights

3 TX Dems broke ranks and returned from D.C. to Texas, so opening door to the republican-dominated legislature's bill assaulting voting rights , often through voter suppression, i.e. making it harder to vote.
from NYTimes, 8.20.21:

End of Walkout Splits Texas Democrats: 'We Feel Betrayed and Heartbroken'

For weeks, Democratic lawmakers in Texas were hearing that select members would be breaking ranks and returning to the Capitol.

But as they gathered on Thursday morning for their daily Zoom call, there was no indication their 38-day walkout was about to fall apart.

More than 50 Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives fled Austin for Washington last month to prevent a quorum and effectively kill a sweeping election overhaul bill that would have introduced new restrictions to voting. Just one member, Garnet F. Coleman, had been expected to return to the Capitol on Thursday, still leaving Republicans two Democrats short of a quorum.

Later that same day, however, many Democratic legislators were shocked and disappointed when they saw two other members enter the House chamber with Mr. Coleman — enough to call the House to order and begin work on a lengthy list of conservative goals set by Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican.
The return of the three absent Democrats on Thursday injected a new wave of uncertainty into the national battle over voting rights, one that will most likely be felt as far as Washington. The sudden crumbling of the Democratic blockade opened the door to passage of a new voting law containing restrictions Texas Democrats considered so strident they broke quorum twice.
Though the current election bill in Texas resembles the version from May that first sparked a Democratic walkout, Democrats did win some concessions and Republicans altered or removed some of the most restrictive provisions. Sunday voting hours remain protected, and Republicans added an extra hour of mandatory early voting for weekdays. A provision that was designed to make it easier to overturn elections was also completely removed.

But the bill still bans voting advancements from Harris County, home to Houston, that were enacted in the 2020 election, including drive-through voting and 24-hour voting, and it bans election officials from proactively sending out mail ballot applications, or promoting the use of vote by mail.
The bill also greatly empowers partisan poll watchers, weakening an election official’s authority over them and giving them greater autonomy at polling locations, and creates new barriers for those looking to help voters who require assistance, such as with translations.
From TPM,
Texas House Reported A Quorum, Opening Door To Voting Restrictions

Many of the absent Democrats have been spending their time in Washington D.C., lobbying federal lawmakers to pass voting safeguards.

A group of senators has been working on a compromise bill, expected to be a pared-down version of the For the People Act, and the House recently introduced an updated version of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) vowed to make voting rights the Senate’s first priority upon return from recess, a promise meant to match the urgency of the impending threats now that redistricting has begun.

But as long as Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) refuse to reform or eradicate the filibuster, all voting rights legislation is dead on arrival in the upper chamber. There are not 10 Republican senators willing to help any pro-voting bills over the 60-vote threshold.
When It Costs $53,000 to Vote [NYTimes; 10.7.21]
This article is beautifully put together with photos and stories of individuals affected by the Florida Republican-led legislature's recent ruling re-defining the definition of when a sentence has been served. It's likely behind the firewall. Here are some excerpts. I've colored some of the highlights in orange, in case you don't want to read it all.
Twenty years ago, Judy Bolden served 18 months in a Florida prison. She has been free ever since, but she is still barred from voting by the state until she pays all court fines and fees associated with her conviction.

When Ms. Bolden sat to be photographed by The Times earlier this year, she said she had received a letter informing her that her outstanding debt was a few hundred dollars. Then she checked the Volusia County website and learned that she actually owes nearly $53,000. “I was so taken aback,” she said. “I was like, What? That’s not right. I was just deflated. It’s like, when is this going to end?”

Ms. Bolden is one of more than 700,000 people in Florida who are barred from voting because they can’t afford the financial obligations stemming from a prior felony conviction. “It’s like I’m not a citizen,” she said. “That’s what they’re saying.”
Earlier this year we asked Floridians whose voting rights had been denied because of a criminal conviction to sit for photographs, wearing a name tag that lists not their name but their outstanding debt — to the extent they can determine it. This number, which many people attempt to tackle in installments as low as $30 a month, represents how much it costs them to win back a fundamental constitutional right, and how little it costs the state to withhold that right and silence the voices of hundreds of thousands of its citizens. The number also echoes the inmate identification number that they were required to wear while behind bars — another mark of the loss of rights and freedoms that are not restored upon release.

This is the way it’s been in Florida for a century and a half, ever since the state’s Constitution was amended shortly after the Civil War to bar those convicted of a felony from voting. That ban, like similar ones in many other states, was the work of white politicians intent on keeping ballots, and thus political power, out of the hands of millions of Black people who had just been freed from slavery and made full citizens.
Even as other states began reversing their own bans in recent years, Florida remained a holdout — until 2018, when Floridians overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment restoring voting rights to nearly everyone with a criminal record, upon the completion of their sentence. (Those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense were excluded.)
Democratic and Republican voters alike approved the measure, which passed with nearly two-thirds support. Immediately, as many as 1.4 million people in the state became eligible to vote. It was the biggest expansion of voting rights in decades, anywhere in the country.
That should have been the end of it. But within a year, Florida’s Republican-led Legislature gutted the reform by passing a law defining a criminal sentence as complete only after the person sentenced has paid all legal financial obligations connected to it.
The state adds insult to injury by making it difficult, if not impossible, for many of these people, like Ms. Bolden, to figure out what they owe. There is no central database with those numbers, and counties vary in their record-keeping diligence. Some convictions are so old that there are no records to be located.

This isn’t just Kafkaesque. It may well be the deciding factor in Florida elections: Donald Trump carried the state by roughly 370,000 votes in 2020, or about half the number of Floridians who are denied the right to vote because they can’t afford to pay their fines and fees.
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More fun with gop gerrymandering in Texas:
How a doughnut-shaped district breaks up voters of color near Fort Hood and helps House Republicans [The Texas Tribune; 10.12.21]
For the first time in decades, federal law allows Texas to draw and use political maps without first getting federal approval to ensure the state is not discriminating against voters of color. The Supreme Court in 2013 gutted that federal preclearance requirement in the Voting Rights Act.

Since the enactment of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, Texas has not made it through a single decade without a federal court admonishing it for violating federal protections for voters of color.

The new proposal in Bell County raises “a lot of red flags” about intentional discrimination and vote dilution that could be brought before a court, said Michael Li, a senior counsel at the Brennan Center whose work focuses on redistricting.
Chuck Schumer, Senate Majority Leader, brought up the voting rights bill for a vote.

Senate Republicans Block Voting Rights Bill As State GOPs Continue Assault On Franchise [TPM; 10.20.21]

When I saw the photo showing the vote totals, I was confused. Which of the Dems voted against the bill???? Cuz we know it's 50/50 in the Senate. Also... what happened here was this weird procedural thing where the members have to vote to end debate so as to vote for or against the actual bill. Lately, the gop pleasure themselves by not voting to end debate, so the actual bill never comes up for a vote. And they act like a one-headed many bodied organism. They move like a military unit. Below is the explanation for why the vote was 49/51:
From the above article:
The vote to proceed to a debate on the bill failed 49-51, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) voting against proceeding with the bill at the last minute — a technical maneuver so that he could file a motion to reconsider it later.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who held out this compromise package as an opportunity to win over Republicans and potentially clear the 60-vote hurdle needed to defeat a filibuster, failed to garner even one Republican vote to debate the bill.
Democrats had tried to sweeten the deal for Republicans, he added, offering them unlimited amendments on the legislation, “which we don’t do that often around here.”

“That’s what you get — if you vote to proceed, you can put your counter-proposals on the table, have unlimited amendments, then you still have the ability to filibuster at the end if you want,” he said.
Without legislation like the Freedom to Vote Act, and with Republicans seeking greater control over election administration, democracy advocates argue, it could lock Democrats out of power for years.

Manchin, alongside some of the bill’s cosponsors, has been meeting with Republicans to try to win over the 10 members necessary to defeat the filibuster. Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), one of the bill’s cosponsors, told TPM last week that they’d only located five or six expressing openness to the legislation.
Democrats told TPM that after Wednesday’s vote, there will have to be some regrouping — and a serious talk about reforming the filibuster. Kaine expressed confidence that while Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) are unequivocally opposed to abolishing the filibuster, they may be open to changing how it functions.
Yeah... the filibuster is ridiculous right now. A simple change... I think it's referred to as the 'talking filibuster', would mean that the opposition to moving forward on a vote on a bill would have to rally together and talk (non-stop, night-and-day). Right now, to proceed to a vote, there must be a 60 out of 100 senate body vote in favor. So, all the burden is on those wanting to proceed. With the gop having 50 members in the senate, they can virtually block everything the democrats promote, unless the dems can persuade 10 members of the gop to join them, so as to meet the 60 vote threshold. The 'talking filibuster' pushes the burden back on the minority who are trying to block the vote. There are other possible changes to the filibuster also... but I can't think of what they are right now.
This is interesting.

Stacey Abrams Group Donates $1.34 M to Wipe Out Medical Debts [Associated Press;10.27.21]
"The political organization led by Democratic titan Stacey Abrams is branching out into paying off medical debts."
Lauren Groh-Wargo CEO of allied group Fair Fight Action and senior adviser to the PAC said paying off medical debt is another facet of the group's advocacy seeking expansion of Medicaid coverage in the 12 states that have refused to expand the health insurance to all poorer adults.
“I know firsthand how medical costs and a broken healthcare system put families further and further in debt," Abrams said in a statement. “Across the sunbelt and in the South, this problem is exacerbated in states like Georgia where failed leaders have callously refused to expand Medicaid, even during a pandemic.”
Allison Sesso, executive director of RIP Medical Debt, said such liabilities often drive people into bankruptcy, can deter people from seeking needed medical care, and can lead to wages being garnished or liens filed on property.

Just last week, Chuck Schumer, Senate majority leader, brought the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act up for a vote.
Senate Republicans Block John Lewis Voting Rights Bill With Filibuster [TPM; 11.3.21]
From the article above:
So the focus, again, is on the filibuster. Just like the Freedom To Vote Act, which Republicans blocked from receiving a debate two weeks ago, the failure of the motion to begin debate on the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is just the latest episode to demonstrate how the arcane Senate rules have stopped progress on Democrats’ priorities.

“If they’re not going to do this, then we have to look at what’s next, and I believe that is restoring the Senate,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) told reporters Tuesday, referring to Republicans’ intransigence. “We can’t deny debate.”

“They are literally stopping us from debating something,” she said, adding later: “At some point, our democracy has to move along, so that’s a discussion we’ll be having.”
The House passed an earlier version of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act along party lines in August.

The proposal would rebuild the “preclearance” language of the Voting Rights Act, which was gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013, by requiring that states with a history of discrimination be subject to 10 years of preclearance — meaning, they must receive approval from the Justice Department or the Washington, D.C. District Court before making changes that would affect voting rights.

The bill would also address the Supreme Court decision earlier this year that weakened Section 2 of the VRA, Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, by instructing courts to take a broad view of whether state changes to voting laws have a discriminatory impact on voters, such as in redistricting cases or laws that restrict voter access.
Speaking after Wednesday’s vote, Vice President Kamala Harris said Americans’ voting rights were in “peril.”

“It is a shame that nearly every Republican in the United States Senate refused to even allow a debate on this issue,” Harris said..
Worth reading as a reminder of the past five years: one perspective on where we've been and where we are now.
Five Years Later [Democracy Docket; 11.8.21]
It begins:
I have a routine that I follow every Election Day. I wake up at dawn, take a long walk to burn off nervous energy and then settle in for what I know will be a very long day that typically stretches into the night. The day moves very slowly.

November 8, 2016, was no different. Five years ago, as general counsel to the Hillary for America campaign, I began the day in Brooklyn, where the campaign was headquartered at the corner of Tillary and Clinton. Like most election days, information sporadically flowed in about voter turn-out, voting issues and the weather. That evening it became clear that the presidential race would be close — much closer than most people thought it would be. By midnight it was clear that despite a sizable popular vote victory, Hillary Clinton had narrowly lost the Electoral College to Donald Trump.
The sound of one hand clapping? Two hands clapping? Four hands clapping? Ninety-five, times two, makes that one hundred ninety hands clapping, plus two, plus four from the start of this and... Just playing around. But, there were no less than three separate articles, with a total of 98 signatories, I came across today warning about the need to protect free and fair elections and democracy itself.

I'll start with WaPo, where James R. Clapper and Michael Hayden wrote an opinion.
Opinion: We must protect our elections now. National security is at stake. [11.10.21]
Their bios:
James R. Clapper, a retired Air Force lieutenant general, was director of national intelligence in the Obama administration. Michael Hayden, a retired Air Force four-star general, was director of the National Security Agency from 1999 to 2005 and principal deputy director of national intelligence in the George W. Bush administration. He was director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2006 to 2009. The views expressed here are theirs alone and do not imply endorsement by any U.S. government agency.
They start:
By now, it is well documented that in 2020 a sitting president and his allies tried to overturn the results of an election, triggering the worst political violence this country has seen in living memory. It is also clear that this attempt to undermine our democracy did not end with the transition to a new president, but continues with active efforts to make sure the next sabotage succeeds where the last one failed. What is less widely understood — and what keeps us up at night — is how great a threat these activities pose to our national security.

This looming crisis is why we, along with nearly 100 other former national security and military officials, issued a statement urging Congress to prioritize protecting election integrity. We both served at the highest levels of our country’s intelligence community, under Republican and Democratic presidents alike, and we know that our foreign adversaries and other bad actors are licking their chops as they watch efforts to destabilize our elections. At the heart of the attack is a homegrown disinformation campaign meant to sow doubt in the U.S. voting system. Unfortunately, it is working — poll after poll shows declining trust in our elections and declining belief in the concept of democracy, particularly among Republicans. And these effects will not be contained to our borders.
Btw, there are 5 linked articles in the quote above, and three in the quote below. You might be able to link to them. Not sure.
We have personally seen the lengths to which our foreign adversaries will go to take advantage of any cracks in the foundation of our democracy. One of us was director of national intelligence during the period leading up to the 2016 presidential vote and saw firsthand how Russia used social media to exploit disinformation, polarization and divisiveness. The Russians' objective was to breed discord, and they succeeded beyond their wildest expectations. Now others have gone to school on the Russian example and will seek to prey on our country’s state of affairs in just the same way.
Unfortunately, adversaries are finding increasingly fertile ground for their efforts. A society struggling to separate fact from fiction is the perfect environment for these actors to further erode electoral trust and kick democracy into a death spiral. They might also seek to take advantage of the exposure of sensitive information about election equipment or voter data that resulted from recent hyper-partisan election “reviews” such as Arizona’s, as well as the inevitable decline in security that will accompany the mass exodus of expert election officials facing violent threats. And if disinformation leads to more political violence like we saw on Jan. 6 — as seems increasingly likely — you can bet the house that enemies abroad will be ready to seize on the resulting chaos.
It's hard to omit anything from this piece. I'm trying.
To its credit, the administration recognizes that preserving our democracy is a national security imperative. It is convening a Summit for Democracy next month that should promote not just voting rights and election integrity but also executive branch accountability and civic education and engagement.
One link in the quote below.
Legislators should also immediately enact safeguards we know will make our federal elections more resilient, such as paper ballots to facilitate result verification in the event of a dispute or attempted sabotage. Other necessary measures include requirements for protecting ballots and election equipment, as well as election workers, and meaningful penalties for attempts to violate such laws or manipulate an election. Some of these proposals have already been introduced in Congress; there is no excuse to delay.
Here's the letter to Congress. It's signed by 95, including the two who wrote the WaPo article, post #74, above.
No firewall here, that I know of.
Letter From Former High-Ranking National Security Officials To Congress: Election Subversion Poses National Security Threat [medium.com; 11.11.21]
We are former senior national security officials who have served Democrats, Republicans, or administrations of both parties. We write to express our alarm at ongoing efforts to destabilize and subvert our elections, both through active disinformation campaigns and the related efforts to inject partisan interference into our professionally administered election process. We believe these efforts are profoundly damaging to our national security, including by making our elections more vulnerable to foreign interference and possible manipulation. We call on Congress to confront these threats and safeguard our democratic process as we look ahead to the 2022 elections and beyond.
Unfortunately, I don't hold much hope that republican members of congress will pay this much mind. They have seriously gone off the rails, or, shall we say, they're all in on doing the very things these national security officials are warning about. But, there are cracks. In the House, there's Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, serving on the committee investigating Jan 6. In the House, 13 republicans voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, even in the face of threats from the rest.
Our strong democratic traditions and practices have been a model for the world and a longstanding source of “soft power” for our country to inspire and persuade other nations. As we erode those respected practices, we weaken our standing and influence around the globe and set back the cause of democracy internationally.
Most concretely, partisan election reviews fueled by disinformation have increased the risk to election equipment and software by handing possibly sensitive election data and infrastructure over to inexperienced and unvetted third parties.
...Disinformation has also spurred an unprecedented campaign of harassment and intimidation aimed at election officials. Recent surveys have found that one-third of election officials report feeling unsafe in their jobs, and more than one in six plan to retire before the 2024 election.
Finally, election disinformation erodes trust in our election system that can lead to political violence, and could be exploited by foreign actors.
We must also do more to protect the professionals who run our elections. Following 2020, there have been few consequences for those who threatened elections officials.
In the course of our careers, many of us have analyzed the threats posed by unstable democracies elsewhere, never imagining we would begin to see similar threats at home. Sadly, that moment has arrived. We have strong democratic institutions and traditions, but they are being placed in severe jeopardy in the current climate. We call on you to meet this challenge squarely and put in place the defenses that will safeguard the integrity of our sacred democratic institutions.
So, basically, it comes down to Manchin and Sinema, all over again!!! Good lord. And, time is short because, if the dems lose the house or senate in the midterms, it's certain that this small window of opportunity will close. I think it has to be Biden's techniques of cajoling and coaxing, and repeat over and over, till the two of them relent. Without that, the filibuster remains in place, and, as we've already seen, senate republicans will filibuster even bringing up for debate the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the For the People Act. They will not even discuss their own ideas / objections so compromise could be reached that would protect democracy, which leads one to believe that they just don't care.
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Number 3: I sounded the alarm for authoritarianism in 2016, and I am sounding it again [The Weekly List;11.12.21]
Subtitle: "Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you'll remember."
Yeah. I think so. That's partially why I keep on posting and posting. It helps me to see developments over time, which otherwise might roll my little pea brain all about to settle in a dusty corner. nix.

No firewall here. All good reading. It starts:
On January 20, 2021 we were finally able to exhale, believing our near brush with authoritarianism was behind us, and that with President Joe Biden taking office our country and political system would return to normalcy. The ensuing months proved otherwise. Elected Republicans continually questioned the 2020 election results, and attempted to rewrite history, including casting the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol as a mere “tourist visit.” Rep. Liz Cheney, a critic of former President Donald Trump, was removed from House leadership and replaced by a loyalist, Rep. Elise Stefanik.
Check out the rest.
Again, Laurence Tribe tirelessly keeps a laser-focus on free and fair elections:

A link to the referenced article, which has a paywall, unfortunately:
Wisconsin Republicans Push to Take Over the State's Elections [NYTimes; 11.19.21]

Some excerpts:
Republicans in Wisconsin are engaged in an all-out assault on the state’s election system, building off their attempts to challenge the results of the 2020 presidential race by pressing to give themselves full control over voting in the state.

The Republican effort — broader and more forceful than that in any other state where allies of former President Donald J. Trump are trying to overhaul elections — takes direct aim at the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission, an agency Republicans created half a decade ago that has been under attack since the chaotic aftermath of last year’s election.
Then the Trump-aligned sheriff of Racine County, the state’s fifth most populous county, recommended felony charges against five of the six members of the election commission for guidance they had given to municipal clerks early in the pandemic. The Republican majority leader of the State Senate later seemed to give a green light to that proposal, saying that “prosecutors around the state” should determine whether to bring charges.

And last week, Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican, said that G.O.P. state lawmakers should unilaterally assert control of federal elections, claiming that they had the authority to do so even if Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, stood in their way — an extraordinary legal argument debunked by a 1932 Supreme Court decision and a 1964 ruling from the Wisconsin Supreme Court. His suggestion was nonetheless echoed by Michael Gableman, a conservative former State Supreme Court justice who is conducting the Legislature’s election inquiry.
Republican control of Wisconsin elections is necessary, Mr. Johnson said in an interview on Wednesday, because he believes Democrats cheat.
after Joseph R. Biden Jr. won Wisconsin by 20,682 votes out of 3.3 million cast, Republicans began making evidence-free claims of fraudulent votes cast from nursing homes across the state. Sheriff Christopher Schmaling of Racine County said the five state election commissioners who had voted to allow clerks to mail absentee ballots to nursing homes without the visit by special voting deputies — as is prescribed by state law — should face felony charges for election fraud and misconduct in office.

Robin Vos, the Republican speaker of the State Assembly, who represents Racine County, quickly concurred, saying that the five commissioners — including his own appointee to the panel — should “probably” face felony charges.

The commissioners have insisted they broke no laws.

Ann Jacobs, a Democrat who is the commission’s chairwoman, said she had no regrets about making voting easier during the pandemic and added that “even my Republican colleagues” were afraid about the future of fair elections in the state.
At the same time, some Wisconsin Republicans continue to challenge the 2020 outcome.
On Wednesday, Timothy S. Ramthun, a Republican member of the State Assembly, formally proposed decertifying Wisconsin’s election results, reclaiming the state’s “10 fraudulent electoral ballots” cast for Mr. Biden and conducting “a full forensic physical and cyber audit” of the election.
Anticipating Mr. Ramthun’s proposal, the Legislature’s lawyers issued a report on Nov. 1 stating that there was “no mechanism” under the law to reverse a certified election.
“I invite you to see it from the eyes of the people,” Mr. Ramthun wrote to fellow legislators, urging them to correct “the most egregious injustice we have seen in our time.”
The next day, Mr. Trump publicly congratulated Mr. Ramthun.
As you probably know, Chuck Schumer, Dem majority leader in the US Senate, is planning to bring the two essential voting rights bills to the Senate floor on or before MLK day. Those are the Freedom to Vote Act [link to summary] and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act [link to summary]. As usual, Joe Manchin D-WV and Kirsten Sinema D-AZ, the queen bees at the center of the swarm, refuse to fly these bills over the finish line so that Biden can sign. Presumably (cynically), for these two, there is money to be made by not allowing modifications to the filibuster, without which the bills won't pass. It appears not a single republican will vote for the bills.

Meanwhile, on the republican side, the turtle continues to tarnish the reputation of turtles everywhere by making random false statements:

Big deal? No, just a convenient device to turn our discussion to the history of the filibuster in the senate. See the next post for more on this exciting topic. [note: reliability of tweets has not been confirmed]
You, guys (non-gendered term meaning 'everyone')!!! Dems just did a trick play to bring the voting rights bills to the floor in the senate.

Here's an expert explaining the maneuverings that are going to allow the Senate to debate the voting rights bills. Tune in at the 10 minute mark to get to this topic:
Breaking: Voting Rights Updates with Marc Elias [1.12.22]

The main import is that the Senate, led by mitch mcconnell, has a habit of filibustering bills at a preliminary stage, meaning that important bills are killed before they can so much as come up for debate. That's right. They can't even be discussed. They can't even come up for a vote. They're not even dead in the water because they don't ever get a chance to even get wet. They're stuck in the pre-birth phase. Now, these voting rights bills will have their proper moment on the senate floor. We will hear all the important proposals and we will hear the debates, pro and con, and they will be voted on.

bfd, you say... they'll never pass because of manchin and sinema, the last two holdouts on the 60 vote filibuster rule who will not budge because they love them some gop bar-b-q, ...that'd be burn them to a crisp, baby.
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