A Federal Judge In Florida Has Ruled Ballots That Arrived Too Late In The Mail Won’t Count

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida — US District Court Chief Judge Mark Walker ruled on Friday evening that Florida election officials can continue to ignore vote-by-mail ballots sent within the United States that arrived after 7 p.m. on Election Day, a deadline set by state law.

The ruling rejects an effort from Democrats who claimed those voters were being unconstitutionally disenfranchised because certain factors, such as late mail delivery, were beyond their control.

“The fact that there might be problems with the mail does not outweigh the state’s important interest in delineating finality in elections,” said an order by US District Court Judge Mark Walker, siding with Republicans who have argued in several cases this week that deadlines must remain rigid. “To hold otherwise could call into question the entirety of the vote-by- mail system itself.”

He added the state must have a “deadline after which vote-by-mail ballots may not be counted.”

The decision further imperils chances for Democrats, who have embarked on a campaign to count as many eligible votes as possible in Florida’s race for US Senator, where Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson narrowly trails Republican Gov. Rick Scott amid a statewide recount.

Judge Walker has ruled in several cases against Democrats this week, including by refusing to push back the election’s final certification. Scott’s campaign hailed the Friday night decision, saying in a statement, ”There is simply no path for Senator-elect Rick Scott’s insurmountable margin to be overturned.”

The case considers two legal issues. First, it asks if the 7pm Election Day deadline to receive mail-in ballots unduly burdens on the right to vote. Second, it considers if the fact that ballots sent from overseas can be received 10 days after the election, while those sent domestically cannot, creates an unconstitutional form of inequality.

The complaint was filed Monday by VoteVets, a national voter advocacy group of military veterans that claims 40,000 supporters in Florida, along with the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. They allege the deadline violates First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights, and is also unnecessary, demonstrated by numerous other states that do count mail-in ballots that arrive after Election Day.

“The outright rejection of such ballots, based on arbitrary conditions — namely the timeliness of post office delivery — outside the voter’s control unlawfully infringes upon the fundamental right to vote,” says the complaint, which cites 10 states that accept valid ballots as many as 10 days after the election.

The plaintiffs note that mail delivery can be delayed several reasons, such as when police evacuated a mail distribution center in Miami-Dade county in late October due to a bomb scare. “The 7 p.m. receipt deadline on Election Day for those whose vote by mail ballots are postmarked before Election Day is not justified by any legitimate state interest, let alone any compelling state interest that is narrowly drawn.”

They also say the timeline for delivering first class mail extended from three to five days recently, with little publicity. “Mail delivery can be delayed due to weather emergencies, human error causing bags of mail to be sent to the wrong transfer facility, traffic delays resulting in behind-schedule mail transfers, and understaffing at postal facilities,” the complaint says.

Mohammed Jazil, who is representing the Secretary of State’s Office, said in a phone conference with Judge Walker on Nov. 13 that the deadline for unofficial ballot returns was on Nov. 10, so adding more ballots now would require starting over from scratch. This is because the unofficial returns were already the basis for whether to conduct a recount — changing the underlying numbers after the fact could require or negate the need for a recount.

But Florida law already allows ballots to be counted up to 10 days later if they were sent from overseas, Uzoma N. Nkwonta, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, noted in the hearing, and as such, there’s no reason to ignore ballots sent domestically that arrive in the same timeframe. He said numerous ballots were discovered in Miami-Dade County, apparently the result of a postal problem, and the issue must be addressed urgently in order to avoid disenfranchising those voters.

The plaintiffs asked the court to declare that “all ballots postmarked before November 6 and received by the supervisor of elections within 10 days after Election Day should be counted in the general election,” while suspending state laws with the earlier deadlines.

But Walker said, “The deadline disparity does not deprive domestic voters of the opportunity to vote on equal terms with overseas voters. Just the opposite. The law gives overseas voters the opportunity to vote on equal terms with domestic voters.”

“The state’s regulatory interest is sufficient to justify the deadline,” he added.

Further, the plaintiffs asked the court to find that Secretary of State Ken Detzner must tell county election supervisors that “all vote by mail ballots postmarked before Election Day and received by the supervisor of elections within 10 days of Election Day must be counted” while temporarily delaying a Nov. 15 deadline to count any of those late-arriving ballots.

World stage awaits artists

World stage awaits artists

“We acknowledge that the world is changing rapidly for all of us, including our creatives and particularly so in the fine arts arena.  I am a strong advocate for embracing technology and culture, and in…

JEFFREY LIPTON in BARBADOS – http://www.nationnews.com/nationnews/news/214645/world-stage-awaits-artistshttp://www.nationnews.com/nationnews/news/214645/world-stage-awaits-artists

World stage awaits artists

“We acknowledge that the world is changing rapidly for all of us, including our creatives and particularly so in the fine arts arena.  I am a strong advocate for embracing technology and culture, and in…

JEFFREY LIPTON in BARBADOS – http://www.nationnews.com/nationnews/news/214645/world-stage-awaits-artistshttp://www.nationnews.com/nationnews/news/214645/world-stage-awaits-artists

YouTube quietly added free, ad-supported movies to its site

YouTube quietly added around 100 ad-supported Hollywood movies to its site, beginning last month, according to a new report from AdAge. The titles include a mix of classics like “Rocky” and “The Terminator,” as well as other family fare like “Zookeeper,” “Agent Cody Banks,” and “Legally Blonde,” among others.

Before, YouTube had only offered consumers the ability to purchase movies and TV shows, similar to how you can rent or buy content from Apple’s iTunes or Amazon Video.

Currently, YouTube is serving ads on these free movies, but the report said the company is open to working out other deals with advertisers – like sponsorships or exclusive screenings.

YouTube’s advantage in this space, compared with some others, is its sizable user base of 1.9 million monthly active users and its ability to target ads using data from Google .

The addition of a an ad-supported movies marketplace on YouTube follows Roku’s entry into this market, which began last year with the launch of its free collection of movies, called The Roku Channel.

This year, Roku has been expanding the type of content on that channel to also include things like live news from ABC News, Cheddar, Newsmax, Newsy, People TV, Yahoo and The Young Turks, and – more recently – entertainment and live sports. 

Walmart also offers its own free movies collection through Vudu, and recently teamed up with MGM on original content for the service. Tubi operates a streaming service with free, ad-supported content, too. And Amazon is rumored to be working on something similar.

NUPW in dark on details

NUPW in dark on details

More than 300 workers were sent packing yesterday as Government continued its retrenchment programme under the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) plan. However, 116 workers from the…

JEFFREY LIPTON in BARBADOS – http://www.nationnews.com/nationnews/news/214642/nupw-dark-detailshttp://www.nationnews.com/nationnews/news/214642/nupw-dark-details

NUPW in dark on details

More than 300 workers were sent packing yesterday as Government continued its retrenchment programme under the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) plan. However, 116 workers from the…

JEFFREY LIPTON in BARBADOS – http://www.nationnews.com/nationnews/news/214642/nupw-dark-detailshttp://www.nationnews.com/nationnews/news/214642/nupw-dark-details

‘Bring back Thompson football’

‘Bring back Thompson football’

Bring back the David Thompson Memorial Constituency Councils Football Classic. This is the view of former parliamentarian Hamilton Lashley. In fact he believes that the onus should not only lie on…

JEFFREY LIPTON in BARBADOS – http://www.nationnews.com/nationnews/news/214636/-bring-thompson-footballhttp://www.nationnews.com/nationnews/news/214636/-bring-thompson-football

‘Bring back Thompson football’

Bring back the David Thompson Memorial Constituency Councils Football Classic. This is the view of former parliamentarian Hamilton Lashley. In fact he believes that the onus should not only lie on…

JEFFREY LIPTON in BARBADOS – http://www.nationnews.com/nationnews/news/214636/-bring-thompson-footballhttp://www.nationnews.com/nationnews/news/214636/-bring-thompson-football

Lawyers Challenge Matthew Whitaker’s Appointment As Acting Attorney General At The Supreme Court

Lawyers on Friday brought a challenge to the validity of President Donald Trump’s appointment of Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to the Supreme Court in a pending case.

Questions have surrounded the legality of Whitaker’s appointment since the day after the midterm elections when Trump forced out the former attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and announced on Twitter that Whitaker was his choice to be the acting attorney general.

“Because Whitaker’s appointment does not satisfy the Appointments Clause, it is unlawful, and he cannot serve as Acting Attorney General,” the lawyers wrote in Friday evening’s filing.

The issue is being brought to the Supreme Court in Barry Michaels’ pending petition for certiorari in a case challenging the federal law barring possession of a gun by a felon.

In addition to Michael Zapin, Michaels’ lawyer on previous filings, Tom Goldstein and his colleagues at Goldstein Russell joined Friday’s filing challenging Whitaker’s appointment.

Goldstein and the firm earlier this week had joined the Maryland attorney general in challenging Whitaker’s appointment in a different case before a trial judge.

They argued in that filing that the appointment violates both a federal law setting the order of succession at the Justice Department and the Constitution’s Appointments Clause, which requires the Senate to provide advice and consent on principal officers of executive branch departments.

In Friday’s filing at the Supreme Court, the lawyers made similar arguments, specifically raising the issue by asking the court to declare that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and not Whitaker, should be substituted as the respondent in the case for those reasons.

Additionally, the lawyers also ask the justices to take up the case without waiting for lower courts to rule, as it ordinarily would, because the issue is “a pure question of law” and could arise in “thousands” of cases.

Noting the many “personal responsibilities” of the attorney general, they warn, “If this Court declines to resolve this question immediately and instead determines several months in the future that Mr. Whitaker’s appointment was always invalid, then ‘unwinding’ all of those personal orders would be a fraught and disruptive exercise that could embroil the federal courts in innumerable collateral disputes.”

This is a developing story. Please check back at BuzzFeed News for the latest.

Blockchain gaming gets a boost with Mythical Games’ $16M Series A

Fortnite, the free multi-player survival game, has earned an astonishing $1 billion from in-game virtual purchases alone. Now, others in the gaming industry are experimenting with how they too can capitalize on new trends in gaming.

Mythical Games, a startup out of stealth today with $16 million in Series A funding, is embracing a future in gaming where user-generated content and intimate ties between players, content creators, brands and developers is the norm. Mythical is using its infusion of venture capital to develop a line of PC, mobile and console games on the EOSIO blockchain, which will also be open to developers to build games with “player-owned economies.”

The company says an announcement regarding its initial lineup of games is on the way.

Mythical is led by a group of gaming industry veterans. Its chief executive officer is John Linden, a former studio head at Activision and president of the Niantic-acquired Seismic Games. The rest of its C-suite includes chief compliance officer Jamie Jackson, another former studio head at Activision; chief product officer Stephan Cunningham, a former director of product management at Yahoo; and head of blockchain Rudy Kock, a former senior producer at Blizzard — the Activision subsidiary known for World of Warcraft. Together, the team has worked on games including Call of Duty, Guitar Hero, Marvel Strike Force and Skylanders.

Galaxy Digital’s EOS VC Fund has led the round for Mythical. The $325 million fund, launched earlier this year, is focused on expanding the EOSIO ecosystem via strategic investments in startups building on EOSIO blockchain software. Javelin Venture Partners, Divergence Digital Currency, cryptocurrency exchange OKCoin and others also participated in the round.

It’s no surprise investors are getting excited about the booming gaming business given the success of Epic Games, Twitch, Discord and others in the space.

Epic Games raised a $1.25 billion round late last month thanks to the cultural phenomenon that its game, Fortnite, has become. KKR, Iconiq Capital, Smash Ventures,Vulcan Capital, Kleiner Perkins, Lightspeed Venture Partners and others participated in that round. Discord, a chat application for gamers, raised a $50 million financing in April at a $1.65 billion valuation from Benchmark Capital, Greylock Partners, IVP, Spark Capital and Tencent. And Dapper Labs, best known for the blockchain-based game CryptoKitties, even raised a VC round this year — a $15 million financing led by Venrock, with participation from GV and Samsung NEXT.

In total, VCs have invested $1.8 billion in gaming startups this year, per PitchBook.

Vendors moved

Vendors moved

Vendors who ply their trade outside the Grantley Adams Memorial School were yesterday asked by the police to vacate the premises of the school. After plying their trade at the school for more than…

JEFFREY LIPTON in BARBADOS – http://www.nationnews.com/nationnews/news/214634/vendors-movedhttp://www.nationnews.com/nationnews/news/214634/vendors-moved

Vendors moved

Vendors who ply their trade outside the Grantley Adams Memorial School were yesterday asked by the police to vacate the premises of the school. After plying their trade at the school for more than…

JEFFREY LIPTON in BARBADOS – http://www.nationnews.com/nationnews/news/214634/vendors-movedhttp://www.nationnews.com/nationnews/news/214634/vendors-moved

Stacey Abrams Has Effectively Ended Her Campaign For Governor In Georgia

Democrat Stacey Abrams effectively ended her campaign for governor in Georgia on Friday night, accepting that Republican Brian Kemp would soon be named the official winner.

“I acknowledge that Brian Kemp will be certified as the victor in the 2018 gubernatorial election,” Abrams said at a press conference. “But to watch an elected official who claims to represent the people in this state baldly pin his hopes for election on the suppression of the people’s democratic right to vote has been truly appalling.”

She refused to call her statement a traditional concession, maintaining that the race was rife with voter suppression and unfair, but that she had limited legal options to proceed further.

“This is not a speech of concession. Because concession means an action is right, true, or proper. As a woman of conscience and faith, I cannot concede that. But my assessment is the law currently allows no further viable remedy,” Abrams said.

Voting rights has been the central issue in the race. Kemp until recently was Georgia’s secretary of state, serving as the state’s top elections official. In that role, his office held over 53,000 voter registration applications — predominantly from black voters, the AP reported — for what it called voter roll maintenance. Abrams campaign has said those efforts and others amounted to voter suppression and called on Kemp to resign as secretary of state, a step he only took last week.

In the first debate of the election, Abrams accused Kemp of creating “an atmosphere of fear” around voting in the state. Kemp refuted the claims, and blamed Abrams and her voter registration organization for “sloppy” voter applications.

National Democrats have backed Abrams up, with some high-profile senators suggesting that the election has been unfairly conducted. “If Stacey Abrams doesn’t win in Georgia, they stole it,” Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown said this week.

Abrams said Friday that she planned to soon file a “major federal lawsuit” against Georgia “for the gross mismanagement of this election and to protect future elections.”

Kemp declared the election over soon after Abrams’ remarks, and implored the state to move past “divisive politics.”

Georgia’s election officials have spent the days since last Tuesday’s election trying to count outstanding ballots in the race, where Kemp has consistently held just over 50% of the votes. That margin is crucial: Under state law, if no candidate clears 50%, the race, which featured three candidates, would go to a December two-candidate runoff election.

Abrams had pushed for a runoff since the results came in on Election Day. “If I wasn’t your first choice, or if you didn’t vote, you’re going to have a chance to do a do-over,” she said early last Wednesday morning, hours after Kemp had declared victory.

Abrams on Friday asked her supporters not to be angry, or turn away from politics. “The antidote to injustice is progress,” she said. “The cure to this malpractice is a fight for fairness in every election held, in every law passed, in every decision made.”

The House Freedom Caucus Chairman Has Been Reprimanded By The House Ethics Committee

The House Ethics Committee on Friday reprimanded Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, for his handling of sexual harassment allegations made by female staffers against his former chief-of-staff, Kenny West.

In its report, the Ethics Committee said Meadows failed to “take appropriate steps to ensure that his House office was free from discrimination and any perception of discrimination.” The committee also said it will require Meadows to reimburse the US Treasury for the “overpayment” of West’s salary, in the amount of $40,625. A spokesperson for Meadows told BuzzFeed News in an email Meadows will pay the amount.

The independent Office of Congressional Ethics’ report, which was passed along to the House Ethics Committee, said multiple female staffers complained about West in October 2014. The women alleged he had engaged in “unwanted touching, inappropriate staring and unprofessional comments.”

The House Ethics Committee, which has no jurisdiction over West, determined that the women were “credible and their testimony was consistent.” They alleged West looked up skirts, down shirts, and engaged in unwanted touching, sexual comments, and inappropriate staring.

According to the committee’s report, Meadows arranged for an independent investigation of the allegations, which was conducted by a senior staffer from Rep. Trey Gowdy’s office. But once it was completed, Meadows ignored the investigator’s recommendation to fire West. Instead, he kept West in his role in the months that followed, which meant his responsibilities and salary did not change.

Meadows, according to the committee, put in place “restrictions” to keep West away from female staff members. But they didn’t work, to the point that a congressman approached Meadows on the House floor to talk about the issue, the report states. It wasn’t until Speaker Paul Ryan’s office got involved in April 2015 that West was removed as chief of staff, but even then he was demoted to a “senior advisor” role and kept the same salary.

The House Ethics Committee, for its part, found the “restrictions” problematic, and noted in its report that an “environment where only male staff have access to the chief of staff risks unequal treatment of employees based solely on sex.”

The committee also acknowledged Meadows took “important immediate steps” in restricting West’s access to congressional offices and keeping him from contacting most female employees, but ultimately concluded “he should have done more to address that behavior and prevent it from occurring again in the future.”

Rather than cooperating with an investigation by the independent Office of Congressional Ethics that started in October 2015 —which Meadows called “a costly and burdensome process”— Meadows wrote to the House Ethics Committee, which is made up of his House peers. In the letter Meadows asked that the committee review his decision to continue paying West in the months following his resignation, noting that the continued payment was a “severance” and that West continued to engage in “legitimate official activity.”

In a statement on Friday, Meadows said he appreciated that the House Ethics Committee acknowledged “the immediate, appropriate, and good faith steps I did take after learning of my staff’s concerns—including immediately separating the chief from the accusers so they never had to interact with him personally during the independent investigation.”

“Making sure my team feels safe and secure in our office is the highest priority for me and I’m truly sorry for any stress or burden this situation caused them,” Meadows added.