The 538 People who Cast the Actual Votes for President, in December, as part of the Electoral College, are Not Free Agents and Must Vote as the Laws as their States Direct, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday, July 6th, 2020. The Unanimous Decision in ...
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The Independent View - 5 new articles

Supreme Court Rules Faithless Electors Can't Go Rogue at Electoral College

The 538 People who Cast the Actual Votes for President, in December, as part of the Electoral College, are Not Free Agents and Must Vote as the Laws as their States Direct, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday, July 6th, 2020.

The Unanimous Decision in the "Faithless Elector" Case was a Defeat for Advocates of Changing the Electoral College, who hoped a Win would Force a Shift in the Method of Electing Presidents toward a Nationwide Popular Vote. But it was a Win for State Election Officials who feared that Empowering Rogue Electors would cause Chaos.

The November General Election is Not actually a Direct Vote for the Presidential Candidates. Voters instead choose a Slate of Electors Appointed in their States, some by the Political Parties. Those Electors meet in December to Cast their Ballots, which are Counted during a Joint Session of Congress the following January.

The Court's Opinion said Presidential Electors Must Act as their States require, which in most of the Nation means Voting for the Candidate who Won the Popular Vote in their States. In Maine and Nebraska, Presidential Electors are guided by the Votes of Congressional Districts. If the Court had Ruled the other way, then Individual Electors who Decided to Vote as they Wished in a Close Race could potentially have the Power to Decide who Wins.

Four "faithless electors" from Colorado and Washington State who did Not Conform to the Popular Vote in the 2016 Election Sued, claiming that States can Regulate Only how Electors are Chosen, not what comes later.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1952 that States do Not Violate the Constitution when they Require Electors to Pledge that they will Abide by the Results of the Popular Vote. But the Justices had Never before said whether it is Constitutional to Enforce those Pledges.

More than a Dozen States have Signed an Interstate Agreement to make the Change. It would take effect Once the Participating States represent at least 270 Electoral Votes, the Minimum needed to be Elected President.

CLICK HERE to read about The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.

I hope this Controversy will Encourage more States to Adopt a System in which they would Assign All of their Electors to the Candidate who Wins the Nationwide Popular Vote for President.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker


Great American Outdoors Act Passes U.S. Senate

The Great American Outdoors Act (S.3422) (GAOA) was Introduced in the Senate, March 9th 2020. The Bill establishes the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund to support Deferred Maintenance Projects on Federal Lands.

For FY2021-FY2025, there shall be Deposited into the Fund an Amount equal to 50% of All Federal Revenues from the Development of Oil, Gas, Coal, or Alternative or Renewable Energy on Federal Lands and Waters. Deposited Amounts must Not exceed $1.9 billion for any Fiscal Year.

The Fund must be used for Priority Deferred Maintenance Projects in Specified Systems that are Administered by:

- The National Park Service
- The Forest Service
- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- The Bureau of Land Management
- The Bureau of Indian Education

The Government Accountability Office must Report on the Effect of the Fund in Reducing the Backlog of Priority Deferred Maintenance Projects for the Specified Agencies. The Bill Would Fully And Permanently Fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

The President shall annually report to Congress specified details regarding the allocation of funds to the LWCF. Congress may provide for alternate allocations using specified procedures.

June 17th, 2020, marked a Critical Milestone in efforts to Strengthen our Country’s Sustainable Initiatives. GAOA Passed with overwhelming Bipartisan Support in the U.S. Senate by a Vote of 73-25. More than 60 Members Co-Sponsored the Legislation, including New York Senators Chuck Schumer (D) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D).

The GAOA combines Two Major Conservation Bills:

- S.500 (the Restore Our Parks Act), which seeks to address the Maintenance Backlog on Public Lands.

- S.1081, which Permanently allocates $900 million a year to the LWCF.

Altogether, the GAOA is intended to provide $9.5 billion for Open Space and Parks, including $1.9 billion for the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund for FY 2021-2025.

According to the LWCF Coalition, New York State has received more than $348.4 million in Funding over the past Five Decades for Programs that support Recreational Hunting, Fishing, and other Outdoor Activities, and also Protect Places such as the Gateway National Recreation Area, Sterling Forest, and Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge.

In addition, Grants under the LWCF have Secured Sustainable Forestry Operations in an effort to Conserve Wildlife Habitats and Improve Air and Water Quality. LWCF State Assistance Grants have further supported Hundreds of Projects across New York’s State and Local Parks, from the Coney Island Boardwalk in Brooklyn to the Confluence Park and Chenango River Promenade in Binghamton.

Under the Bill, the National Parks Service would receive the Majority of Funds (70%) while the Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service would each receive 10%. The Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Indian Education are set to each Collect 5% and the Remainder of the Funding will be put towards Reducing Maintenance Backlog as well as Incorporating other Land Agencies to carry out the Goals of this Legislation.

Now more than ever, we see the emphasis on having Access to Outdoor Recreation including: Parks, Green Spaces, and Trails. Within the GAOA Bill, dedicated Funding towards the LWCF is set to address Preservation needs in National Parks, Protect Natural Spaces, Expand Outdoor Activity, as well as Create Jobs Nationwide. Outdoor Recreation in the U.S. contributes to over $8 billion in Annual Economic Output, supporting well over 7.6 Million Jobs. A recent National Park Service Study found that the National Parks Restoration Portion of this Bill will Support an Average of 40,300 Direct Jobs and 100,100 Direct and Indirect Jobs over the next Five years.

The GAOA establishes a Critical Balance of Expanding Access to Outdoor Recreational Opportunities for All Communities while Conserving Public Lands and Waters.

Next is the House hopefully without Amendments. A Vote is currently Scheduled for later in July.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker


Energy Companies Cancel Atlantic Coast Pipeline

The Two Energy Companies behind Plans to Build a Natural Gas Pipeline spanning from West Virginia to North Carolina announced Sunday, July 5th, that the Project was Canceled, citing Ongoing Legal Battles over the Pipeline's Construction.

In a Statement, Dominion Energy and Duke Energy, pointed to a recent Court Decision in Montana ending the Army Corps. of Engineers' Authority to issue Utility Line Permits across Wetlands and Bodies of Water as a sign of the continued Legal Troubles the Project faced before Completion. The Project was slated to be completed in 2021, and had Won a Permit Battle at the Supreme Court earlier this year.

"The potential for a Supreme Court stay of the district court's injunction would not ultimately change the judicial venue for appeal nor decrease the uncertainty associated with an eventual ruling. The Montana district court decision is also likely to prompt similar challenges in other Circuits related to permits issued under the nationwide program including for ACP," the Companies said.

"This new information and litigation risk, among other continuing execution risks, make the project too uncertain to justify investing more shareholder capital. For example, a productive tree-felling season this winter is a key milestone to maintaining the project's cost and schedule," they added.

Environmental Groups had fought the Project for years, with Opposition to the Pipeline cropping up particularly in Virginia shortly after the Project was announced in 2014. The Pipeline planned to carry Fracked Natural Gas 600 miles across West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina.

The Pipeline would run, in part, through the George Washington National Forest, where a 0.1-mile Segment of the Pipeline would Cross about 600 feet beneath the Appalachian Trail. The Sierra Club and other Environmental Groups had argued that because the 2,200-mile Scenic Trail from Georgia to Maine is considered a Unit of the National Park System, No Federal Agency can Grant a Right-of-Way for the Pipeline. They say Only Congress can Approve such a Crossing.

Construction Costs for the Project soared from Initial estimates of $4.5-$5 billion when it was First announced to at least $8 billion, according to the News Release.

Activist Groups Celebrated News of the Project's Demise on Social Media. "There are way too many people to thank for this huge victory, but from the trees to the streets to the courtrooms, you all know who you are. This project should have never been approved in the first place, and your work made it unviable," wrote Brennan Gilmore, executive director of Clean Virginia, adding: "THANK YOU!"

Dominion Energy President, Thomas F. Farrell II, said in a Joint Statement with Lynn J. Good, Chair of Duke Energy, that they were Disappointed in the End Result of years of Legal Battles over the Pipeline's Future. "We regret that we will be unable to complete the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. For almost six years we have worked diligently and invested billions of dollars to complete the project and deliver the much-needed infrastructure to our customers and communities," they said.

"Throughout we have engaged extensively with and incorporated feedback from local communities, labor and industrial leaders, government and permitting agencies, environmental interests and social justice organizations. We express sincere appreciation for the tireless efforts and important contributions made by all who were involved in this essential project," the Two added.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) also expressed Disappointment over the Project's End, arguing in a Statement that the Project "would have created good paying construction and and manufacturing jobs for hard working West Virginians."

Dominion Energy Inc., the Second-Biggest U.S. Power Company by Market Value, on Sunday, said it’s Selling substantially All of its Gas Pipeline and Storage Assets to Berkshire Hathaway Inc. for $4 billion.

Dominion’s Deal with Berkshire calls for the Giant Conglomerate to assume $5.7 billion in Debt. The Utility will use $3 billion of the Proceeds to buy back Shares. Dominion also Cut its Projected 2021 Dividend Payment to around $2.50 a Share, reflecting the Assets being Divested and a New Payout Ratio that aligns it better with Industry Peers.

The Transaction is expected to Close during the Fourth Quarter of 2020. It will Require the Approval of Federal Agencies including the U.S. Department of Energy.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker


MS Ballot Amendment to Drop Jim Crow-Era Statewide Voting Process

Facing Pressure from a Lawsuit and the Possibility of Action from a Federal Judge, Mississippi Legislators are Putting a State Constitutional Amendment on the Ballot on November 3rd's General Election. So the State's Voters will Decide whether to Dump a Statewide Election Process that dates to the Jim Crow Era.

The Amendment would simplify Elections for Governor and other Statewide Officials by Erasing an Electoral College-type Provision from Mississippi's 1890 Constitution, one that was Written to Dilute Black Voting Power and Maintain White Control of State Politics.

Mississippi is the Only State with such a System for State Elections.

If Voters adopt the Amendment, a Statewide Candidate receiving a Majority of the Popular Vote would Win. If Nobody receives that in a Race with at least Three Candidates, the Top-Two would go to a Runoff.

Legislators' Final Action to put the Amendment on the Ballot happened Monday, June 29th, a day after they took a Historic Votes to Retire a 126-year-old State Flag that was the Last in the U.S. with the Confederate Battle Emblem. A Commission will Design a New Mississippi Flag without the Rebel Symbol and with the Phrase, “In God We Trust.” Voters will be asked to Accept or Reject the New Flag Nov. 3rd, the same day the Amendment and the Presidential Race are on the Ballot.

Mississippi Center for Justice is One of the Groups representing Plaintiffs in a 2019 Lawsuit against the State. The Center's President, Vangela M. Wade, said Documents show the Complex Electoral Process was Created to Uphold White Supremacy. “As you go back through these documents, there’s language that clearly shows intent to circumvent the rights of African Americans," Wade said.

About 38% of Mississippi's Residents are Black. The Lawsuit, backed by Former U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, argues that Mississippi's Election System Violates the Principle of One-Person, One-Vote.

The Mississippi Constitution currently requires a Statewide Candidate to Win a Majority of the Popular Vote and a Majority of Electoral Vote. One Electoral Vote is Awarded to the Candidate receiving the Most Support in Each of the 122 State House Districts. If No Candidate Wins Both, the Popular Vote and the Electoral Vote, the Race is Decided by the State House. But Representatives are Not Obligated to Vote as their Districts did, so Arm-Twisting could Decide the Outcome.

The Process was Written when White Politicians across the South were Enacting Laws to Erase Black Political Power gained during Reconstruction. The Electoral Vote was Promoted as a way for the White Ruling Class have the Final Say in who holds Office.

Plaintiffs argued that Mississippi’s History of Racially Polarized Voting means that Candidates preferred by Black Voters must Receive a Higher Share of the Statewide Vote to Win a Majority of House Districts.

U.S. District Judge, Daniel P. Jordan III, wrote last November, that he has “grave concern” about the Constitutionality of the Electoral Vote Provision. Jordan wrote that the Plaintiffs’ Argument about Violation of One Person, One Vote is “arguably ... their strongest claim.”

Jordan put the Lawsuit On-Hold in December 2019, saying he would give Legislators a chance to Remedy the System by Putting a Proposed Constitutional Amendment on the Ballot. The Amendment will need Approval from a Simple Majority of Voters.

The last time a Governor’s Race was Thrown to the Mississippi House was 20 years ago.

Nobody Received the Required Majorities in a Four-Person Race in 1999. The Top-Two Candidates were White, and each won 61 Electoral Votes. In January 2000, House Members chose Democrat Ronnie Musgrove, who Led the Popular Vote, over Republican Mike Parker. At the time, the House was Controlled by Democrats. It is now Controlled by Republicans.

Some Democrats thought the Electoral Provision might come into Play in a tight 2019 Governor’s Election, but Tate Reeves (R) easily Defeated Jim Hood (D) and Two lesser-known Candidates.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker


Trump Administration Awards Tech Start-Up to Build Virtual Border Wall

The Trump Administration has Awarded a Contract to a California-based Tech Startup to Set-Up Hundreds of "autonomous surveillance towers" along the U.S.-Mexico Border to Aid its Immigration Enforcement Efforts.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced, on Thursday, July 2nd, that the Towers, which use Artificial Intelligence and Imagery to Identify People and Vehicles, were now a "Program of Record" for the Agency and that 200 would be Deployed along the Southern Border by 2022.

CBP did Not mention the Contract in its Announcement, but it was reported that the effort includes a Five-year Agreement with Anduril Industries, a Tech Start-Up backed by Investors such as Peter Thiel. Anduril Executives said the Deal is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The Company, which Specializes in AI and other Technologies, is valued at $1.9 billions.

"Anduril is proud to support U.S. Customs and Border Protection as it expands its use of innovative technology solutions to greatly improve situational awareness and agent safety along the U.S. border," Anduril CEO, Brian Schimpf, said.

The Deal comes as the Trump Administration continues its push to Toughen Immigration Enforcement in the U.S., though efforts to use Enhancements in Technology to Assist Border Enforcement has gained Support across Party Lines. In 2019, as Trump aggressively pushed for the Building of a Wall along the Border, many Democratic Lawmakers called for the Building of "Virtual" or "Smart" Walls that utilized New Technologies to Strengthen Security.

Border Patrol Chief, Rodney Scott, said in a Statement Thursday that Surveillance Towers give Agents in the Field "a significant leg up against the criminal networks that facilitate illegal cross-border activity. The more our agents know about what they encounter in the field, the more safely and effectively they can respond."

CBP said that the Towers use Renewable Energy and are well-suited for Remote and Rural Locations. The Technology is said to Scan Environments with Radar to Detect Movement. Among other things, the System can Alert Border Patrol Agents of Location Information when it Detects Movement from Vehicles or People. Anduril claims that it Distinguishes between Animals and Humans 97% of the time. The System is reportedly Best Suited for Remote Areas with Few People and does Not use Facial Recognition Technology.

Matthew Steckman, Anduril's Chief Revenue Officer, said that the Company is prepared to continue Working on this type of Technology in concert with U.S. Border Officials regardless of the Outcome of the 2020 Presidential Election. "No matter where we go as a country, we're going to need to have situational awareness on the border," Steckman said. "No matter if talking to a Democrat or a Republican, they agree that this type of system is needed."

While the use of a "Virtual" Wall has gained Support from Republicans and Democrats, some have raised Issues with the Plans.

"The last thing we need is more money funneled to a 'virtual wall' by an agency that has a history of wasting taxpayer money on technology that doesn't work and violates our rights," American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Senior Legislative Counsel, Neema Singh Guliani, said. "Far too often, we have seen this agency use the pretext of the border to extend an unacceptable invasive surveillance infrastructure at the border deep into the country, including during the most recent protests," she added.

The ACLU has said that Technologies should receive Prior Authorization from Congress before being Deployed at the Border.

Trump last year Declared a National Emergency as part of an effort to Allocate Funding to Build a Wall along the Southern Border, which had been a Signature Promise of his 2016 Campaign. Democratic Lawmakers have Uniformly Denounced the Effort, calling it an Unnecessary use of Government Funds.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker


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