Categories
News

White Pride and Prejudice in Huntington Beach

Hatred looms on the horizon in Huntington Beach.

Ku Klux Klan propaganda sealed in plastic bags first arrived on the doorsteps of homes in Newport Beach before making similar Easter morning appearances in HB. The littering came amid a planned “White Lives Matter” rally at the pier slated to take place today.

It’s not a new tactic.

In recent years, the Loyal White Knights of the KKK have left flyers in Fullerton, Santa Ana, Orange and Anaheim. Only, back then those baggies came with a rock and a Tootsie Roll. Will Quigg, an infamous OC klukker, must’ve exhausted his Halloween candy stash this time around, if, indeed, he’s the man behind the hate mail. In 2016, Quigg’s Klan held a rally-turned-melee at Pearson Park in Anaheim where the Invisible Empire once gathered 20,000 strong in 1924.

Huntington Beach is no historical stranger to the Klan, either.

On Labor Day weekend that same year, HB expected to receive as many as 20,000 klukkers for festivities that included Klan marching bands, an aerial circus and a fireworks show. Carl Goetz, who helped organize the event, announced that 5,000 Klansmen alone would participate in the Labor Day morning parade as well as a 75-piece Klan band. And, in a show of force, they’d be parading with hoods off.

“If our friends want to find out who Klansmen are,” said Goetz, “they will have the opportunity to look hundreds of them in the face if they attend the celebration.”

J.A. Armitage, secretary of the HB Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the Hooded Order to town by assuring ample parking and other accommodations would greet the masses.

A full-page ad in the Aug. 28, 1924 edition of the Santa Ana Register promoted the weekend events without mentioning the Klan. Former Register staff writer Tom Lewis was set to deliver a keynote speech on Labor Day entitled “100% Americans” as the Grand Exalted Cyclops of the LA Klan. But the day after the announcement, a civil war brewed within the ranks of LA klukkers, culminating in Lewis’ firing. He splintered off and created an “independent” Klan.

Tiffs aside, the Labor Day parade carried on and seemed to be a success. A framed panoramic photo from the event housed at the Anaheim Heritage Center shows Klansmen and their families in white robes with their hoods off. Visiting Klan marching band members from Santa Monica proudly posed by their instruments.

The wife of Charles McClure, Brea’s first police chief and a documented member of the Klan, spent Labor Day in HB as reported in a social column that appeared in the Register.

(Quick aside: she must’ve been working on her Klan tan at the beach!).

Labor Day “Klanorama” photo in Huntington Beach (1924) / Courtesy Anaheim Public Library

But the following month, the Klan encountered controversy when it planned to return to HB for another parade, this time marking Armistice Day. The Anaheim and Fullerton Kiwanis clubs threatened to pull their floats from the festivities following an announcement of the Hooded Order’s participation.

Two days later, the Klan bowed out under pressure.

“In the interests of peace and harmony, we will refrain from participation,” read a statement from Dr. Roy S. Horton, a Klansman and Santa Ana school board trustee. “We wish to state, however, that many Klansmen will be present and as individuals will give themselves whole-heartedly to the end that the observation of Armistice Day may be a success.”

Indeed, as the Klan noted, the Hooded Order had been invited in the first place. Lewis Blodget, HB’s city attorney, sought to meet with the Kiwanis clubs to smooth things out as he was the chairman of the parade committee.

“In admitting that he would seek to bring about an accord on the matter Blodget said that the Huntington Beach parade committee had not been cognizant of the intense bitterness existing in the two north Orange county towns when plans for the parade were made,” reported the Register, “and regretted that the exception had been taken to the invitation issued to county klans to participate.”

The year before, Blodget hadn’t been so inviting when signing off on a Lion’s Club resolution demanding that socialist Eugene Debs, who opposed U.S. intervention in World War I and spent years in prison for it, not be allowed to speak in Huntington Beach following its Labor Day celebration.

As Anaheim was on the cusp of ousting four Klan city councilmen in a February 1925 recall election, the tide began turning against the Invisible Empire in HB. In January, the city’s Lion’s Club ousted three prominent members, including city councilman Charles Boster, for attending a luncheon in town with Reverend Leon Myers, the Anaheim-based Exalted Cyclops of the OC Klan. The club accused the men of snitching on locals in the battle over bootlegging.

HB city council followed that same month by denying the use of a public auditorium for a speech by Reverend E.J. Bulgin, a traveling preacher and suspected Klan agitator.

The stage was set for a recall effort amid the acrimony. Councilmen Richard Drew and James Macklin were targeted by a circulating petition. One of the reasons cited was the blocking of Bulgin by the councilmen, a move that deprived residents of the chance to hear his speech.

By April, the Chamber of Commerce had stern words for the Hooded Order it allowed to parade on its streets just months prior and now blamed for the recall, believing the Klan wanted to replace the targeted councilmen with its own members.

“The Ku Klux Klan would take away the rights of American citizenship, and substitute secret political plots and methods by dictating to their members what they shall do,” said Sam Bowen, president of the chamber. “We should set ourselves against being dominated by an organization governed by prejudice, hatred, and intolerance.”

Lofty words, but hardly without hypocrisy.

The quote came on the heels of Bowen’s chamber, itself, spearheading public opposition to the Pacific Beach Club, a planned African American resort that unknown arsonists later burned to the ground on the morning of January 21, 1926 just a few weeks shy of its opening, a story for another Slingshot.

Undeterred by Bowen’s anti-Klan declaration, but not on account of its hypocrisy, residents continued pushing for the recall and claimed the Klan served as a convenient scapegoat against it.

The effort carried on for months. Blodget, as city attorney, advised city councilmembers to take no action on the recall on the grounds that the petition presented was inadequate. William Taylor Newland, a ranch owner and “Bishop of Huntington Beach,” took the matter to Superior Court in hopes of compelling the council to order a recall election, but a judge sided with Blodget in July.

Another fatal blow came when one of the leaders of the recall effort left HB for Long Beach later that month.

Almost a century later, the remnants of the Klan have planned a return to Huntington Beach. But it’s not just the refashioned black uniformed klukkers causing trouble. Neo-Nazis and Proud Boys have teamed up over Telegram for the nationwide “White Lives Matter” rallies. An image from a non-Klan flyer shows the same artwork used by Vanguard America, a white supremacist group that morphed into the fascist Patriot Front.

Unlike the Klan at Labor Day, the flyer encourages rally goers to wear masks for the sake of anonymity.

With kounter-protests planned and intense media attention on HB, whoever is truly organizing the rally is now claiming the location won’t be revealed until today. Will extreme prejudice come to the pier again? Did it ever really leave?

The uncomfortable truth for Huntington Beach and Orange County alike is that apparitions of the Klan, past and present, are hardly the only harbingers of hate.

– Gabriel San Román

This independent newsletter in OC depends on readers like YOU! To keep the Slingshot! flinging the truth Venmo: @Gabriel-SanRoman-2. PayPal: @gabrielsanroman2

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Your Mouse Muckraker / Photo by Federico Medina

Mouse Muckraker

Abigail Disney is a class traitor–and damn proud of it. The granddaughter of Roy O. Disney continues to speak out against income inequality. The heiress backed Senator Bernie Sanders, a prominent Disney critic, in his effort to raise taxes on inherited wealth, like her own fortune. “My grandfather paid a much higher effective tax rate than we do now, and yet still managed, after paying off the Estate Tax, to leave significant wealth behind to benefit not only his son, but his four grandchildren and even his 16 great-grandchildren,” said Disney before a Senate Budget Committee hearing last month. “What did we ever do to earn the first dollar and what gives us the right to think that any dollar given to the government is a dollar stolen from us?”

With an attention-grabbing last name, she remains outspoken as a member of the Patriotic Millionaires. The group is the subject of a recent profile in the Guardian with Disney being the lead. In it, the filmmaker and activist declined to disclose her net worth, but mentioned that she’s given $72 million away to various causes focused on women experiencing hardships like incarceration or domestic violence.

But Disney knows that charity is no substitute for justice and favors progressive taxation policies that aim to redistribute wealth.

In championing such, she also revealed some intimate details how the Disney dynasty changed. Michael Eisner, as CEO, turned the company her grandfather co-founded with Walt Disney into a modern corporate empire in the 1980s. Pushing back on the “greed is good” ethos of the era, the explosion of dividends following animated blockbusters like Beauty and the Beast drove a wedge between her and Roy E. Disney, her father.

He bought a private Boeing 737; she refused to step foot in it and started parting with her fortune from there on.

When income inequality became a fault-line at the Disneyland Resort, Disney met with workers fighting for a living wage through a ballot initiative and contract campaigns in 2018 and 2019.

“It kills me,” Disney told the Guardian, “because as a child I went there with my grandfather. Now, I may have rose-tinted glasses when looking back, but there was an almost reverence for him, and he had such a rapport with the people who worked there. He would be horrified.”

Dear Abby: can we interest you in starting up a muckraking newspaper in Disneyland’s backyard?

Categories
News

CA to reopen the economy

California is aiming to fully reopen its economy June 15 — the clearest end date eyed for restrictions that have besieged businesses and upended daily life throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The date isn’t set in stone. And officials emphasize that getting to the point where California can widely reopen for the first time in more than a year will hinge on two factors: a sufficient vaccine supply to inoculate all those who are eligible and stable and low numbers of people hospitalized with the disease.

June 15 also won’t bring a full return to pre-pandemic life. Notably, California’s mask mandate will remain in place for the foreseeable future.

But officials expressed confidence that the state, through continued improvement in its coronavirus metrics and the steady rollout of vaccines, is now positioned to begin actively planning for what comes after COVID-19.

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 05: Statues tower over guests working out at John Reed Fitness on Monday, April 5, 2021 in downtown Los Angeles, CA. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

Scenes of a reemerging California: Los Angeles and Orange County enter orange tier

April 2, 2021

“With more than 20 million vaccines administered across the state, it is time to turn the page on our tier system and begin looking to fully reopen California’s economy,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement Tuesday. “We can now begin planning for our lives post-pandemic. We will need to remain vigilant, and continue the practices that got us here — wearing masks and getting vaccinated — but the light at the end of this tunnel has never been brighter.”

Should all go as planned, June 15 will see the official end of California’s current reopening roadmap, which sorts counties into one of four color-coded tiers based on three metrics: coronavirus case rates, adjusted based on the number of tests performed; the rate of positive test results; and a health-equity metric intended to ensure that the positive test rate in poorer communities is not significantly higher than the county’s overall figure.

“The entire state will move into this phase as a whole. This will not be county-by-county,” Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s health and human services secretary, said in a briefing call with reporters.

In a statement, officials said those sectors included in the state’s reopening blueprint will be allowed to “return to usual operations in compliance with Cal/OSHA requirements and with common-sense public health policies in place, such as required masking, testing and with vaccinations encouraged. Large-scale indoor events, such as conventions, will be allowed to occur with testing or vaccination verification requirements.”

Ghaly emphasized that, “if we see any concerning rise in our hospitalizations, we will take the necessary precautions. But right now, we are hopeful in what we’re seeing as we continue to build on the 20 million vaccines already administered.”

SANTA MONICA, CA - APRIL 05: Visitors stroll along the Santa Monica Pier on Monday, April 5, 2021 as Los Angeles County entered the less strict orange tier allowing more places to open and inviting more people to venture outdoors. Photographed in Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, CA. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

Vaccinated and eager for normal life, Californians are venturing out. Is it too much too soon?

April 6, 2021

A successful statewide reopening in June poses a major political upside for the governor, who faces a likely recall election in the fall.

Newsom’s chances of surviving a recall could be higher if Californians have resumed some form of pre-COVID-19 life when they cast their ballots. Mass vaccinations and the return of in-person education are critical to that sense of normalcy.

Newsom was the first governor in the nation to issue a stay-at-home order in the early days of the pandemic last year, an action widely cast as the right call to protect California’s fragile healthcare system.

The governor hasn’t received the same praise for his handling of reopenings.

Health experts have said Newsom lifted restrictions too quickly and didn’t reinstate them fast enough when case numbers grew, adding to COVID-19 surges in the summer and winter. Health and Human Services Secretary Ghaly, one of the state’s top health officials, has said he would have slowed the pace of change last summer if he could do it all again.

Rescinding restrictions and launching a sweeping reopening create news risks for Newsom. If the virus surges again or unexpected problems arise, the whiplash of the governor’s constantly changing rules could be fresher in the minds of voters, who may blame him at the polls.

Political experts say the more Californians think of the pandemic in the past tense, the more likely Newsom is to keep his seat.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary, California Health and Human Services, left, inoculates California Gov. Gavin Newsom, right, at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza in Los Angeles Thursday, April 1, 2021. Newsom was vaccinated with the new one-dose Janssen COVID-19 vaccine by Johnson & Johnson. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

CALIFORNIA

Facing recall, Newsom’s political future is tied to California vaccine effort

April 1, 2021

The announcement of the targeted reopening date came the same day that California hit its goal of administering 4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in its most vulnerable communities — a milestone not only in the ongoing struggle to more equitably give out the precious shots, but in the push to further reopen the state’s economy even ahead of June 15.

Hitting the target means the state will redraft the reopening roadmap to implement new criteria that will allow counties to more quickly relax some of the restrictions on businesses and public spaces.

The changes will, in effect, apply an orange coat to the Golden State.

The tiers outlined in California’s current reopening strategy go from purple, in which coronavirus transmission is considered widespread, and indoor operations are severely limited or suspended across a wide array of business sectors; to red, with fewer restrictions; to orange, with even fewer; and finally, yellow, in which most businesses can open indoors with modifications.

Before Tuesday, counties had to record fewer than 4.0 new cases per day per 100,000 people to move into the orange tier. With the 4-million dose target now achieved, the requirement has been loosened to under 6.0.

Bell, CA, Monday, April 5, 2021 - Covid-19 vaccinations are offered at the Bell Community Center the day it is announced that 4 million shots have been provided to underserved communities. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

How much longer can California buck spring COVID-19 surge? There are concerns

April 6, 2021

Moving into the orange tier has significant economic implications.

Counties can allow bars to reopen outdoors with some modifications, and bars also are no longer required to serve food.

Amusement parks can reopen at up to 25% capacity, and fan attendance is allowed at 33% capacity for outdoor sports and live performances.

Capacity restrictions can also be lifted in stores, although social distancing and other safety modifications still apply; houses of worship, museums, zoos and aquariums can raise their indoor capacity to 50% from 25%; restaurants and movie theaters can raise indoor capacity to 50% capacity or 200 people from 25% or 100 people (whichever is fewer); and indoor gyms and yoga studios can increase capacity to 25% from 10%.

Bowling alleys can reopen with modifications at 25% capacity. Card rooms and satellite wagering sites can also reopen indoors at 25% capacity.

Offices in nonessential industries can reopen, though the state says workers should still be encouraged to work remotely.

Los Angeles, CA - January 15: Dr. Richard Dang, right, Assistant professor USC School of Pharmacy administers COVID-19 vaccine to Ashley Van Dyke as mass-vaccination of healthcare workers takes place at Dodger Stadium on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

WORLD & NATION

Biden to move up COVID-19 vaccine eligibility for all adults to April 19

April 6, 2021

The state-set goal of administering first 2 million, then 4 million doses in targeted communities — namely, those in the lowest quartile of a socioeconomic measurement tool called the California Healthy Places Index — was only one aspect of a wider effort aimed at ensuring equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

California has for the last month earmarked 40% of its COVID-19 vaccine supply for residents in those disadvantaged areas, an allocation state officials said would not only help address inequities in the inoculation rollout, but make sure the shots are available to those most at risk from the pandemic.

To date, providers throughout California have doled out 20.3 million total COVID-19 vaccine doses, and 34.2% of residents have received at least one shot, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Roughly 18.1% of Californians are fully vaccinated at this point, meaning they’ve either received the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine or both required doses of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.

Nationwide, 32.4% of Americans have received at least one dose and 18.8% are fully vaccinated, CDC data show.

During the early phases of the vaccine rollout, California restricted access to the shots to those considered at highest risk of coronavirus infection, either because of their age, occupation or underlying health conditions.

That will change starting April 15, when anyone age 16 and over will be able to book appointments.

The state had widened vaccine eligibility last week to include everyone 50 and older.

President Biden had initially said states should make all adults eligible for COVID-19 vaccines by May 1. But he is expected to announce a more aggressive timeline Tuesday — setting a new deadline of April 19.

Categories
News Redistricting

New Delay for Census Numbers

By Michael Wines and Emily Bazelon

  • Feb. 11, 2021

WASHINGTON — The delivery date for the 2020 census data used in redistricting, delayed first by the coronavirus pandemic and then by the Trump administration’s interference, now is so late that it threatens to scramble the 2022 elections, including races for Congress.

The Census Bureau announced on Friday that it has pushed back its deadline for releasing the population figures needed for drawing new districts for state legislatures and the House of Representatives until Sept. 30. That is six months beyond the usual March 31 deadline and two months beyond the July 31 date that the agency announced last month.

The holdup, which is already cause for consternation in some states, could influence the future of key districts. And with Democrats holding a slim 10-seat House majority, it even has the potential to change the balance of power in the House and some state legislatures, according to Michael Li, the senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. States need the figures this year to redraw district lines for the 435 seats in the House of Representatives and for thousands of seats in state legislatures.New GuidelinesThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines on Friday for how to operate schools safely during the pandemic. Here’s what you need to know.

The delay means there will be less time for the public hearings and outside comment required in many states, and less time once maps are drawn to contest new district lines in court, as often happens after redistricting.

“The concern in some of those states is that the legislators will simply use a special session to secretly pass maps with zero public scrutiny, and then count on a tight timetable to eke out at least one election cycle” before a court could require new maps to be drawn, said Kathay Feng, the redistricting and representation director at Common Cause.

The challenges extend beyond just drawing up districts. State and local election officials need time after new political maps are approved to redraw voting precincts and overhaul voter rolls to ensure that everyone is directed to the proper place to vote. And prospective candidates generally cannot file for office until they know whether they live within the new boundaries of the districts they are seeking to represent.

“States are literally sitting on their hands, asking, ‘When will the data come?’” said Jeffrey M. Wice, an adjunct professor at New York Law School and a longtime expert on census and redistricting law.

The Census Bureau’s delay stems mostly from problems the pandemic caused in last year’s counts of certain places, including college dorms and housing for agricultural workers. College students, for example, should be counted in dormitories and apartments near their schools, but the pandemic sent most students home last spring just as the census was starting. Now experts must find and locate them properly — and also ensure they are not double-counted as living with their parents.

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Such problems can be fixed, Census Bureau officials say, but doing so takes time. The location of millions of people is in play, and allotting or placing seats during reapportionment and redistricting can turn on the location of hundreds.

It remains unclear how serious the political repercussions of the delay will be, but early indications are that Democrats have more reason to worry.

By Mr. Li’s calculation in a report issued on Thursday, Republicans will most likely draw the maps for 181 House seats and Democrats for 49 seats, possibly rising to 74 if the New York Legislature (which is controlled by Democrats) chooses to override the state’s new independent redistricting commission.

The map for the rest of the seats in the House will be drawn either in states where power is split between the parties or in states with nonpartisan redistricting commissions, which have mostly proliferated in blue states like California and Virginia and purple states like Michigan.

That means Republicans, who have already shown an appetite for extreme gerrymandering in states like North Carolina and Wisconsin, could benefit disproportionately if too little time exists to contest maps drawn by legislatures for 2022 and the rest of the decade.

The biggest targets for increasing one party’s share of Congress are the fast-growing Southern states of Texas, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, where Republicans oversee the drawing of maps through control of both houses of the legislature.

In Texas, Mr. Li expects Republicans to draw maps that would ensure Republican control of three new House seats that the state is expected to add because of population growth, and two existing seats now held by Democrats. The delay in receiving census data “could be used in some states to game the redistricting process, by leaving less time for legal challenge,” Mr. Li said.

“It used to be, for example, that Texas finished redistricting in June, which gave affected parties six months to litigate,” he said. “Now a map might not be approved until November, which gives you less time to gather evidence and expert testimony.”

Students outside a coronavirus testing site at the University of Wisconsin-Madison this month. The pandemic complicated census counts on campuses across the country.
Students outside a coronavirus testing site at the University of Wisconsin-Madison this month. The pandemic complicated census counts on campuses across the country.Credit…Lauren Justice for The New York Times

Suits that challenge redistricting often involve complicated fact-finding about whether a state has engaged in racial gerrymandering (either packing Black and Latino voters into a small number of districts to limit the scope of their political power, or spreading them thinly so they cannot easily elect a candidate).

Democrats could try to squeeze out a few more seats in states they control through gerrymandering. But outside of New York, where the Democratic-controlled Legislature has the power to reject maps drawn by an independent commission, the party has slimmer pickings, Mr. Li said.

Some Democrats are more sanguine. Population shifts in fast-growing states like Texas are concentrated in Democratic-leaning cities and suburbs, making it harder to draw districts that dilute the party’s power, said Patrick Rodenbush, a spokesman for the party’s National Democratic Redistricting Committee.

In North Carolina and Pennsylvania — which both have elected Democratic governors — state supreme courts have ruled that the Republican gerrymanders of the last redistricting cycle violate state constitutions, raising a barrier to future distorted maps.

And in other big states that Republicans controlled and gerrymandered a decade ago — Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio among them — either Democratic governors or nonpartisan redistricting commissions place limits on overly skewed legislative maps.

For other reasons, the delay in census totals has the potential to upend map drawing in Illinois and Ohio.

Democrats control 13 of the 18 House seats in Illinois, in part because of gerrymandering. (The state’s total number could drop to 17 after the House is reapportioned this year.) But if final maps cannot be approved by Sept. 1, the Illinois Constitution shifts mapmaking power from the Democratic-controlled Legislature to a panel of four Democrats, four Republicans and one person randomly chosen from the two parties. Giving Republicans a say in map drawing would probably increase the share of seats they are likely to win.

The same could be true in the State Senate, where Democrats now control 70 percent of the chamber’s seats, and in the State House, where they hold 60 percent of them. The Legislature is aware of the Constitution’s redistricting provision, and Democrats could try to address the issue, although how is unclear.

“Illinois is an example of where the Legislature is talking about using old data to produce maps that are largely the same as they currently have — and letting people sue,” Ms. Feng, of Common Cause, said.

The reverse applies in Ohio, where a 2018 referendum amended the State Constitution to hand congressional and state legislative map duties to a bipartisan commission. The same amendment returns redistricting duties to the Republican-dominated Legislature if the commission fails to approve political maps by Oct. 31, barely a month after the Census Bureau’s current estimate for finishing population calculations.

Some experts said legal challenges to redistricting based on the Census Bureau’s delay seemed likely, from voters or candidates who would want to extend the period for drawing maps.

“If the necessary data aren’t available at the time the law says the state redistricting must be done, then a court could relax the deadline,” said Nathaniel Persily, a Stanford law professor and co-director of the Stanford-M.I.T. Healthy Elections Project. In some states, courts granted similar pandemic-related extensions for deadlines related to balloting procedures in the November election, like voting by mail.

The rationale is that “given extraordinary circumstances, we’re doing something different this time,” Mr. Persily said.

The delay in receiving the census data could also cause the completion of map drawing to bump up against candidates’ filing deadlines in states like Virginia and New Jersey, which will hold elections for the State Legislature in November, as well as states with early 2022 filing deadlines for later primary elections.

In Virginia, officials said, the delay raises the prospect of holding state legislative elections three years in a row — using old maps this year if the new ones are not finished, using new maps in 2022 and conducting scheduled legislative elections in 2023.

“Whenever this crazy process ends, election administrators have to deal with all these lines,” said Kimball W. Brace, a Washington-based redistricting consultant who usually works with Democratic politicians. “Precincts, voter registration systems — all of that is now in a shorter timetable.”

Come Election Day, he said, “Either you’re ready, or you’re not.”Correction: Feb. 12, 2021

An earlier version of this article misstated the years in which census delays raised the prospect of Virginia holding state legislative elections three years in a row. They are 2021, 2022 and 2023, not 2022, 2023 and 2024.

Michael Wines writes about voting and other election-related issues. Since joining The Times in 1988, he has covered the Justice Department, the White House, Congress, Russia, southern Africa, China and various other topics.  @miwineA version of this article appears in print on Feb. 12, 2021, Section A, Page 16 of the New York edition with the headline: Delay in Census Data Could Affect Elections For Congress in 2022. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

Categories
News

Vons, Pavilions to Replace Drivers with Contractors

When Dylan’s grocery delivery arrived a few days before New Years, it came with some bad news. The delivery driver who brought his groceries from Vons mentioned that drivers across the state are getting fired by Vons, Pavilions, and other California stores owned by Albertsons Companies in late February. Stores will instead turn to a third-party delivery service using independent contractors.

“I was disturbed and disappointed that Vons would eliminate these jobs. I felt like they were the only remaining company that treated delivery drivers ethically but no longer,” said Dylan.

After publication, an Albertsons representative sent the following statement: “We will transition that portion of our eCommerce operations to third-party logistics providers.” She added “While we know that this move will help us create a more efficient operation, it wasn’t a decision we made lightly or without a great deal of consideration.”

Drivers under the Albertsons Companies umbrella are employees, while Ralphs delivery is operated by Instacart and Target uses Shipt, a similar app. At Bay Area stores, drivers are unionized, and will not be affected by the layoffs. For southern California shoppers, this move leaves them without a grocery delivery option that treats drivers as employees.

Unions are vowing to fight the change, says Jim Araby, Director of Strategic Campaigns at UCFW5. “The only drivers that kept their jobs were the unionized drivers in the Bay Area. All the other drivers in California were laid off because they were non-union. We represent those drivers and they will keep their job.”

These layoffs are unsurprising after the passage of Proposition 22, which gutted worker protections while making it easier for companies to shift financial burdens onto newly-designated “independent contractors.” In a piece for KNOCK last year, Keith F. Eberl predicted this exact outcome in the opening paragraph:

“Contrary to the companies’ deceptive ad campaign and intimidating messages to their workers, Prop 22 does not preserve driver flexibility or save drivers from politicians. What Prop 22 does do is change current law so the companies can shift their costs to the driver and diminish or remove drivers’ rights, protections, and benefits. Prop 22 will also block drivers’ ability to organize so they can’t collectively bargain a contract. In addition, this proposition will block local governments from writing or enforcing protections for drivers.”

The only surprise is the speed at which Albertsons reversed course on its commitments to workers. This move comes after nearly a year of celebrating grocery store workers for feeding communities. Earlier this year, Albertsons Companies President & CEO Vivek Sankaran said the company was “taking care of our team.” Albertsons Companies “are working… to ensure that every member of our team who faces a crisis can have peace of mind that we will help them get through it.”

Albertsons was happy to reap public goodwill during the pandemic. But once Prop 22 gave the company the option of replacing workers with lower-paid contractors, they jumped at the opportunity. Employees received notice during the holidays that their employment would end one month into the new year.

Early in the pandemic, union members demanded hazard pay, additional medical leave, and employee protections during the pandemic. In March, Safeway and Northern California grocery workers reached an agreement providing these additional benefits.

Labor and management were able to cooperate in April, requesting that grocery workers be designated as first responders. In an April joint statement, Sankaran and United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) President Marc Perrone wrote:

“This joint action is an example of how all Americans must work together to protect everyone working on the frontlines. This includes… associates at our nation’s grocery stores who are providing communities with the essential food and supplies needed to weather this public health crisis.”

Negotiations in October turned contentious, as members of the Teamsters issued a notice of potential strike due to rising healthcare costs. Lou Villavazo, who chairs the bargaining effort, told the Orange County Register that “employers have been bargaining in bad faith. We’ve had over 18 bargaining sessions with them and we provided our economic proposal … but no response.”

Organized labor made the difference for drivers in the Bay Area, who will remain as employees for now. But without the power of a union, southern California drivers lack an organizational structure through which to fight back.

Many, myself included, turned to Vons and Albertsons stores for their groceries, knowing that drivers were employed with benefits. Unionized drivers offered a clear alternative to the hellscape of gig-economy apps like Instacart.

In a March 2020 statement, Sankaran said “these times are unprecedented in the grocery industry… [a] simple ‘thank you’ doesn’t seem like quite enough.” He was right. Delivery drivers deserve healthcare, job protections, and fair wages. Workers won those fights this year because they fought as a union. With DoorDash taking over in February, that united front will be gone.

You can contact Albertsons Companies and let them know what you think of this move:

Vons Retail Store/Corporate Phone Number: 877–723–3929

Albertsons Retail Store/Corporate Phone Number: 877–723–3929

EDITOR’S NOTE: After publication, Albertson’s responded to KNOCK’s request for comment. This piece has since been edited to clarify that union drivers will not be laid off and that workers facing layoffs in Southern California are non-union, as well as to include statements from both Albertsons and UCFW5. The scheduled date of the layoffs was also corrected.

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Unofficial ballot drop boxes popping up

In a photo posted to social media last week, a young man wearing a mask with Orange County congressional candidate Michelle Steel’s name on it is holding a mail ballot and giving a thumbs up next to a box about the size of a file cabinet labeled “Official ballot drop off box.”

The post, from Jordan Tygh, a regional field director for the California Republican Party, encouraged people to message him for “convenient locations” to drop their own ballots.

The problem is the drop box in the photo is not official – and it could be against the law.

The California Secretary of State has received reports in recent days about possible unauthorized ballot drop boxes in Fresno, Los Angeles and Orange counties, agency spokesman Sam Mahood said Sunday evening. Reports place such boxes at local political party offices, candidate headquarters and churches.

Richard Lamberson, of Montclair, drops off his ballot in the official ballot drop off box at the Montclair Civic Center in Montclair on Friday, Oct. 9, 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic. Montclair is one of 13 Inland Empire cities to have a ballot measure (Measure L) on taxes. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Secretary of State Alex Padilla said his office is coordinating with local elections officials to look into the reports.

Only county elections officials can oversee ballot drop boxes, choosing the number, location, hours of operation and other details. County registrars are charged with making sure every box follows strict state guidelines for security, including making sure they can’t be tampered with and tracing the chain of custody of all ballots.

“Operating unofficial ballot drop boxes – especially those misrepresented as official drop boxes – is not just misleading to voters, it’s a violation of state law,” Padilla said, with a felony conviction carrying a prison sentence of two to four years.

Reports came out Saturday night about a metal box in front of Freedom’s Way Baptist Church in Castaic that had a sign matching the one on the Orange County box. The church posted on social media that the box was “approved and brought by the GOP.” The post said church officials don’t have a key to the box and that GOP officials picks up the ballots. A pastor for the church didn’t respond to a request for comment.

On its website, the Fresno County Republican Party also shared a list of “secure” ballot collection locations. None are official county drop box sites, with the local GOP instead listing its own headquarters, multiple gun shops and other local businesses.Sign up for our daily Election News email newsletter with stories and updates about the 2020 elections. Subscribe here.

The state is still looking into the source or sources of the boxes, Mahood said.

The California Republican Party did not respond to requests for comment about the boxes by deadline. But they’ve been defending the practice in replies on Twitter, alleging the process was made legal under a 2016 law that allows California voters to designate a person to return their ballot for them. The GOP calls the practice “ballot harvesting” and blames it for losses to the Democrats in OC and other places in 2018.

But state officials clarified that using an unauthorized vote-by-mail drop box would not meet the requirements of the 2016 law. No designated “person” would be signing for the ballots as required by state law.

Tygh, who tweeted the Orange County drop box photo on Thursday, didn’t respond to requests for comment. He is listed on Steel’s campaign website as part of “Veterans for Michelle Steel,” a group supporting her election bid. Steel, a Republican supervisor in Orange County, is challenging Rep. Harley Rouda, a Democrat, for the 48th District Congressional seat.

A Democratic party operative retweeted Tygh’s photo on Sunday, alleging the unofficial drop box was at Steel’s campaign headquarters. Reached Sunday evening, Steel said she was out campaigning and was unaware of whether there were drop boxes at her campaign office. She said she’d check into it and call back, but could not be reached later Sunday night.

Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley said Sunday that hundreds of people alerted him to the possible rogue drop box. Some had also sent the same message to the state Attorney General and FBI.

“What we did was started to look into it, notified the state, and the Secretary of State issued guidance this afternoon that it is illegal and you can’t do that,” Kelley said.

“It would be like me installing a mailbox out on the corner – the post office is the one that installs mailboxes.”

Kelley said he doesn’t have many details, such as where the box in the photo was located or who was responsible for it. He passed the information on to Padilla’s office and to Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer.

District Attorney’s spokeswoman Kimberly Edds said Spitzer’s office is investigating, but she declined to say where or how many there were or who had placed them.

To find official drop box locations near you, use tools on the Secretary of State or your local registrar’s websites. Orange County official drop box sites are at ocvote.com.

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News

Q&A with Orange County’s Registrar

As Orange County voters gear up for the November election, many residents have mounting questions about how the voting process will play out during the coronavirus pandemic, including questions around mail-in voting and delays in postal service.

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This week, Voice of OC put those kinds of questions directly to the man in charge of making sure the election goes smoothly, and that every vote counts.

Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley believes mail-in voting remains more secure than in-person voting, noting that he’s preparing for the vast majority of OC voters – upwards of 95 percent – to cast ballots by mail in the upcoming election.

In anticipation of possible delays in postal delivery, the California Legislature extended the deadline for ballots to be received by county to 17 days after Election Day, as long as ballots are postmarked Election Day.

Another elections expert agreed that California is well positioned for any delays in postal service.

“Let’s be clear on the fact that Orange County voters – every [voter] in Orange County got mailed a ballot in the primary, and there were not problems. And there’s no reason for voters in Orange County – or anywhere in California – to believe they’re going to be disenfranchised because of a national conversation or fight or political battle over the post office,” said Paul Mitchell, who helps lead one of the largest election data firms in California.

“We should all be watching and concerned about any defunding of the post office,” Mitchell said. “[But] it’s not going to affect California voters.”

The voting process in Orange County will be largely similar to the March primary, Kelley said, including every registered voter being mailed a ballot and having multiple options for casting it: by mail, dropping it off at a vote center or ballot drop box, or voting in person at a vote center.

The main differences, he said, will be new safety measures at in-person voting centers like one-time use pens, physical distancing, open front doors and hand sanitizer.

What should voters expect with voting in the pandemic, and what changes, if any, are coming?

I think the good news is that most voters will kind of see the same thing they saw in the March primary, in terms of: everybody’s going to get a mail ballot, and there will be lots of options for returning that ballot. We will have essentially the same number of vote centers that we operated in the March primary.

The main differences will be that the in-person voting components will have COVID-19 precautions. So there will be a number of items in place in those in-person sites that may slow the process down a little bit. And then, the other thing is that we will be operating our vote centers for 5 days – 4 days plus Election Day – instead of 11 days like we did in the March primary.

So the only real difference they will see is that reduction in the number of days. But the reality is, in March 99 percent of our voters that were in person used the voter centers the last four days. So we don’t anticipate much of an affect from that at all. But everything else would be kind of seamless for voters.

What safety measures will be in place at vote centers? Could you walk through some of that?

Every vote center will have a freestanding hand sanitation station when you walk in. There’s going to be signage there to guide voters and let them know what the COVID-19 precautions are. There will be floor markings, along with stanchions, that will show people where to stand 6 feet apart.

Once they get to the check-in station, each one of our vote center employees will have a face shield as well as a face covering. And the styluses that are used to sign will be sanitized after each use. Every one of those check-in stations will have hand sanitizer, tissues, disinfecting wipes, gloves. And for voters we will be using a one-time use pen. So when they mark their ballot, they throw the pen away. And then the secrecy folder that they would put their ballot in before they scan it is also a throw-away now, instead of a re-use.

Once they leave the check-in station, there’s floor markings and arrows to guide them in which direction to go in. Every other voting booth will be closed down for physical distancing, and they’ll have signage on them so that a voter couldn’t for instance stand between a booth. Those will be used to separate them.

And then when they get done voting their ballot, they’ll take their ballot to a scan station where there will be voting attendants showing them where to scan it. Once they scan their ballot, we’ve purchased dispensers for “I Voted” stickers. So now voters will grab their own “I Voted” sticker, and off they go. And the last thing they’ll see when they exit the vote center will be another freestanding hand sanitizing station that they can use once they leave the site.

Commonly touched surfaces have been a concern during the pandemic, like door handles. Are there any surfaces that would be touched by lots of people, that voters would come in contact with? Or is that all pretty much eliminated?

We’re going through a disinfecting procedure before we open the site. And that happens also every morning. But the vote center doors, when we can – which will be the majority of them – will be propped open, so that voters will not have to touch any hardware.

So the only thing the voter really will have to touch are two things. One is signing with the stylus, and as I mentioned that will be cleaned after every use. And then the pen itself that they mark their ballot with. And that is a disposable pen.

In terms of mail-in voting, are you expecting an increase in people casting ballots by mail?

Even with the national dialogue, the reality is 8 of 10 of our voters in March used a mail ballot. I anticipate probably we’re going to see upwards of 95 percent, roughly, that are going to use a mail ballot.

Three days after the March primary when COVID really exploded, I immediately started looking for grant funding to purchase a second automated sorter, and then doubling our scanning capacity. Because I thought, if anything’s going to happen to us in the fall, it’s going to be expanded vote-by-mail.

So we’re now the only county in California that, today we could run our entire election by mail if we had to. So we’re also going to see a speeding up of the post-election process, because I now have the ability to process ballots at twice the speed. Just because we’ve doubled that capacity.

Mail-in voting is a big topic nationally right now. What are your thoughts on the concerns about safety of mail-in voting? Should voters have concerns about that?

I think the reality is that, we’ve done a lot of the right things here in Orange County to make sure the checks and balances are in place. We’ve had 80 elections-plus since I’ve been here, and vote-by-mail has continued to grow. We’ve been through 45 recounts with an absolutely accurate counting of the system. We work closely with our federal law enforcement partners – DHS, FBI – on our voter records as well as our network-based systems. To be honest with you, I really feel – and this is my personal opinion but I think the data backs it up – that vote-by-mail voting, in particular in California, is more secure than in-person voting. Because in-person voting, there’s no ID laws, there’s no check on your voter record, there’s no signature comparison. All of that is done with vote-by-mail voting. And so a lot of this national dialogue, I just really don’t think it applies to what we’re doing here in California.

The postal service is getting a lot of attention right now. Let’s say there’s a wave of people putting their ballots in the mail on Election Day or the day before Election Day, and it’s a four or five-day delivery day with the postal service. What would happen in that scenario? Do you see that as a possibility, and would those ballots still count? What do you say to the concerns about delays?

They’re legitimate concerns. We have a good relationship with our postal folks here in Orange County, in fact I meet regularly with the postmaster. I don’t see the same kinds of concerns here in Orange County that some of my colleagues on the East Coast are facing. But the [California] Legislature thought ahead on this, and for COVID one of the bills that they passed extended the time for us to receive [ballots]. It’s now 17 days [after Election Day] instead of three days.

Would that also push out the final vote tallies – to about 2.5 weeks after Election Day?

Correct.

The 2020 general election is scheduled for Nov. 3. More information is available at the Orange County Registrar of Voters website at ocvote.com.

Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. You can contact him at ngerda@voiceofoc.org.