POSTAL OFFICIAL WARNS NC'S OCT. 27 ABM DEADLINE IS "TOO LATE": North Carolina election officials are encouraging voters to request and cast their absentee by-mail ballots sooner as a result of potential United States Postal Service delays. The Postal Service, in a letter to North Carolina’s Secretary of State Elaine Marshall received Friday, said that “under our reading of North Carolina’s election laws, certain deadlines for requesting and casting mail-in ballots are incongruous with the Postal Service’s delivery standards.” The state deadline to request a ballot is 5 p.m. on Oct. 27, but state election officials and the Postal Service indicate that date might be too late. Election Day is Nov. 3. The letter was signed by Thomas Marshall, the general counsel and executive vice president of the USPS. North Carolina businessman and big-dollar Republican donor Louis DeJoy is the new Postmaster General.
JUDGE RULES AGAINST ALAMANCE SHERIFF OVER CONFEDERATE PROTEST RULES: A federal judge ruled Friday that the Alamance County sheriff and local officials cannot prohibit protesters near the Confederate monument on the historic courthouse grounds. The Sheriff's office had put a ban on protesters on courthouse grounds, steps and sidewalks. U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles ruled that Alamance County’s ban on protesters on the courthouse grounds violates protesters’ First Amendment rights. Alamance County's historic Courthouse is a hotbed of protests due to a tall Confederate soldier monument that stands at its entrance. The original lawsuit was filed by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights under Law, the ACLU of North Carolina, and Lockamy Law Firm on behalf of the Alamance NAACP and eight individuals in early July. The monument has been the target of protests for several years, and calls to bring it down have become louder since the May 25 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked national demonstrations.
NC SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS RACIAL JUSTICE ACT DECISION, MARCUS ROBINSON OFF DEATH ROW: A man on death row in North Carolina will soon have his sentence reduced to life without parole, the state Supreme Court ruled on Friday. Marcus Robinson is one of four inmates to initially get death penalty sentences reduced using the legal process outlined in the now-defunct Racial Justice Act. The 2009 law allowed death row inmates to receive life without parole if they could prove through an appeals process that racial bias was the reason or a significant factor for their death sentence. The North Carolina General Assembly amended the Racial Justice Act in 2012 and then repealed the law the following year. The Supreme Court ruled earlier this summer that the repeal of the law cannot be applied retroactively. This paves the way for more than 100 death row inmates to get the relief they sought while the 2009 law was in place. Cassandra Stubbs, who represented Robinson and serves as director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Capital Punishment Project, called the court's decision “a strong condemnation of racial bias in capital cases” and praised the majority of justices who decided to reduce Robinson's sentence.
TRUMP REFUSES TO REJECT QANON CONSPIRACY THEORISTS, BECAUSE THEY LIKE HIM: Last spring, the FBI released an intelligence bulletin informing law enforcement about the threat of “fringe political conspiracy theories” which, the bureau said, would “very likely motivate some domestic extremists to commit criminal [and] sometimes violent activity.” Among the theories specifically cited was QAnon, a sprawling, bizarre set of theories centered on the idea that President Trump is engaged in a hidden battle against a cabal of pedophiles and sex traffickers which involves an endless array of celebrities, public figures and government officials. There was good reason to include QAnon. Two months prior, a man allegedly influenced by the conspiracy theory shot and killed a suspected Mafia boss on Staten Island. When he appeared in court for an extradition hearing, he held up the palm of his hand, on which he’d scrawled a Q — a reference to the anonymous figure whose cryptic messages purporting to reveal secret government information power the movement. In June 2018, a QAnon adherent had blocked access to the Hoover Dam, demanding the release of a secret report Q had suggested existed. The month before that, QAnon adherents had gone around the Tucson area looking for secret child sex trafficking camps they believed existed. Trump has a habit of refusing to reject conspiracy theories or obviously false assertions if they’re politically useful; see his embrace of nonsensical allegations about Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) on Thursday or his long-standing claims about Barack Obama’s birthplace. He’s also generally loathe to criticize supporters, not matter how toxic. His rejections of white nationalists who support his administration, for example, are often constrained or belated.
CORONAVIRUS TESTING IN THE U.S. IS STILL MUCH LOWER THAN IT SHOULD BE: Six months into the pandemic, testing remains a major obstacle in America’s efforts to stop the coronavirus. Some of the supply shortages that caused problems earlier have eased, but even after improvements, test results in some cases are still not being returned within a day or two, hindering efforts to quickly isolate patients and trace their contacts. Now, the number of tests being given has slowed just as the nation braces for the possibility of another surge as schools reopen and cooler weather drives people indoors. “We’re clearly not doing enough,” said Dr. Mark McClellan, the director of the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy and the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration under former President George W. Bush. Reported daily tests trended downward for much of the last two weeks, essentially stalling the nation’s testing response. Some 733,000 people have been tested each day this month on average, down from nearly 750,000 in July, according to the COVID Tracking Project. The seven-day test average dropped to 709,000 on Monday, the lowest in nearly a month, before ticking upward again at week’s end. Without a vaccine or a highly successful treatment, widespread testing is seen as a cornerstone for fighting a pandemic in which as many as 40 percent of infected people do not show symptoms and may unknowingly spread the virus. Testing a lot of people is crucial to seeing where the virus is going and identifying hot spots before they get out of hand. Experts see extensive testing as a key part of safely reopening schools, businesses and sports.