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Michigan’s Surge In Covid-19 Cases Has Health Experts Worried For Rest Of The US

Michigan is currently in the middle of a major surge of Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations that has many experts worried for the rest of the nation. Younger people are among the most vulnerable as they’re the last group to receive their vaccinations. Dr. Celine Gounder is an epidemiologist who spoke to the media about this recent surge.
“Michigan is really the bellwether for what it looks like when the B.1.1.7 variant spreads in the United States. It’s causing a surge in cases and it’s causing more severe disease, which means that even younger people, people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s are getting very sick and being hospitalized by this.”

The B.1.1.7 strain was initially spotted in the United Kingdom but is now the most dominant strain of Covid-19 in America. Experts have claimed this strain is more contagious, may cause more severe disease and is potentially more deadly. Florida currently has the highest number of variant cases, filled by Michigan, Minnesota, and Massachusetts, according to the CDC.

Gounder claims Michigan’s surge in particular is caused by a combination of two factors: the spread of the B.1.1.7 variant combined with the fact that many states have already pulled back, or completely removed, all health and safety precautions meant to curb the spread of Covid due to the fact that vaccines are rolling out more quickly now.
“While some officials are trying to make a case for the federal government to ramp up vaccines to the state, that won’t help in Michigan’s case. Here’s why: it takes about two weeks after the Pfizer and Moderna second doses and about two weeks after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine before people are immune. Meanwhile, the incubation period, which is the time from when you’re exposed to when you are infected with Covid, is four to five days.”
“So there is no way that a surge in vaccination is going to help curb this when transmission is happening right now. The hard truth is that the only thing that will curb transmission right now are measures that take effect immediately. For example, masking up, not dining indoors, and socializing outdoors,” Gounder explained.
Michigan is currently reporting thousands of new coronavirus cases everyday, when just a few weeks ago the state’s data showed that it’s daily case count was as low as 500. Dr. Rob Davidson is an emergency room physician in the state who told the media recently that “hospitalizations have gone up four fold in just the last two weeks.”
Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University, told CNN: “Hospitals are being inundated, Michigan needs to shut down and the government should send more vaccines to the state. Think about it this way: Every year during fire season, when forest fires get out of control, we don’t just leave the states to manage as best they can. We surge firefighting forces into those states. So Michigan is on fire now. And we need to put that out.”
Beyond just Michigan health officials are warning of sharp increases in Covid-19 all throughout the country. Minnesota officials are specifically claiming it’s “more important than ever to keep wearing a mask and physical distancing.” Some experts in the US think that the nation could prevent another surge in the coming weeks if all Americans just continue to treat this pandemic like they did in the beginning while the rest of the country waits to receive their vaccinations.
So far about 35.9% of Americans have gotten at least one dose of their vaccine and 21% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the record pace that the US is administering vaccines, the country could reach the vaccination numbers needed to control the virus over the next few months. The way to do that is to vaccinate like crazy,” Reiner said.
“The last 20 to 30% are going to be the hardest because a lot of folks in this country are still hesitant to get the vaccine. We’re seeing it all over the country. We need to really get down on the grassroots level, talk to people about their hesitancy and get shots into arms, because if we don’t vaccinate that last 30% or so, we’re still going to have to live with this virus for a very long time.”
Congress in Capitol

Adam Kinzinger Becomes First GOP Member To Call For Matt Gaetz’s Resignation 

Illinois Representative Adam Kinzingler became the first congressional Republican to call on Florida Representative Matt Gaetz to resign and face a federal investigation into the sex trafficking allegations made against him. 

Kinzinger simply tweeted this week that “Matt Gaetz needs to resign” along with a link to a Daily Beast article that explained the allegations against Gaetz; many other major news outlets are still working to confirm the allegations and their source. 

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This isn’t Kinzingler’s first time speaking out against his own party either. During the end of 2020 especially, he constantly condemned former president Donald Trump and his administration for heavily pushing baseless claims of election fraud that aimed to attack the foundation of America’s democracy. 

No official charges have been made against Gaetz, and he has since denied all allegations made against him. Hours after the investigation and allegations were made public Gaetz was on Fox News denying any wrongdoing and claimed he was the victim of an “elaborate extortion scheme.” 

Gaetz then went on to write an op-ed piece declaring that he would “absolutely not be resigning,” and discussed how his campaign sent out fundraising pleas which blamed the media for trying to take him down. Very little GOP allies have spoken out against, or with, Gaetz, most are keeping quiet as the possibility of a federal investigation still lingers. 

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Individuals working on the potential investigation told the media that “federal investigators are seeking to determine whether Gaetz was provided travel and women in exchange for political favors as part of a broader probe. The investigation includes scrutiny of a trip to the Bahamas and whether women were paid to travel for sex with the Florida Republican congressman and others, a potential federal crime,” according to the sources. 

CNN also has previously reported on investigators looking into allegations that Gaetz had sex with an underage girl who was 17 at the time, and with other women who “provided drugs and money in violation of sex trafficking and prostitution laws.”

CBS News, which first reported on the investigation, was told by a spokeswoman: “Rep. Gaetz has never paid for sex, nor has he had sex with an underage girl. What began with blaring headlines about ‘sex trafficking’ has now turned into a general fishing exercise about vacations and consensual relationships with adults.”

Investigators are currently considering Gaetz’s connections to several associates and other government leaders in Florida who may have benefited politically from the congressman in exchange for things like campaign donations, travel, and escorts. Gatz’s lawyers have declined to comment.

COVID-19 Hand Writing

Health Experts Warn Another Covid-19 Surge Could Look Different For Younger People

Health experts claim that while Covid-19 vaccinations in the US are currently rolling out at a successful rate, not enough individuals are protected in the country to gain a proper herd immunity, and another surge may be on the way if we don’t continue to protect ourselves in the coming months. 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that over the weekend more than 4 million vaccine doses were administered in 24 hours, and the nation is currently averaging more than 3 million doses a day. 

However, CDC data also shows that only 18.5% of Americans are fully vaccinated at this point. Dr. Celine Gounder is an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist who recently spoke to the press about how this increase in case numbers is still a major cause for concern even with the rollout of multiple vaccines. 

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“I do think we still have a few more rough weeks ahead. What we know from the past year of the pandemic is that we tend to trend about three to four weeks behind Europe in terms of our pandemic patterns.”

In Europe specifically the highly contagious B117 variant of the virus has caused a major irse in case numbers and hospitalizations. Experts worry the US could face a similar fate if Americans don’t continue to abide by health and safety measures, regardless of if they’re vaccinated or not. 

“What’s worse is that the variant is changing the pandemic’s playbook and could spell trouble for younger groups that haven’t yet been vaccinated. We have to think about the B.1.1.7 variant as almost a brand new virus. It’s acting differently from anything we’ve seen before, in terms of transmissibility, in terms of affecting young people, so we have to take this very seriously,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

More than 54% of Americans 65 and older have been fully vaccinated at this point, according to CDC data, and more than 75% of individuals in that demographic have received their first dose. It’s for this reason that younger groups are being more closely monitored in terms of new cases and hospitalizations. 

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“We’re seeing in places like Michigan that the people who are now getting hospitalized by large numbers are people in their 30s and 40s, and now we’re even seeing children getting infected in larger numbers, too, and it’s not just Michigan. What we’re seeing is pockets of infection around the country, particularly in younger people who haven’t been vaccinated, and also in school-aged children,” former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke at a press conference this past weekend in which he urged all Americans to double down on safety measures to protect themselves and others from the virus and its new variants. 

“We say it over and over again and we need the local people, we need the governors and the mayors and others to be able to say, ‘We’re not out of it yet,’ people say, ‘Well, you just want to confine us forever.’ No, this is not going to last forever because every day that you get four million, three million people vaccinated, you get closer and closer to control,” Fauci said. 

Health experts believe if the entire country stayed indoors for the next six weeks while vaccinations continue, we’re likely be in a much better place by the summer.

Derek Chauvin Set To Go On Trial For The Murder Of George Floyd This Week 

The murder trial of Derek Chauvin will begin this week in Minneapolis. Chauvin is charged with the second-and-third-degree murder of George Floyd as well as manslaughter after he detained Floyd over suspicion of passing a $20 counterfeit bill last May. 

In a viral 9-minute video of the interaction between Chauvin and Floyd, the former officer can be seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck while he was already handcuffed and two other officers kept him on the ground. Floyd can be heard multiple times saying that he couldn’t breath and felt like he was about to die. The video then led to some of the biggest protests against racial injustice and police brutality since the 1960s.

In Minneapolis especially, the Black Lives Matter movement began with hundreds of peaceful protests which eventually were turned violent, many times due to police interference. The authorities claim to be planning on increasing the amount of police and national guard presence on the streets ahead of the trial this week. 

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Areva Martin is the Civil rights attorney and commentator who is working with Floyd’s family. Martin recently spoke to the press ahead of the trial this week to discuss how “the family is seeking justice, the public is seeking accountability.”

The world is waiting to see if the US will be courageous enough to stand up to a system that has a history of violating the rights of African Americans and, rather than protecting those lives, has actually destroyed them.”

The prosecution and defence are mainly concerned with the cause of Floyd’s death and Chauvin’s reasoning for why he felt he had to lean into Floyd’s neck for such an extended period time when he was already detained. 

In an autopsy performed by the Hennepin county medical examiner office, it was determined that Floyd’s death was a homicide due to the fact that he suffered from heart failure brought on by “law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.” 

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It’s expected that Chauvin’s defence team will focus on the findings that Floyd had heart disease as well, and there was evidence of “fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use,” in his system. Floyd’s team, on the other hand, is expected to focus on the fact that Chauvin had a long history of using excessive force in the past, including multiple incidents of kneeling on people throughout his career. 

After Floyd’s death, Chauvin was fired and arrested, and this marks the beginning of what is likely to be one of the most closely watched court cases in modern history. 

“George Floyd wasn’t the first person to be killed by police on this block, but [in the past] media wasn’t the way that it is and a lot of it got swept under the rug … How do we prevent this from happening? That could be my son. I have two sons,” said Mileesha Smith, a Minneapolis community member who was present at a vigil held this weekend ahead of the trial. 

If Chauvin is charged to the fullest extent, he could face a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.

Democrats Introduce Bill To Shift $1 Billion From Missile Funding To Vaccine Development

Democrats have introduced legislation that would transfer $1 billion in funding from a “controversial” new intercontinental ballistic missile to instead be used to develop a universal Covid-19 vaccine.

Biden Working On $3 Trillion Package To Improve Infrastructure In America 

President Joe Biden is working on assembling a new package of investments that would divide $3 trillion among the nation’s infrastructure and domestic needs throughout the next few years. Biden met with Senate Democrats privately this week to begin laying out the groundwork for improving the country’s roads, hospitals, and green energy systems. The investments will be part of Biden’s “Build Back Better” campaign promise. 

According to sources, this package will resemble the recent $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill that the president just passed in that it will include family-friendly policies; for this package though the policies will focus on education and paid family leave. 

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A White House source claimed that the plans are still preliminary, but the overall goal is to use the money to help improve the nation’s economy and overall quality of life for every American. Senator Richard Blumenthal is just one of many Democrats who are prepared to move forward with the package should they be blocked by Republicans. “We need to get it done,” Blumenthal proclaimed. 

This package is also likely a response to the Biden Administration’s handling of the US-Mexico border and immigration in general; a topic that the administration is already under fire for due to a slew of migrant crossings and other failed promises brought on by Biden and his team. 

According to Yahoo News, “an infrastructure package would include roughly $1 trillion for roads, bridges, rail lines, electrical vehicle charging stations and the cellular network, among other items. 

“The goal would be to facilitate the shift to cleaner energy while improving economic competitiveness.”

“A second component would include investments in workers with free community college, universal pre-kindergarten and paid family leave. No part of the proposal has been finalized and the eventual details of any spending could change,” sources said. 

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked Democratic committee chairmen earlier this month to “start working with their Republican counterparts to begin to craft a big, bold and transformational infrastructure package. The goal is to build swiftly on the coronavirus rescue plan to help people in every zip code by creating good-paying jobs for the future.” 

The Federal Reserve estimates that the spending with the Covid-19 relief bill and this infrastructure package could help the economy grow by up to 6.5%. Biden’s campaign also previously promised an increase on corporate taxes and for individuals making about $400,000 annually, which would also help the economy. 

The House Energy and Commerce Committee debated a $300 billion measure to invest in clean drinking water and broadband internet access this week while Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is set to speak to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee later this week. The Senate Finance Committee is also scheduled to meet and discuss tax spending as a means for paying for this package; all of these committee meetings have to do with the overall relief package the Biden Administration has been working on since last month. 

Biden is expected to release his budget in the coming weeks while Congress continues to discuss and meet regarding the details of this infrastructure package, which lawmakers claim could be ready by this summer.

US Immigration Label

House Passes Immigration Bills To Grant Citizenship For Dreamers And Farmworkers

This week the House passed two proposals that would legalize the subsets of around 11 million immigrants who are living in the US without legal permission. The hope is to get the bill to President Biden’s desk as quickly as possible to give immigrants an easier chance at gaining citizenship and remaining in the US safely. 

All House Democrats and nine Republicans voted to approve the American Dream And Promise Act, which passed with a vote of 228 to 197. The proposal would “allow more than 2.3 million Dreamers, or unauthorized immigrants who came to the US as minora, as well as beneficiaries of certain temporary humanitarian programs, to gain permanent legal status and eventually, U.S. citizenship,” according to news sources. 

The House also passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act with a vote of 247 to 174. This act will grant legal status to the hundreds of thousands of farmworkers in the US who don’t have the proper paperwork but provide some of the most essential services and labor to the entire nation. Thirty Republicans voted in favor of the bill and one Democrat voted against it. 

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Biden has continuously claimed that he plans to legalize most of the country’s undocumented population which has been met with a lot of Republican push-back. The two bills on their own are Democrats best chance at advancing these bills and getting these citizens documented. Nancy Pelosi recently spoke on the two bills:

“It’s always been a pleasure for me to sing praises of our Dreamers. They make us proud, for us, this is a day not only passing legislation, but a cause for celebration.”

If signed into law the American Dream And Promise Act would make all DACA recipients and other undocumented immigrants who were brought into the US before they were 18 eligible to apply for a 10-year period of conditional permanent residency. 

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Applicants would be eligible to apply for permanent residence if they earn a college degree, enroll in a bachelor’s program for two years, serve in the military for two years, or if they work in the US for a three-year period. 

More than 300,000 immigrants currently live in the US with Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure, all of which could be eligible to apply for permanent residency under the bill if they meet all the requirements. 

“The Farm Workforce Modernization Act would allow immigrant farmworkers to apply for a temporary and renewable immigration status if they have worked at least 180 days in the U.S. during a two-year period. Eligible workers would be allowed to request green cards if they complete four or eight years of additional agricultural work, depending on whether they have performed such work for more than or less than 10 years,” according to CBS. 

The proposal would also make visa’s valid for three years. Congressional Democrats proposed to expand legal immigration and invest in Central American border controls as well. Dreamers, TPS holders and farmworkers could automatically be eligible for a green card under the proposal.

The White House

President Biden Eyeing Gene Sperling To Be Covid Rescue Plan Leader

President Joe Biden is likely to choose Gene Sperling to oversee the implementation of the administration’s Covid-19 relief plan. Two sources working closely within the White House claim that the president will likely make the announcement this week. 

Sperling has served under former president’s Barack Obama and Bill Clinton’s economic teams and was initially under consideration to be Biden’s director of the Office of Management and Budget. Instead of that position Sperling is now the top choice to help the White House oversee the enactment of the $1.9 trillion relief bill recently passed by the government. 

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Sperling has a ton of experience with US economic policy issues, including working as the head of the National Economic Council under Clinton and Obama as well. He also was the top adviser of the Treasury Department under the Obama administration. 

Sperling has advocated for expanding how much the US has spent on the pandemic in its initial months, as well as assisted in helping the economy rebuild the tens of millions of jobs that were lost since the start of the pandemic. He even publicly claimed that he believed the stimulus payments weren’t “too large” after responding to an op-ed question by former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers.

He also has deep connections across Capitol Hill that would work to his advantage as a leader of the Covid-19 relief plan. However, there’s also a major pushback on choosing Sperling for the role due to the fact that many government members think Shalanda Young will be Biden’s final pick. Young is currently Biden’s nominee to be deputy budget director and is also a congressional budget aide. According to sources she has received the backing of the Congressional Black Caucus, the top three Democratic leaders of the House, members of the Hispanic Caucus, and some Republicans. 

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Young is a Black woman, and many House members indicated it wouldn’t look good for the administration to pass over Young to give the position to a white man. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and Senate Budget Committee both advanced the nomination for Young to take the position which will send her nomination to the floor for a final vote. 

Representative Emanuel Cleaver recently claimed that Biden would “certainly not make a mistake in naming Young because she is brilliant.” Another House Democrat anonymously told the press that “if the White House didn’t choose Young, it would be an affront to the Congressional Black Caucus and to leadership in the House.” 

Many Democratic members view Young to be the inevitable choice and claimed that “nominating her to the role would represent a commitment by the White House to Black Caucus members, who have repeatedly made clear that Black voters were instrumental in Biden’t victory.” 

“When I think of opportunities to make sure that we’re talking about diversity here is another one of those chances — Shalanda would be the first woman of color to serve in that position. So it’s a chance to again break another ceiling. And I think that when you have chances of breaking ceilings, you do it,” said Representative Gregory Meeks.

The White House Podium

Executive Order From Biden Could Improve How US Colleges Handle Sexual Misconduct

President Joe Biden is potentially going to improve on a Trump Administration policy that weakened how American colleges and universities that receive federal funding handle cases of sexual misconduct and assault accusations on campus, according to administration officials. 

Biden is projected to sign an executive order this Monday that would direct the Department of Education to review certain changes to policies that were implemented by former president Donald Trump. These policies include Title IX which prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded institutions. 

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While Biden was campaigning he had a major focus on gender equality, and a big piece of that was a commitment to do better at protecting the young women of America who are constantly threatened at some of the nation’s most prestigious universities. He promised to strengthen Title IX if he won and “sign a second executive order formally establishing the White House Gender Policy Council,” according to two administration officials.

Biden had the plans to create the council before he even took office as well. The order will direct the DOE to review Title IX, and potentially shift how colleges handle allegations of sexual misconduct/assault in the future. 

Back in 2018 Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education secretary, rescinded an Obama-era policy that made it standard for cases regarding sexual assault to require “preponderance of evidence,” and instead required “clear and convincing evidence” to make an allegation valid. Essentially, colleges and universities needed clear cut evidence that an assault occurred to actually do anything about it. These changes that were enforced by DeVos allowed colleges and universities to get away with ignoring the hundreds of allegations that appear on their campuses every year. 

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“The DeVos changes reduced the liability of colleges and universities for investigating sexual misconduct claims and bolstered the due process rights of the accused, including the right to cross-examine their accusers through a third-party advocate at campus hearings,” according to the Associative Press.

With the DOE now expected to review these policies, it’s expected that Biden is intending to make America’s colleges and universities a much safer place for students, and giving them the security of knowing that should something happen to them, they’ll have all the resources, information, and support they need to make sure they remain safe and the right parties are punished appropriately. 

The White House Gender Policy Council is a resurrection of the White House Council on Women and Girls, which was an Obama-era council that worked to combat issues specifically related to women’s rights. That council was disbanded under Trump, and Biden’s resurrection of it with a new name aims to “acknowledge that inequities can affect people of all genders, however, the council will primarily focus on issues facing women and girls due to the disproportionate barriers they face,” an official claimed. 

According to White House officials, “the new council is tasked with helping push gender equity on the administration’s domestic and foreign policy efforts. Some of the issues the council will focus on include combating sexual harassment, addressing structural barriers to women’s participation in the workforce, decreasing gender wage and wealth gaps, addressing caregiving issues that have disproportionately impacted women and responding to gender-based violence.”

Supreme Court Washington DC

Supreme Court To Hear Case Regarding Voting Rights And Election Laws

This Tuesday the Supreme Court is set to take on an Arizona case over voting rights for the battleground state; the outcome of which could result in how the nation’s courts resolve future discrepancies over election laws in dozens of other states. The case is also going to be a real test for the Voting Rights Act, which the Supreme Court began scaling back from in 2013. 

The two Arizona laws being discussed regard an election officials ability to reject ballots that are cast in the wrong precincts, and voting by mail. The voting by mail law claims that only the voter, a family member, or caregiver can collect and deliver a completed ballot via mail. 

Arizona told the Supreme Court justices in the cases filing that “prohibiting unlimited third-party ballot harvesting is a commonsense means of protecting the secret ballot. This out-of-precinct rule is intended to prevent multiple voting.”

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Arizona Democrats are arguing, however, that their state has a history of moving polling locations in minority neighborhoods as a means of purposefully causing mistakes with the count. Minorities are more likely to move around and not own a home in Arizona, meaning their polling locations are subject to change however often they move. The current policies make it extremely difficult to properly find and change your polling location to make your vote count; an issue that appeared a ton during the recent presidential election. 

Arizona rejects 11 times more ballots than the next-highest state for ballot rejections. Minority voters are statistically more likely to need help making their ballot count in any election. A federal judge in Arizona initially refuted these claims of minority voter suppression, but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision, so the state is now appealing to the Supreme Court. 

The Voting Rights Act in the past has required states with a history of voter discrimination to get specific permission from the Justice Department before they challenge any election procedures. However, in 2013 the Supreme Court suspended that requirement after ruling that Congress failed to properly update the specifics of the Act, making it difficult to determine what states need assistance. 

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The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals claims that “state election provisions can be blocked if they disproportionately affect a racial minority’s ability to participate in the electoral process and elect candidates of their choice and if the state has a history of discriminating against voters in that minority group. We concluded that the two Arizona laws failed those legal tests.”

Arizona republicans are arguing that the test of this act should require proof that any voter law that’s challenged causes a “substantial disparity in opportunities for minority voters to participate in an election, not just an incremental burden.” Arizona Democrats, on the other hand, argue that “the law does not require proof of a substantial disparity and that there is no requirement to meet a minimum percentage of minority voters affected to successfully challenge a change in the voting rules.”

The American Civil Liberties Union argued that the test on the act “would impose a categorical approach under which laws that are relatively commonplace, or that do not make voting altogether impossible, are largely immune from liability.”

The Supreme Court is projected to issue a solid ruling over this discrepancy by the summer.