Posts tagged with "Pennsylvania AG Josh Shapiro"

Outside the box: Trump campaign draws rebuke for videotaping Philly voters at ballot drop boxes

October 26, 2020

The Trump campaign has been videotaping Philadelphia voters while they deposit their ballots in drop boxes—leading Pennsylvania’s attorney general, Josh Shapiro, to warn last week that the campaign’s actions fall outside of permitted poll watching practices and could amount to illegal voter intimidation.

The campaign made a formal complaint to city officials on October 16, saying a campaign representative had surveilled voters depositing two or three ballots at drop boxes, instead of only their own. The campaign called the conduct “blatant violations of the Pennsylvania election code,” according to a letter from a lawyer representing the Trump campaign that was examined by The New York Times. The campaign included photos of three voters who it claimed were dropping off multiple ballots.

“This must be stopped,” a local lawyer for the Trump campaign, Linda A. Kerns, wrote in the letter, adding that the actions “undermine the integrity of the voting process.”

Both the Trump and Biden campaigns are focused on Pennsylvania, seen as one of the most important swing states in the election and where polls show Joe Biden with a seven-point lead.

The Trump campaign’s aggressive strategy in Philadelphia suggests its aim is to crack down on people dropping off ballots for family members or anyone else who is not strictly authorized to do so.

According to the Times reports, Kerns demanded that the names of all voters who had used a drop box in front of Philadelphia’s City Hall on October 14 be turned over to the campaign, and insisted that the city station a staff member around every drop box “at all times.” She also asked for footage from municipal cameras around City Hall.

But city officials rejected the assertion that the voters who had been photographed had necessarily done something improper. The city’s lawyers forwarded the campaign’s complaints to the local district attorney, but did not make a formal referral and cast doubt on the assertions. They also said they do not track which voters use which drop box.

“Third party delivery is permitted in certain circumstances,” Benjamin H. Field, a deputy city solicitor and counsel to the city Board of Elections, wrote in a letter sent to Kerns on October 19. “The Board cannot agree with your conclusion on the basis of the information you provided. Nor can the Board, in exercising its duties, assume that an individual is violating the Election Code when that person can act as an agent for a voter who required assistance.”

Under Pennsylvania law, voters are allowed to deliver only their own ballots to drop boxes, unless they are assisting a voter with a disability or who otherwise needs help. But voting has been upended by the pandemic and many voters are unfamiliar with the rules around drop boxes, which they may be using for the first time.

Earlier this month, a Trump campaign official told The Times that the campaign would be videotaping drop boxes but was only interested in people who were dumping large numbers of ballots — not in those bringing an extra ballot or two. That assertion appears to have been false.

Research contact: @nytimes

1,000+ Americans already have downloaded Defense Distributed’s 3-D printing plans for assault rifles

August 1, 2018

For several years, students and enthusiasts have been using three-dimensional (3-D) printing to create prosthetics for people and animals in need, to build houses, and to produce other types of useful equipment (from bottle openers to coin sorters). Now, 3-D printing suddenly has become more immeasurably more dangerous: In fact, more than 1,000 people nationwide already have downloaded plans to print an AR-15-style semiautomatic assault rifle in three dimensions ahead of a change in the federal law on August 1.

In a court settlement on June 29, the Daily Beast reported, the U.S. government agreed that Americans will be able to legally download plans for 3-D printed guns—nicknamed “Ghost Guns” because they don’t have serial numbers and are untraceable by authorities.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who has been fighting to keep 3-D printed guns out of his state, revealed that plans already are gaining popularity online ahead of the law change. The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office asked a judge for a restraining order that would block a website run by gun-rights group Defense Distributed, which holds downloadable plans for the guns, from being accessible in his state.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson also announced on July 30 that he is leading a lawsuit brought by eight states and the District of Columbia to block the legalization of downloadable 3-D gun plans.

In addition, according to a report by The Washington Post, 21 state attorneys general have sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressing their concern: “As the Chief Law Enforcement Officers of our states, we believe the settlement terms and proposed rules are deeply dangerous and could have an unprecedented impact on public safety. In addition to helping arm terrorists and transnational criminals, the settlement and proposed rules would provide another path to gun ownership for people who are prohibited by federal and state law from possessing firearms. Federal courts have recognized the danger of allowing these guns to be publicly available on the Internet, and this Administration has abruptly disregarded those rulings. We urge you to withdraw from the settlement and withdraw the proposed rules immediately, and allow full and fair consideration of any future proposed rules on these issues.”

They further noted: “As a result of the Department of State’s settlement with Defense Distributed, terrorists, criminals, and individuals seeking to do harm would have unfettered access to print and manufacture dangerous firearms. Some of these weapons may even be undetectable by magnetometers in places like airports and government buildings and untraceable by law enforcement. Illegal trafficking of these guns across state and national borders could also increase, and self-made, unregistered, and untraceable firearms could easily wind up in the hands of (or simply be produced directly by) dangerous individuals.”

President Donald Trump expressed his concern about 3-D guns Tuesday morning, tweeting: “I am looking into 3-D Plastic Guns being sold to the public. Already spoke to NRA, doesn’t seem to make much sense!”

Finally, in a March poll, nearly two-thirds of American adults under 30 who plan to vote in the midterm elections said that they believe gun-control laws should be stricter—a reflection of growing support for such actions among younger Americans. The poll by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, conducted following the school shooting in Parkland, Florida., established that 64% of 18- to 29-year-olds favor stricter gun-control laws, regardless of whether they plan to vote in November.

For several years, the opinions of young Democrats, Republicans and independents have been steadily shifting toward greater support for gun-control measures,” said John Della Volpe, the institute’s polling director. “The difference today is that the Parkland students have created an environment where the lack of progress on reducing gun violence is now symbolic of all the ills plaguing Washington, D.C.”

Research contact: harvardiop@gmail.com