Alabama Policy Institute https://alabamapolicy.org Alabama Policy Institute Thu, 19 Nov 2020 18:43:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.3 How Dare We Defend Our Rights https://alabamapolicy.org/2020/11/19/how-dare-we-defend-our-rights/ Thu, 19 Nov 2020 18:43:53 +0000 https://alabamapolicy.org/?p=18600 Emblazoned above the door to the Alabama Statehouse is a Latin phrase that translates as “We Dare Defend Our Rights”. It is a symbol of the determination to ensure that government does not forget that its people are imbued with certain inalienable rights. Not mere privileges – but rights. But in this age of pandemic shutdowns America is being conditioned to believe that any attempt to exercise fundamental freedoms is actually fundamentally selfish. Not so.

In April of this year the Alabama Policy Institute published a report at the request of the Senate Pro Tempore that addressed the impacts of government actions on citizens in the early days of the shutdown. The report was presented to the Office of the Governor and the members of the Governors Coronavirus Task Force. Specific research laid out the growing sense that civil liberties could be infringed if an otherwise legitimate use of government powers to declare a state of emergency went on too long. Heck, back then it was just “14 days to flatten the curve” – who knew. That report, which garnered national attention, was issued 7 months and 19 proclamations-of-the-Governor ago.

Before the mask police get jumpy let me reaffirm here that the Alabama Policy Institute recognizes that the coronavirus is real. I wear my mask when I go into public buildings. I have friends and family that have been impacted. That said, there is a fine line between appropriate action and inappropriate infringement.

Here is what needs to be considered under a glow cast by the lantern of liberty. When a government enforces the closure of businesses past a “reasonable” point it can become a legitimate claim for an unjust taking of private property by the public entity. When a government declares a business to be non-essential while others are not it can become a claim for unequal treatment under the law. When a government closes a school without ensuring resources to continue the child’s education it can create a claim of disparate treatment. When a government declares that gatherings may not occur it poses a risk to the freedoms of assembly, speech and religion.

As the world waits and watches for the vote of the electoral college the putative incoming Biden Administration has already intoned national mask mandates, sweeping shutdowns of society, and remained silent while state and local leaders elsewhere have begun issuing draconian orders that reach into family gatherings and actions taken in one’s personal home. This was unthinkable…..until now.

Those of us outside the halls of power need to raise our voices to new levels. And this week that hue and cry went up a notch. US Supreme Court Justice Alito issued atypical public statements recently and decried the fact that “”the pandemic has resulted in previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty.” A consortium of Alabama business interests have pooled their resources and initiated the “Keep Alabama Open” campaign. Alabama state leaders have begun expressing more public sentiment against the idea of new shutdowns in recent days. The fact is that they can feel the heat of their constituency and they recognize that if they do not speak out, take appropriate action, and stand for fundamental rights that they will be recorded in history as having gone willingly and softly down a dark road.

But I don’t believe they will. If we have to become Fortress Alabama so be it. I would much rather be among those who stood for something bigger than ourselves – A state that on whole views the acquiescence of other states to restrictions of liberty with pity and disdain. But a fortress is not just a bulwark against outside forces; it is also a place where people may go to seek refuge. If other states choose the dark road of compromise their citizens need to know that they are welcome here, in a state with a Governor, lawmakers and public officials who purposefully protect civil liberties.

How dare we defend our rights? How dare you not?

We must keep Alabama open.

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Mobile Radio: Phil Williams on the Jeff Poor Show https://alabamapolicy.org/2020/11/17/mobile-radio-phil-williams-on-the-jeff-poor-show-5/ Tue, 17 Nov 2020 21:10:26 +0000 https://alabamapolicy.org/?p=18544
Tuesday morning, Phil Williams joined the Jeff Poor Show to discuss the possibility of more government shutdowns, benchmarks to reduce coronavirus restrictions, and the need for the state legislature to convene soon to pass much-needed legislation.

To listen, click here.

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Points of Policy Podcast: Pennsylvania and the Presidential Election https://alabamapolicy.org/2020/11/13/points-of-policy-podcast-pennsylvania-and-the-presidential-election/ Fri, 13 Nov 2020 15:33:58 +0000 https://alabamapolicy.org/?p=18457 In this Points of Policy edition of the 1819 Podcast, Phil Williams is joined by Pennsylvania politicos Charles Mitchell of the Commonwealth Foundation and Matthew Brouillette of Commonwealth Partners. Together, they discuss how the presidential election may have been greatly affected by late and seemingly political decisions by Pennsylvania’s democratic leaders.

Listen below or search ‘1819’ in your favorite podcast app and look for our red logo.

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How Pennsylvania Democrats Deliberately Stoked 2020 Election Chaos https://alabamapolicy.org/2020/11/12/how-pennsylvania-democrats-deliberately-stoked-2020-election-chaos/ Thu, 12 Nov 2020 21:14:13 +0000 https://alabamapolicy.org/?p=18451 I can’t tell you how many texts I’ve received this week from friends and acquaintances across the country asking—usually in all-caps and peppered with profanity—what is going on in Pennsylvania? As a native Philadelphian, and from my current vantage in politically coveted Bucks County, I can see why Americans are demanding answers.

Ballots can be counted up to three days after Election Day? Mailed ballots with no postmark still qualify? Unsupervised drop boxes scattered across cities are entrusted to secure tens of thousands of votes?

Sadly, it’s all true. None of these practices inspires confidence that the standard of “one person, one vote” is being upheld. Nor were these practices valid in any prior general election in Pennsylvania.

Scratching your head as to why we chose the most consequential election in our lifetimes to run an experiment? Here’s what I’ve told my friends: the experiment was a wild success—once you understand that the chaos we’re witnessing was the plan all along, carefully orchestrated by Pennsylvania Democrats, including the governor, party activists, and the state Supreme Court. Here’s how it happened.

In Pennsylvania, Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf used the COVID-19 pandemic as cover for hurrying through new voting rules that bypassed reasonable deadlines or restrictions. The result? Many voters now have deep suspicion about wide-scale voter fraud in Philadelphia.

Republicans and Democrats have long understood the problems with mass mail-in ballots. The usual stages of ballot security are lost: unlike absentee ballots, some people are claiming they received unsolicited mail-in ballot applications, a practice Pennsylvania does not allow. Could it be ballot applications were illegally sent or is it simply that voters forgot they signed up to get them?

Worse, it’s impossible to ensure the ballot is filled out by the voter or with her approval. And when the ballot is submitted, the chain of custody observing that ballot is broken. It’s a recipe for contested election results.

The seeds of public distrust were sowed in June, when Wolf decreed by executive order that mail-in ballots in the primary election could trickle in from certain counties for an extra week. The state Democratic Party followed up in July by suing to similarly extend the general election deadline for mail-in ballots. Their suit also sought to allow unprecedented “drop boxes” to collect mail-ins and to limit the number of election observers.

Wolf’s administration then asked the state’s elected Supreme Court, which is 5-2 Democratic-majority and has become notorious for partisan rulings, to grant all the Democrats’ requests—and they did on Sep. 17. The court went further than expected, granting the Democrats’ deadline extension, approving drop boxes and satellite “election offices” for ballot collection, and even ruling that postmarks could not be used to verify when ballots had been mailed.

In addition, the court removed the Green Party presidential candidate’s name from the state ballot over a technicality, a move that may have shifted Green Party votes to Joe Biden’s camp. In their decision, the justices acknowledged that the new deadline violated state law but claimed that “in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic” such laws could be dismissed.

It got worse. Sensing an opportunity, the Wolf administration pronounced that county officials “are prohibited from rejecting absentee or mail-in ballots based on signature comparison.” On Oct. 23, not long before Election Day, the court approved this last nail in the coffin of election integrity.

On Thursday, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey expressed concern about these unprecedented rule changes that fueled this week’s chaos, making clear that free and fair elections aren’t a partisan issue. Now, the U.S. Supreme Court will have to rule.

But on Oct. 28, the Supreme Court postponed any decision with a 4-4 ruling—excluding newly appointed justice Amy Coney Barrett—that returned the case to its court of origin. At the time, Justice Samuel Alito noted that it is likely “that the state Supreme Court decision violates the Federal Constitution,” opening a possibility that the justices will review the case post-election, with the potential outcome of eliminating thousands of illegal ballots.

On Friday, GOP state House Speaker Bryan Cutler, who noted that the election “confusion is a direct result of the court decisions,” called for a full audit before any certification of the results. Cutler also cited Pennsylvania’s 100,000 provisional ballots—cast when a voter’s eligibility is in question—that further indicated problems with the mail-in system.

Elections decided by the courts is a nightmare scenario for either political party. But Wolf refused to reform the state’s election procedures in concert with the legislature. In October, GOP lawmakers proposed compromise legislation, House Bill 2626, that included several, but not all, of the governor’s proposed changes to Pennsylvania voting laws. Wolf threatened to veto their bill in an all-or-nothing negotiation standoff.

To prevent a future election debacle in Pennsylvania, we need election integrity reform through the normal legislative process. Only legal votes should be counted, and controls should be put in place—like polling place verification and absentee ballot chain-of-custody at every stage.

But Democrats have resisted these reforms for years, creating the present chaos. The U.S. Supreme Court must respond accordingly and assure Pennsylvanians that their election was fair—regardless of the presidential outcome.

This article originally appeared in the Federalist.

Jennifer Stefano is chief innovation officer and vice president at the Commonwealth Foundation, Pennsylvania’s free market think tank. The Commonwealth Foundation is affiliated with the State Policy Network, a national organization connecting free-market, limited government think tanks and research centers of which API is a member.

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The Supreme Court Will Not Pick the President, But It Could Have a Role https://alabamapolicy.org/2020/11/09/the-supreme-court-will-not-pick-the-president-but-it-could-have-a-role/ Mon, 09 Nov 2020 19:43:22 +0000 https://alabamapolicy.org/?p=18445 The spectre of dimpled chads has emerged to haunt American politics. Twenty years after the contested presidential election of George W. Bush against Al Gore made punch lines out of certain ambiguous ballots in Florida, allegations of election irregularities again are causing worry that the Supreme Court of the United States might select the next President of the United States. Those fears are unwarranted.

Part of the blame for those fears rests with politicians and pundits who trade on notions of federal judicial supremacy with phrases such as “all the way to the Supreme Court.” If the U.S. Supreme Court gets involved at all, its role will be limited to ensuring that the states have complied with the minimal requirements of the Constitution of the United States and federal election laws. The Court does not exercise a general supervision over federal elections.

The U.S. Constitution does not tell states how to run elections, not even elections for offices in the United States government. State legislatures are responsible for promulgating election rules. State election officials are responsible for administering elections in compliance with those rules, usually under the supervision of a secretary of state or some other official who is accountable to the people.

State courts are responsible for adjudicating any legal disputes arising out of the administration of state election laws. But their decisions mostly concern whether officials adhered to lawful procedures. Election lawsuits seldom concern whose votes count.

If a candidate were to produce evidence of fraud or illegal conduct, that evidence would be considered and assessed by state election officials and, if necessary, state courts. And even if polling officials have violated some election rules, there remains the question what remedies are appropriate. Like the rules themselves, the remedies and sanctions for violating the rules are usually matters of state, not federal, law.

Where the law allows judicial discretion, reasonable judges will tailor the remedy to the nature of the wrong. Judges are rightly loath to throw out ballots cast legally and in good faith by qualified voters, even if officials behaved badly. For example, assuming that poll watchers have been illegally excluded from rooms where ballots are being interpreted and counted, as some allege, that does not entail that the ballots themselves should be discounted.

If someone has committed a state or federal crime then the evidence should be delivered to prosecutors. But any prosecutions for election fraud are unlikely to change the outcomes of any elections.

One legal dispute that might reach the U.S. Supreme Court concerns a decision by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to extend the time for counting certain ballots. Republicans alleged in a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court that the Pennsylvania court’s decision “rewrote the state’s law governing federal elections and violated the United States Constitution, sowing chaos into the electoral process mere weeks before the already intricate November General Election.”

If that allegation is true then the Pennsylvania high court violated Article I, section 4 of the Constitution of the United States, which provides, “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof.” Notice that the power to change election rules belongs to state legislatures, rather than state courts.

The U.S. Supreme Court has twice declined to hear the case in recent days. And the controversy might become moot. So, it is far from certain that Court will hear the case at all.

If the Court decides to hear the case, the issues will be confined to technical legal questions, such as the meaning of the word “prescribed,” and interesting (for law geeks like me) jurisprudential questions concerning separation of powers. The case will not be about who should be declared President.

In any event, this is all speculative at present. Lawyers might help decide the election, but they might not. If they do, their role will properly be limited to ensuring that rules governing the election process are clear, constitutional, and consistent.

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11/6/2020: While We Wait, a Look at Ballot Measures https://alabamapolicy.org/2020/11/06/11-6-2020-while-we-wait-a-look-at-ballot-measures/ Fri, 06 Nov 2020 16:56:35 +0000 https://alabamapolicy.org/?p=18384 While we wait for the final results of the 2020 Presidential Election, Josh, Justin, and Parker discuss ballot measures from across the country and how they faired on Tuesday. From a $15 minimum wage in Florida to marijuana legalization, we cover the top ballot measure stories from outside Alabama and what they mean for the nation as a whole in this week’s episode.

Listen below or search ‘1819’ in your favorite podcast app and look for our red logo.

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As Citizens, We Must Expect Less From Government and More From Ourselves https://alabamapolicy.org/2020/11/03/as-citizens-we-must-expect-less-from-government-and-more-from-ourselves/ Tue, 03 Nov 2020 12:37:20 +0000 https://alabamapolicy.org/?p=18169 I have the honor of leading the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit educational and research institution which has championed free markets, limited government, and strong families for over 30 years.

When you look back at our state’s major policy discussions, you will most likely find that API was right there in the midst of the battle. We do not take lightly the task we have been given to work for good government which leads to flourishing and opportunity for all Alabamians.

Today we find our state at a crossroads.

We must decide whether we are going to govern and live by the principles we say we believe in, or whether we are going to say one thing and do another.

The word “conservative” gets tossed around freely these days and it is difficult to land on a definition that everyone can agree on.

Often times it is used in terms of culture.

How you dress or get your hair cut, whether you have a beard or are clean-shaven. If you take your coffee black or order a latte, drive a truck or Prius.

Other times it is used to define a candidate in a race with criteria that has been set by the political elite.

Regardless of the outcome of the election, whether we know it quickly or in a month, we are going to have to come together as conservatives and agree that government is not the answer. Government cannot and should not be the default solution for the problems we face.

Having spent eight years in Washington D.C. working at the highest levels of government I can assure you that government is not the answer.

So, what is the answer? What does conservative mean? Faith and church, family, civic institutions and community are the answer. Personal responsibility is the answer.

Men and women, families, working to make this state, our nation, and our world a better place through hard work and ingenuity is the answer, not government dictates.

That’s conservatism.

I often hear the refrain that government should mandate certain things or make laws because people cannot be trusted with that responsibility, nor can individuals be trusted to do the “right thing.”

Yet, the role of government in this nation was intentionally limited from the start.

With this view of conservatism, then, what we should expect from our elected officials is less, not more.

When we, as individuals and communities, ignore the problems of society and leave them to the government to address, we take the responsibility to offer solutions off of ourselves. At best, that’s lazy, and at worst it’s an act of cowardice.

When we constantly defer to the government, as if it is the great healer of all that ails us, society is then missing out on the individual and communal ingenuity that is necessary to tackle all forms of challenges. As a result, we are left with a one-size-fits-all approach forced on us by government bureaucrats and out of touch, and often disingenuous, politicians.

Government solutions will always be centralized, monolithic, and conforming. We need decentralized, diverse and dynamic solutions that can only come outside of the public option.

I was shaped by this truth at an early age when my mom started the first Save-A-Life center in Jackson, Alabama, the small town that I grew up in. She saw a need and stepped up. And I saw firsthand what happens when neighbors help neighbors by offering a local solution to a local problem.

We live in a broken world with broken people. So allowing free people to order society and choose outcomes for themselves will always be risky, and it is not without faults.

But we can’t medicate ourselves with government.

As a society we have lost our sense that life is full of risk and reward.

The temporary risk is worth the growth that comes from the process and is realized in the final result. You can’t have the ups without the downs.

This is where API is headed and where we hope to help lead our state toward. To help and hold accountable our government. To not have government do more, but less. To call all Alabamians to expect less from their government, while giving more of themselves to tackle the challenges that face our state and country.

We must be willing to take the risk that comes with self-reliance and limited government, as that is where the beauty and solutions will be found.

Caleb Crosby, a veteran of the George W. Bush administration, including a stint at the White House, has been president of Alabama Policy Institute since 2013. API is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to free markets, limited government, and strong families, learn more at www.alabamapolicy.org.

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Mobile Radio: Parker Snider on Archangel Radio https://alabamapolicy.org/2020/11/02/mobile-radio-parker-snider-on-archangel-radio/ Mon, 02 Nov 2020 17:24:25 +0000 https://alabamapolicy.org/?p=18166 Monday morning, API’s Director of Policy Analysis Parker Snider joined Mobile’s Archangel Radio to discuss the constitutional amendments that will be on each ballot in Alabama on Election Day, November 3rd, 2020.

To listen to the 10-minute segment, click here.

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Huntsville Radio: Parker Snider on WVNN’s Politics and Moore https://alabamapolicy.org/2020/10/31/huntsville-radio-parker-snider-on-wvnns-politics-and-moore/ Sat, 31 Oct 2020 17:17:30 +0000 https://alabamapolicy.org/?p=18164 This Saturday, API’s Director of Policy Analysis Parker Snider joined WVNN’s Saturday morning show “Politics and Moore”. In the 30-minute segment, Shannon Moore, the show’s host, and Snider discuss the differences between the two party platforms in regard to healthcare, taxes, and more. To listen, click here.

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10/30/2020: Party Platforms Part 5 – Social Issues https://alabamapolicy.org/2020/10/30/10-30-2020-party-platforms-part-5-social-issues/ Fri, 30 Oct 2020 17:05:38 +0000 https://alabamapolicy.org/?p=18150 In our final party platform episode, Josh, Justin, and Parker discuss the democratic and republican positions on social issues. Specifically we talk abortion, same-sex marriage, religious liberty, marijuana, and paid sick and family leave.

For a full comparison of the platforms, click here.

Listen below or search ‘1819’ in your favorite podcast app and look for our red logo.

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