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Gov. Ralph Northam Misleads on Election Reform Laws, Calls on Congress to Pass HR 1

AP Photo/Steve Helber, File

If the critics of recently-signed election reform laws have the chance to go after them, they are sure to take it. This includes the mainstream media and high profile elected officials. In an April 1 appearance with CNN's "New Day," Gov. Ralph Northam (D-VA) was given free reign to mislead about other state laws, and promote his own. Kristine Marsh highlighted the exchange for NewsBusters, in an aptly titled piece, "Clownshow: CNN Asks Blackface Governor Northam If Cuomo Should 'Follow His Playbook'." 


Gov. Northam began by noting how "just as you've mentioned, a lot of states are making it more difficult to vote," while promoting the legislation he's just approved. Such is not the only boost CNN's given him, however. The governor retweeted a CNN article, which, in a section titled "Voting Rights Under Attack," Taylor Romine and Melissa Alonso reported that "Virginia governor approves bill aimed at preventing voter suppression and discrimination in elections." 

Romine and Alonso use similarly misleading language that Avlon used in the "New Day" exchange with Gov. Northam. The piece begins with, using added emphasis:

Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam on Wednesday approved the Voting Rights Act of Virginia, which aims to eliminate voter suppression and intimidation in the state -- a move that's in stark contrast to Republican-led efforts to restrict voting access in key states around the US.


CNN reports that Gov. Northam "made minor technical changes to the bill, which must be approved by the legislature before it becomes law, according to Alena Yarmosky, senior communications adviser to Northam."

As a press release from the governor's office noted, which CNN also highlighted, Northam has a message not just for fellow states, but for Congress:

“At a time when voting rights are under attack across our country, Virginia is expanding access to the ballot box, not restricting it,” said Governor Northam. “With the Voting Rights Act of Virginia, our Commonwealth is creating a model for how states can provide comprehensive voter protections that strengthen democracy and the integrity of our elections. I am proud to support this historic legislation, and I urge Congress to follow Virginia’s example.”

Gov. Northam is almost surely speaking about HR 1, the "For the People Act." As much as Democrats want to promote such legislation, the reality could not be more stark. I've summed up some concerns with HR 1 before, writing that:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called it a "federal takeover" of elections. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) said it most memorably when he warned that "Everything about this bill is rotten to the core. This is a bill as if written in hell by the Devil himself." He also raised concerns about Democrats engaging "in an effort to ensure an institutional revolutionary Democratic Party of sorts, one that can remain in power for many decades to come." Sen. Lee believes the bill to be unconstitutional, as do a group of Republican Attorney Generals, led by Indiana's Todd Rokita.  


I've also written extensively about how Democrats are even suggesting or outright calling for an end to the filibuster, in part so as to get the legislation passed.

The bill provisions include, according to CNN:

The legislation would require local election officials to get feedback through public comment or pre-approval from the attorney general's office in order to make any changes in voting regulations, according to a release from Northam's office. 

It also requires that local election officials provide voting materials in foreign languages as needed. Individuals who experience voter suppression will also be allowed to sue, where any civil penalties awarded will go toward a newly established Voter Education and Outreach Fund.

As the title of Marsh's piece suggests, there's more to Gov. Northam's exchange with Avlon, which is not getting the attention it should. 

In 2019, Northam faced a scandal in which medical school yearbook photos resurfaced in which he either appeared in blackface or a KKK hood. It also came out that he wore blackface in a Michael Jackson dance contest; the governor almost showed off his moonwalking skills when promoted by a reporter, though his wife had to remind him not to. This came days after Northam casually advocated for post-birth abortions--aka, infanticide--in a radio interview. Not surprisingly, Avlon did not mention that scandal. 


Avlon praised Northam for resisting calls to resign, noting "you've gone on to pass very significant legislation as governor with high approval ratings." The still-sitting governor when on to brag in part that "We have turned a lot of what I've learned about into action..."

The clip Gov. Northam tweeted cuts off though before he is asked about his blackface scandal and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) who has also resisted calls to resign. The New York Democrat finds himself facing a nursing home death coverup, as well as accusations from numerous women alleging sexual misconduct. 

Avlon asked "I’m wondering what political lessons you have learned from that experience and whether you think they should apply to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo." which again, provided Gov. Northam with the opportunity to tout his successes. "We have turned a lot of what I've learned about into action, whether it be criminal justice reform, police reform, ending the death penalty, doing things like making sure that people don't have their driver's license taken away because they can't pay their court fines," he responded. 

When asked more directly by Avlon, "do you think that Governor Cuomo should follow your playbook as some are calling on him to do, or do you think he should resign because of the allegations put forward," Gov. Northam called the accusations "serious" and said "I do believe that they need to be investigated, but as far as what happens to Gov. Cuomo, that's up to the people of New York."


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