Afternoon Headlines July 31, 2017

By the close of business today, Colorado will send publicly available personal information about its 3.7 million voters to an election task force set up by President Donald Trump.

The day caps weeks of drama surrounding a presidential commission that stirred distrust among Colorado’s voters, turned a spotlight on the state’s Republican secretary of state, Wayne Williams, and led to some 5,000 people voluntarily taking themselves off the rolls.

Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, a panel headed by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, on June 29th asked the nation’s Secretaries of State for the information on all registered voters. Trump set up the commission ostensibly to investigate voter fraud after he said, without evidence, that millions of people had voted illegally in the 2016 election he won.

Williams said at the time that Colorado would send personal information about voters that’s already public: names, birth years, address, party affiliation and where and when they have voted. That prompted about 5,000 Colorado voters, an overwhelming majority of them Democrats, to look for ways to keep their information from a presidential administration they don’t trust.

About 200 voters chose to seek confidential status, meaning they had to sign an affidavit saying they fear for their safety or fear criminal harassment if their info isn’t kept secret.

Williams planned to send the information to the commission on July 14, but a legal challenge— one of about seven lawsuits targeting the commission— tied the timetable up in court. Last week a judge gave the green light for the commission to proceed.

President Donald Trump last week took to Twitter to drop a bombshell: the U.S. government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. In the series of three tweets, Trump cited, “tremendous medical costs and disruption” as a rationale for his decision.

The backlash was swift. Many politicians, including Republicans, spoke out against the president’s order. Members of the LGBT community criticized the move as potentially fatal to transgender service members who already have or are considering coming out.

Last Thursday, the Pentagon announced that transgender service members will be allowed to continue serving for now, until the Defense Department receives official rules from the White House.

Emma Shinn, a defense attorney. retired U.S. Marine Captain and transgender woman, spoke with host Kelsey Ray on The Colorado Independent’s weekly podcast to discuss the move.

Shinn acknowledged that trans people are a small portion of any population, but said that this makes the issue of trans military service all the more important. Shinn joined the Marines when she was 18 years old, subconsciously hoping that the experience would quote “make a man out of” her.

To hear Trump tell it, the healthcare costs for transgender service men and women are simply too high. But Shinn puts those numbers into perspective: According to a study by the RAND Corporation, the military can expect to spend a maximum of 8.4 million dollars per year on trans-related healthcare. That’s exactly one tenth of what the military spends on the treatment of erectile dysfunction, a common side effect of PTSD.

Shinn says that such spending is “no more important” than allowing trans service men and women to live full lives — especially while they are protecting our country.

The most interesting election in Colorado this year just may be who wins a crucial fourth seat on the Douglas County Board of Education.

The board is currently split 4 to 3, with pro-voucher education reformers, backed by some of Colorado’s wealthiest conservatives, holding sway. That conservative majority is responsible for getting rid of collective bargaining with the teachers’ union. But their most notable achievement is the Choice Scholarship Program, which allows Douglas County parents to use a voucher so their children can attend a private school, religious or secular, and even go to a school that isn’t in Douglas County. The voucher program is currently under a second review with the Colorado Supreme Court, a review ordered in May by the U.S. Supreme Court.

It’s unlikely the state’s highest court will get to that review before November, and that means the election could decide whether the program continues or not. As of today, none of the three of the four conservative reform members up for re-election has filed for re-election. Instead, there’s a clean sweep reform slate, led by former State Board of Education member Debora Scheffel, known as Elevate Douglas County.
On the other side, three candidates are aligned with several pro-public school groups, and are known as the Dream Team.

The money in this race is expected to favor the conservative reformers on Elevate Douglas County, but money isn’t everything: three pro-public school candidates won seats on the board in 2015, despite a fundraising disadvantage.




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