The State Of Voter Suppression | Crooked Media
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March 30, 2021
What A Day
The State Of Voter Suppression

In This Episode

  • Florida is following Georgia’s lead by moving forward on a bill that makes it harder to vote. It’s part of a broader and coordinated effort to roll back voting rights in states across the country, backed by groups like The Heritage Foundation. We explain that, and listen to leaked audio that reveals how Republican donors are trying to message against federal voting rights legislation.
  • Yesterday brought back-to-back federal warnings about the pandemic. Biden called on states to reimpose mask mandates, and the director of the CDC warned of “impending doom” if Americans don’t take precautions.
  • And in headlines: The final day of Amazon’s unionization vote, the first day of the Derek Chauvin trial, and a new poll shows Americans are the least religious they’ve been in decades.




Akilah Hughes: It’s Tuesday, March 30th. I’m Akilah Hughes.


Erin Ryan: And I’m Erin Ryan, filling in for Gideon Resnick.


Akilah Hughes: And this is What a Day, the daily podcast, which, when transcribed spells out the full mRNA sequence for the Moderna vaccine.


Akilah Hughes: Is that why after the second time we read this through, I got super tired?


Akilah Hughes: Yes. [laughs]


Akilah Hughes: On today’s show, we are so close to an end on the pandemic in America, but officials ramp up the message that you should stay vigilant, including this dire message from CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.


[clip of Dr. Rochelle Walensky] I’m going to pause here. I’m going to lose the script and I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom. We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are, and so much reason for hope. But right now, I’m scared.


Akilah Hughes: Yo. Very Cardi B: A Bitch is Scared of coronavirus. [laughs] Shit’s getting real energy. Uh, that is coming up, and then some headlines.


Erin Ryan: But first, the latest. And we’re going to start with voting rights. When Georgia Republicans passed a sweeping overhaul of state elections last week that basically will make it harder for people to cast a ballot, it sent shockwaves all over. Civil rights groups said it would disenfranchise Black voters. The players union for Major League Baseball is reportedly open to moving the All-Star Game, set for July 13th, out of Atlanta.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, and there’s still no word from Home Depot, Delta Airlines or Coke about how they value the rights of their Black customers, which is in contrast to how they pretended to support us in the summer following the George Floyd uprisings. But I digress.


Erin Ryan: Look, if they’re going to pretend to support you some of the time, they got to pretend to support you all the time.


Akilah Hughes: Right. Exactly.


Erin Ryan: That’s how it works.


Akilah Hughes: Give us a black square for voting rights.


Erin Ryan: Exactly. But Akilah, across state lines, the story is an anger about the bill, it’s “us too”?


Akilah Hughes:  Yeah, that’s right. So Florida is doing their best to go back to the 1950s. Senate bill 90 is the next big bill to watch. It was proposed by Republican State Senator Dennis Baxley, and it aims to ban ballot drop-boxes, limit who can handle someone else’s ballot to immediate family, and require more frequent requests for mail-in ballots. It also aims to criminalize giving human beings water or food. So very cool stuff. Republicans in the state outwardly disagreed with the bill, but ushered it through to committee. So, you know, very, very cool energy there of just lying about how they really feel. And as more and more of these racist Jim Crow-era bills are introduced nationwide, it’s clearer than ever that voting rights need to be expanded and protected at the federal level.


Erin Ryan: Yeah, you know, it’s weird that they want to make like us exercising our rights, something that we experience as cruel—like what’s, what’s next? Like all newspapers have like a sidewalk of hot coals that all the journalists must walk down before—


Akilah Hughes: Thorns, just thorns. [laughs]


Erin Ryan: Exactly—before they’re allowed to exercise their First Amendment rights. Like every church is, like surrounded by a high fence that people have to scale. Like, come on! We’ll get to that federal proposal in a moment. But other states like Iowa and Texas have already passed their own bills that make it harder to vote: from things like cutting back the days and hours that people can go in person, to limiting who can mail in their ballot. This isn’t a coincidence, right?


Akilah Hughes: Not at all. If you notice a variety of states passing similar legislation, it can usually be traced back to a political think-tank group pushing an agenda. In this case, it’s the Heritage Action for America, which is basically the political arm of the “Reagan Forever” org, the Heritage Foundation. Those are the same ones with that crusty dude who just last week said D.C. should not have statehood because senators drive past their houses on their way to work. That was a real defense he gave, and I’m never going to get over it. The New York Times found out that it was Heritage that started floating the language back in January. They created a little skeleton outline for this kind of oppression and then let Republican lawmakers introduce their own versions of these kinds of bills. It happened in Georgia, and that same playbook is being used in Florida.


Erin Ryan: Wait a minute, Akilah. So you’re telling me that these state-level geniuses are not coming up with these things by themselves? They are just they are just copying the homework of the most miserable dweebs in America, the Heritage Foundation. Very tight. Very cool.


Akilah Hughes: It is. It sure is. And in fact, of the dizzying number of voting bills introduced around the country, at least 23 had similar language or were firmly rooted in the principles laid out in the Heritage Group’s proposal letter. So this is why local elections matter as much, if not more so, than national elections. Our state officials are our best bet. And Republicans run an outsized majority of state legislatures where these bills are being run through the copier before being sent to the floor.


Erin Ryan: Oh, man. Following state elections is a lot of work. But you know what? Democracy is a lot of work, so.


Akilah Hughes: Worth it.


Erin Ryan: Yea, worth it. But let’s not stop there. These voting rights fights are playing out on the federal level. So let’s turn to The New Yorker, where, as the kids say: a new Jane Mayer just dropped. [air horn sound]


Akilah Hughes: All the teens are getting hyped, they’re getting lit.


Akilah Hughes: The kids love Jane Mayer. Mayer’s latest piece details the brazen conservative-led effort to tank H.R.1. That’s the federal bill being considered right now that would expand and enshrine voting rights, in addition to shedding some light on dark money in politics.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, we got to get that dark money out of politics. And all those things sound like good ideas that a lot of people would be into. So who’s actually trying to stop this?


Erin Ryan: You’re right, Akilah. H.R.1 is quite popular because it is good and a lot of people like it. So the lineup of people opposing it is a real hit parade of exactly who you’d expect: Charles Koch, Ted “Cancun” Cruz—


Akilah Hughes: boo.


Erin Ryan: Mitch McConnell.


Akilah Hughes: No.


Erin Ryan: Grover Norquist. Remember Grover Norquist?


Akilah Hughes: Yeah. He’s like, not the good Grover from Sesame Street, he’s this one.


Erin Ryan: No. He’s a bad Muppet. He shows up and teaches your kids to be libertarians. Also, House Republicans are involved and a bunch of lackeys and gadflies that work for all of those people are leading the opposition to H.R.1. The main character in Mayer’s story is a Koch lackey named Kyle McKenzie, who gave a presentation to opponents of H.R.1 on January 8th. Mayer obtained audio of the presentation. And Akilah, you really have to hear it to believe it. McKenzie’s starts with the bad news. H.R.1 is popular with people across the political spectrum, including with conservatives.


[clip of Kyle McKenzie] Conservatives were actually as supportive as the general public was, when they read the neutral description of H.R.1. And so, as I have here on my “don’t” slide, you know, this isn’t just a matter of like finding conservatives and then activating them on this in a public way. You know, there’s a large, very large chunk of conservatives who are supportive of these types of efforts.


Erin Ryan: Hmm.


Akilah Hughes: Yikes. Yeah. Wow. Uh oh.


Erin Ryan: Yeah. Uh oh.


Akilah Hughes: Bad news. Republicans, some of them don’t want to be racist.


Erin Ryan: Yeah. This is a terrible idea that nobody likes. And it’s actually kind of difficult to spin something this popular in a way that will get people to dislike a good and popular idea. But they’re certainly going to try. Like here, McKenzie talks about what happened when they tested out messaging using the Republicans’ favorite boogey woman, AOC.


Akilah Hughes: Oh, no.


[clip of Kyle McKenzie] It did, you know, move 0% of liberals [laughs] as to be expected. And it moved about 31% of Republicans to kind of change their point of view about H.R.1 when they were showing this kind of story about how H.R.—or AOC wants to hold them accountable and that H.R.1 would allow her to do that a lot more easily.


Akilah Hughes: Oh, I’ve been saying that they’re the party that does not like accountability. And they literally just said that, no one’s allowed to be held accountable. [laughs] Uh, I feel very vindicated. But what are Koch and Company actually so upset about?


Erin Ryan: Yeah, the problem is, according to McKenzie, that the law would stop billionaires from buying elections, and what most Americans want is for it to no longer be possible for billionaires to buy elections. And billionaires who want to buy elections aren’t happy that they’re no longer going to be able to buy elections.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, I mean, you know, they’ll get over it. [laugh] I’ve never been able to buy an election, and I turned out OK. So did they figure out any possible messaging that might work to convince people to oppose voting rights at the federal level?


Erin Ryan: One thing kind of. But listen closely to this clip:


[clip of Kyle McKenzie] A small-scale donor could be associated with another donor that, you know, that has a bad, you know, a bad public persona. And so it could really negatively impact a small-scale donor because people would start associating them with this other nefarious donor.


Erin Ryan: Oh, gosh, listen to him tip toe around what he’s getting at.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah.


Erin Ryan: What Mackenzie means is that small donors don’t want to have their identities exposed and be associated with the exact people who are listening to the conversation that McKenzie is delivering. [laughs] So their best argument against H.R.1 is that most Americans don’t want to be publicly associated with nefarious donors like the people who oppose H.R.1.


Akilah Hughes: Yikes. They’re really the “I don’t fuck with you” gang of political donors. So what are the unpopular billionaires going to do to win the hearts and minds of Americans on this? Can we expect a check?


Erin Ryan: No, they’re going to say fuck it, and hope nobody gets mad, which is what they normally do. And actually, if people get mad, they usually can still say fuck it too, and just build a giant wall with their money. Ultimately, Charles Koch concluded that the best way to defeat H.R.1 is to just ignore what people want and get the Senate to kill it, which is what’s going to happen unless Democrats reform the filibuster. Your move, Joe Manchin. God, I hate that sentence.


Akilah Hughes: Man, I hate that man.


Erin Ryan: Yeuch. Hives. Hives on my neck. So this is a good time to plug Crooked’s own campaign about it. Find out what you can do, even if you aren’t an aging’s Senator from West Virginia who keeps getting reelected for some reason, you can be a part of “H.R.1 or we’re fucked.” That’s a very great title.


Akilah Hughes: Yes.


Erin Ryan: Just head to Now let’s turn to part 69 million, 275 billion thousand in Days of Our COVID Lives. Akilah, how is the White House amping up a really serious tone about the next few weeks?


Akilah Hughes: Yes, the COVID of it all continues. So yesterday CDC director Rochelle Walensky warned of that, quote “impending doom} we heard at the top of the show regarding the uptick in COVID cases and the threat of new variants, even as the country is vaccinating at higher and higher rates. I woke up to impending doom trending and though: you know, sometimes it be like that. But right now, guys, it is like that, you know. [laughs] So President Biden told states that they should reinstate mask mandates and admitted that he’s a little worried that some states are opening up too haphazardly.


[clip of President Biden] Please, this is not politics. Reinstate the mandate if you let it down. And business should require masks as well. The failure to take this virus seriously: precisely what got us into this mess in the first place.


Akilah Hughes: He is not wrong. We should have never been in this mess in the first place. So please, everyone, do your part. Do what he said.


Erin Ryan: Yeah. If there’s anything Americans can be trusted to do in large numbers, it is mildly inconvenience themselves for the sake of other people that they’ve never known.


Akilah Hughes: [laughs] It’s not going to happen.


Erin Ryan: Feeling confident about that. All it takes is like one jerk out of 100 jerks, you know, that’s all it takes. And it doesn’t help that we’re in the middle of several holidays— Passover and Easter, for example—where families might get together. What’s the news on the spread of the good V work, vaccines?


Akilah Hughes: I’m assuming that the bad V word is virus.


Erin Ryan: Yes. That’s correct.


Akilah Hughes: Just to clear that up if anybody was wondering: virus. So President Biden has announced that 90% of U.S. adults will be eligible for vaccines by April 19th, and ensured that vaccine sites will be available within five miles of all residences. That is impressive. The thing to remember with this, though, is that we won’t have enough supply for everyone until the end of May, according to estimates. So even if you can get the golden vaccine ticket, it’s best to practice caution and avoid giant gatherings for the time being. Remember: doom. Nobody wants doom. So we’ll keep you posted on all the COVID updates. But that’s the latest for now.


Akilah Hughes: It’s Tuesday, WAD squad, and for today’s temp check, we’re talking about possibly the most significant cargo ship mishap of the last 10 years. Yes, it is the Ever Given which got stuck but is finally free now from the Suez Canal. The Ever Given captured the imagination of everyone in the world, including the online erotic fan fiction community. Jezebel ran an article showcasing some of the many Suez Canal fanfics which have titles like “Ever Given, Himbo Extraordinaire,” “Send Deck Pics,” “Love Comes At a Cost (Of 12%of Global Maritime Trade)” and XXX-Tra Wide Cargo Stuffs Major Shipping Lane: Delivers Huge Payload.” That’s just like a title on PornHub any day. So Erin, obviously this boat accident created a lot of important art. How do you react to this story and why did you think it was so engaging?


Erin Ryan: OK, so my brain didn’t go to like adult themes when it happened. I just I love it because it allowed me to just shrink my brain into the simplest thing. Like there is a big boat blocking the channel, and the other boats can’t go, and it’s stuck. It’s like simplicity in a world of chaos is so refreshing. Even if that simplicity is like: boat stuck. It’s so, so nice to not have to, like, read a history book and be like, well, actually the reason the boat got stuck. No, if the boat is stuck and other boats can’t go. Same question for you, Akilah.


Akilah Hughes: I mean, I really appreciate what you had to say there, because I think that, like, that’s that’s definitely the vibe that I had. I saw this and I thought: we’ve all had a clogged toilet, we all understand traffic jams, this is an easy thing for us all to comprehend, there’s nothing to read in on, it’s a big boat and we got to figure out how to move it. And I just loved it. It was a fun, easy thing to check in on every day when everything else seems so dire all the time. So, yeah, you know, maybe more boats getting stuck for a day or so. People are going to be like: but that’s messing up world trade. Fine. [laughs] You’re not wrong. Let me have something. [laughs]


Erin Ryan: We’ve all got an inner four year old that just wants to see heavy—we want to see trucks go vroom, we want to see boat go stuck, and we want to see big tugboat pull out stuck boat.


Akilah Hughes: Right.


Erin Ryan: We’re all, we all were for at one point. It fun to be that again.


Akilah Hughes: Exactly. And maybe my brain is, you know, just relying on those feelings in a time of chaos. I appreciated it. I thought it was great. And I think it’s engaging for all the reasons you said. Because, hey, the world is a lot. And it would be nice to just focus on the big issues of children’s books—boats getting stuck. [laughs] And just like that, we have checked our temps. Stay safe. If you’re a boat, try not to get stuck. And we’ll be back after some ads.


[ad break]


Akilah Hughes: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.


[sung] Headlines.


Erin Ryan: Yesterday was day one of opening arguments in the murder trial for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Proceedings, which are being streamed live on television, included opening remarks from the prosecution, the defense and some witness testimony. The prosecutor played all nine minutes and 29 seconds of the video taken by a bystander of Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck and told the jury, quote “You can believe your eyes that it’s homicide—it’s murder.” As expected, the defense pursued their strategy of trying to get jurors not to believe their eyes, and instead consider the idea that Floyd died due to a drug overdose and an underlying heart condition. Among the witnesses called yesterday was a mixed martial artist who was on the scene that day, who testified he believed Chauvin killed Floyd, along with a 911 dispatcher who said she felt something was wrong that day.


Akilah Hughes: A new poll out this week shows that less than 50% of Americans consider themselves to be part of a church, synagogue or mosque. That compares with 70% as recently as the year 2000. And it’s the first time ever in the history of Gallup’s polling that the number has dropped below a majority. Watch Fox News tonight to see 10 sweaty conservatives try to connect this to Lil Nas X dancing on Satan. We’re all about to find out that somehow everyone renounced God because they couldn’t buy the six most racist books by Dr. Seuss. The Gallup poll also found that the number of people who say religion is very important to them has fallen below 50%. Some experts attribute the declines to two major trends among younger Americans. One, an overall distrust in institutions—that makes sense to me, and two, that more people are mixing and matching to create their own religious traditions. Gonna I need to see those Festivus numbers before I make my own conclusions.


Erin Ryan: Akilah, I’m just going to say it’s Holy Week, and I went to Catholic University and I sang in the choir. And after having one choir experience of Holy Week concluding with a four-hour mass on the Saturday before Easter Sunday, my feedback is: church too long. That’s my feedback. [laughs]


Akilah Hughes: Right. Wrap it up. Make it a TikTok.15 seconds a church.


Erin Ryan: Exactly. Exactly. Spice it up. But just: church too long. That’s, that’s my feedback, OK. Jeff Bezos can buy anything he wants except maybe an election. Today, Amazon’s Bessemer Alabama warehouse concludes its unionization vote, which could have huge implications for the company and the country’s labor movement. Counting the ballots could take days, weeks or months—I guess, depending on how fast or slow people say the numbers. After that, the losing side could challenge the results, which would create further delays. Amazon has always pushed back against this unionization effort, but they rolled out a deranged new tone last week in tweets to pro-union politicians like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Those posts were so antagonistic they reportedly led engineers at Amazon to think the account had been hacked. [laughs] Yikes. They must have gotten, got the Karen Army out. According to Vox’s Recode, Amazon’s PR people were just following the directive of Lieutenant Bezos himself to hit harder at critics. I’ll have to check the stats to see who the Internet usually sides with: trillion dollar corporations or workers who just want to negotiate.


Akilah Hughes: Me, I’m going say my money, not on the trillion dollars. So a week after it blew a boat sideways and cost the world a zillion dollars, there’s finally some good press for wind. The Biden administration approved a plan yesterday to spur construction of offshore turbines along the East Coast, with hopes of generating enough electricity to power 10 million homes by 2030. Right now, the U.S. has only one operational offshore wind farm, which is in Rhode Island. But offshore wind is a promising source of energy, which also has the potential to create good-paying union jobs. Officials estimated that the newly-announced plan to open up as many as 77,000 new positions. This is Biden’s first collaboration with Wind since it knocked him over on airplane stairs. Glad to see the two of them could squash their beef for the good of our gorgeous planet.


Erin Ryan: Wow. You know what? I also really appreciate this wind farm thing because you know who super hates wind turbines and windmills of all kinds?


Akilah Hughes: Who.


Erin Ryan: Former president Donald Trump. He like went, he practically went to one-man war with Scotland over it. And so I love the idea that he may see this and become become sad.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, I hope it messes up his hair. And those are the headlines.


Akilah Hughes: One last thing before we go, you got to freshen up that wardrobe once you’re vaxxed and ready to hit the streets again, and that’s why we’ve got two merch drops at the crooked store.


Erin Ryan: All right. First, the House held hearings on D.C. statehood last week and as you know, we’re big fans of making D.C. the 51st state. Show your support with new Statehood for D.C. merch in the Crooked store. As always, a portion of every order supports VoteRiders.


Akilah Hughes: Then, you’ve heard me tell a bunch of people to kick rocks on this show, and now you can tell anyone you want to do the same with a brand new Kick Rocks T-shirt. I just found out about it myself and I am beaming. Those are both the Crooked store. Just shop What A Day merch at


Erin Ryan: That’s all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, encourage good behavior from the wind, and tell your friends to listen.


Akilah Hughes: And if you’re into reading, and not just intercepted orders from the fearsome Lieutenant Bezos, like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out. Subscribe at I’m Akilah Hughes.


Erin Ryan: And I’m Erin Ryan.


[together] And be careful on airplane stairs!


Akilah Hughes: They are just not safe, you know.


Erin Ryan: No, they’re totally not.


Akilah Hughes: You gotta like imagine they’re covered in ice, because they very well may be.


Akilah Hughes: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media.


Gideon Resnick: It’s recorded and mixed by Charlotte Landes.


Akilah Hughes: Sonia Htoon is our assistant producer.


Gideon Resnick: Our head writer is Jon Millstein and our executive producers are Katie Long, Akilah Hughes and me.


Akilah Hughes: Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.