9 Things You Should Know About Ranked-Choice Voting

Proponents of overhauling elections to allow voters to have a backup plan if their candidate doesn’t win went 1-1 at the state level in the 2020 election, but are looking to change how elections work in other states. 

More than 30 bills on ranked-choice voting have been proposed in state legislatures across the country, according to Fair Vote, the nonprofit group that is promoting the system nationally. 

Ranked-choice voting is a system that allows voters to rank a first, second, and third choice, or more. A voter casting a ranked-choice ballot, for example, might select three candidates in order of preference out of six candidates for a congressional seat.

Proponents say ranked-choice voting is a moderating force and superior because it means voters don’t have to settle for the lesser of two evils. Opponents say the system is problematic because it is confusing to voters and can lead to outcomes where the candidate winning the most votes loses the election. 

The effort to promote ranked-choice voting largely has been financed by a liberal donor who is the daughter-in-law of media mogul Rupert Murdoch. 

Before primary elections by popular vote in the 1900s, political parties generally used a similar winnowing process to choose potential nominees until one candidate achieved majority support, said Rob Richie, CEO of Fair Vote, a leading organization that advocates ranked-choice voting.

In the Progressive Era, beginning in 1890, states began adopting regulations for primaries to nominate candidates, instead of having party bosses do so at conventions or caucuses. By 1917, all but four states had adopted some form of primaries. The first primary at the presidential level was in 1912. 

“Candidates will talk to more voters if they know there is a second or third choice on the ballot,” Richie told The Daily Signal. “They will walk past their opponents’ yard sign and still knock on the door and get to know the voter.”

Protect My Ballot, a coalition of state think tanks opposed to ranked-choice voting, includes the Maine Policy Institute, Alaska Policy Forum, the Fiscal Alliance Foundation, the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, and the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota.

“Americans of all political backgrounds have rejected ranked-choice voting as a confusing scheme that makes it more difficult to exercise your right to a vote that counts,” Rebekah Paxton, director of research and coalitions at the Employment Policies Institute, which launched Protect My Ballot, told The Daily Signal. 

“Studies show that [ranked-choice voting] disenfranchises voters and reduces turnout, while its proponents’ promises remain largely unfulfilled in practice,” Paxton said.

Here are answers to key questions about ranked-choice voting and where it stands. 

 1. Who’s Bankrolling These Efforts?

Much of the funding for projects to persuade states and localities to adopt ranked-choice voting has come from outside the states. 

Kathryn Murdoch spent $500,000 through the group Unite America to convince Alaska voters to say yes to the initiative on the November ballot. She is a daughter-in-law of Rupert Murdoch, owner of News Corp., Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, and many other U.S. and international media properties.

Unite America, a Colorado-based nonprofit bankrolling promotion of ranked-choice voting, contributed $600,000 to the Alaska effort, according to Alaska Public Media.  

“A strong democracy is the foundation for progress on every issue that we care about,” Murdoch said in a public statement in March 2020 about her funding of Unite America. “Therefore we must take urgent action to address our increasingly polarized and gridlocked system that is at present incapable of putting the needs and aspirations of citizens and their communities first.”

In the New York City initiative in 2019 to adopt ranked-choice voting for primary and special elections, Murdoch contributed $500,000. A liberal group called the Action Now Initiative, established by donors John and Laura Arnold, gave $1 million to that effort. 

Murdoch is co-founder of the liberal Quadrivium Foundation. She is the largest donor to United America, at $3.8 million, according to the Washington-based Capital Research Center, which monitors nonprofits.

Murdoch worked for the Clinton Foundation from 2007 to 2011 doing strategy and communications for its Clinton Climate Initiative. She told Politico in 2020 that she was “really excited to back whoever the [Democratic presidential] nominee is, no matter what.”

Other donors to Unite America include video game developer Riot Games co-founder Marc Merrill and Panera Bread founder Ron Shaich.

Unite America contributed to Alaskans for Better Elections, as well as other groups such as Fix Congress Now!, Represent.us, Pennsylvanians Against Gerrymandering, Secure Democracy, Ranked Choice Voting 2020, and With Honor Action.

Unite America did not respond to The Daily Signal’s inquiries and request for comment for this report.  

Donors to Fair Vote, the other major advocate of ranked-choice voting, aren’t secret, Richie noted. 

“Fair Vote has a budget of less than $1 million. Donations are openly disclosed,” he said, speaking only for his group. 

2. What States and Other Jurisdictions Might Adopt It?

A bipartisan bill in Georgia—a decisive state in the 2020 presidential election—would allow ranked-choice voting for military and overseas ballots, since Georgia already is a runoff state. 

A runoff election occurs when no candidate gets a majority of the vote, usually because more than two candidates are in the race. So the top two vote-getters clash in another election.

Another bill in the Georgia Legislature, proposed by Republican lawmakers, would decide presidential general elections by ranked-choice voting.

“In Georgia, the presidential race could have turned out differently with ranked-choice voting, since no candidate won a majority,” Richie said of the 2020 contest between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. “Georgia Republicans are looking at the last election and putting a bill in.”

According to official results, Biden won 49.5% of the vote in Georgia, less than a majority. Trump won 49.2%. The mostly right-leaning Libertarian Party candidate, Jo Jorgenson, won 1.2%. So, presuming most Libertarian voters would make a Republican their second choice, ranked-choice voting might have made Trump the winner.

In Oregon, state lawmakers introduced bills to expand ranked-choice voting statewide, after it made a debut in Benton County in November’s election for local offices. 

The group Better Ballot Alabama is pushing the system for statewide elections in Alabama. 

3. How Does It Work?

Ranked-choice voting differs somewhat from jurisdiction to  jurisdiction, but typically works like this, whether in a crowded primary election field or a multiparty general election:

  • All candidates for a given office appear on the ballot. Voters—instead of choosing only one candidate—rank each candidate from “1” to “2” to “3” and so on. 
  • If one candidate wins 50% or more of the first-preference votes, the election is over. 
  • If no one wins the first tally, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated and officials make another tally of votes for the remaining candidates. 
  • Voters who selected the eliminated candidate as their first choice have their vote counted for their second preference in this next round. 
  • Counting continues, perhaps with one or more other candidates eliminated, until one candidate eventually emerges with a majority of votes. 

In such systems, a voter doesn’t have to rank his choices and may opt to pick just one. However, if a voter doesn’t select and rank multiple candidates, his ballot is more likely to be discarded after the first round of counting. 

“Ballot exhaustion” is a term used by election watchers to describe a ballot that is discarded if a voter ranks only candidates who are eliminated from contention. 

“It’s a good program for political and ideological activists. The average voters have a hard time remembering the names of the down-ballot candidates,” Paul Craney, spokesman for the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, which led the fight against ranked-choice voting in the Bay State, told The Daily Signal. “Simplicity and clarity to voting is better than ranking and algorithms.”

Election watchers sometimes refer to ranked-choice voting as an instant runoff. Some states that hold runoff elections—such as Alabama—allow overseas voters to rank their choices on absentee ballots to streamline the process. 

Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina all have runoffs and allow for overseas ranked-choice voting in case an election goes to a runoff, according to Fair Vote.

“Compared to runoffs, where you always have a declining turnout, this is a better alternative,” Richie said of ranked-choice voting. “The average decline [in turnout] from an election to the runoff is 37%. Also, it’s less costly to the taxpayers than holding two elections.”

But runoff elections are a better alternative to having candidates win by a plurality, according to  a 2019 report by Heritage Foundation Senior Legal Fellow Hans von Spakovsky and Public Interest Legal Foundation President J. Christian Adams. 

A majority is more than 50% of the vote, while a plurality is the largest percentage of votes that go to any one candidate in a race. A candidate is less likely to achieve a majority when a race features more than two viable candidates. 

For example, the U.S. Senate elections in Georgia each had multiple candidates, and no candidate got 50%. In most states, the plurality vote-getter would win a race. But in Georgia, this required the top two candidates to face off in a special election.

In their study, Adams and von Spakovsky write: 

It is true that some voters might not turn out for a runoff election that is held several weeks after the general election because their preferred candidate did not gather enough votes to be in the runoff. However, the added time window gives potential voters the opportunity to reexamine and reeducate themselves about the character and views on issues of the two candidates who received the largest pluralities in the general election.

Voters have a greater opportunity to make an informed choice than with instant runoffs (i.e., ranked-choice voting). Runoff elections guarantee that the winner of the runoff election has a genuine mandate from a majority of the voters—a crucial factor in a democratic system. Runoff elections carry additional costs—but so do primary and general elections. Yet few people suggest abolishing them because of their cost. Consent of the governed matters.

4. How Often Does It Change Outcome?

The ranked-choice voting system became particularly controversial after Maine’s 2018 election, when Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican, ultimately lost his race for reelection to Democrat Jared Golden despite winning a plurality of the vote. 

A review of four elections in Washington state and California using ranked-choice voting found “the winner in all four elections receive[d] less than a majority of the total votes cast,” according to a 2014 study by professors from the University of North Carolina and Ohio State University. 

“Thus, it is possible that the winning candidate will fall short of an actual majority when a substantial number of ballots are eliminated, or ‘exhausted,’ during the vote redistribution process,” the report said, adding that “there is some probability that a voter’s ballot will become exhausted, eliminating their influence over the final outcome.”

Maine’s 2018 congressional race isn’t the only instance of the ranked-choice system turning a top vote-getter into a loser, as 17% of candidates who won a plurality ended up losing the election, according to a 2019 study by the Maine Policy Institute that looked at 96 ranked-choice elections nationally.  

This study included two city council races in Minneapolis in 2017; a 2016 city council race in Berkeley, California; and a 2016 school director race in Oakland, California. The review of elections in which a plurality vote winner lost the election goes back to 2008, and includes a mayor’s race in Burlington, Vermont.  

Prior to 2008, you have to go back to the 1975 mayor’s contest in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in which the candidate winning the most first-choice votes ended up losing the election.

In the 2010 Oakland mayor’s race, the candidate with the most first-place votes lost the election to a candidate who had 25,000 second- and third-choice votes after nine rounds of counting. 

“The frequency with which ranked-choice voting elections produce a different outcome than plurality elections is important because it allows lawmakers to weigh the benefits and consequences of a new voting system,” the study by the Maine Policy Institute says. “If ranked-choice elections rarely produce a different outcome, the costs of such a system may outweigh the alleged benefits.”

Although advocates of ranked-choice voting claim it means a spoiler candidate is less likely to throw an election, the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance’s Craney says such a system provides leverage to fringe candidates. 

“In Maine, there was less negative campaigning from the candidates but more negative campaigning from super PACs,” he said. “I would argue that it’s better coming from the candidates. We want to know how the candidates differ.”

Craney said spoiler candidates in the 2018 race for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District campaigned to manipulate the outcome by encouraging their voters not to make Poliquin their second choice. Craney said he would expect this to happen more often.

“Do you want a ‘Marijuana Party’ or ‘Gun Rights Party’ candidate or other single issue parties leveraging votes?” Craney asked. “I would argue it’s better to have major parties that try to build a majority consensus.”

Tossing out so many first-place votes essentially disenfranchises voters, Adams and von Spakovsky write in their study.

They also note that some jurisdictions allow voters to pick and rank only three candidates on the ballot, even if there were more. So, if a voter’s top three candidates are eliminated, his or her ballot will be discarded, they write:

Not only is ranked-choice voting too complicated, it disenfranchises voters, because ballots that do not include the two ultimate finalists are cast aside to manufacture a faux majority for the winner. But it is only a majority of the voters remaining in the final round, not a majority of all of the voters who actually cast votes in the elections.

5. What States Use This Method?

Interestingly, Democratic presidential nominating contests in Alaska, Nevada, Hawaii, Kansas, and Wyoming used the ranked-choice voting method in 2020. 

These five states did not use it for the general election, however, as primaries and caucuses mostly are run by political parties, while the state is in charge of general elections.

In 2020, Alaska became the second state to adopt the system; Maine was the first state to adopt it, for the 2016 election. 

Massachusetts voters didn’t follow their fellow New Englanders, however, as the Bay State resoundingly defeated the measure in November by 10 points. This came after proponents overwhelmingly outspent opponents by millions, noted Craney of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. 

In Alaska, voters narrowly approved ranked-choice voting with 51% of the vote; in Massachusetts, 55% of voters rejected the proposal. 

Richie, of First Vote, said many factors contributed to the different outcomes. 

“Alaska is smaller and has a long history of multicandidate, high-profile elections,” Richie said, later adding: “Massachusetts hadn’t had a history of multicandidate races. It’s also a big state. … The first city in Massachusetts doing [ranked-choice voting] was Cambridge. There is a certain eye-rolling to a lot of Massachusetts voters about Cambridge. If the model had been Springfield or Worcester, it might have been different.”

North Carolina adopted ranked-choice voting for judicial vacancies in 2006. But after just two elections in 2010—a statewide Court of Appeals race and a districtwide Superior Court race—resulted in several rounds of counting, legislators repealed the system in 2013. 

New York City, larger than many states, adopted ranked-choice voting in 2019 for all future primary and special elections. 

Also, the Virginia Republican Party announced that delegates to a state convention May 8 will use ranked-choice ballots to nominate a candidate for governor. 

The New York mayor’s race and Virginia’s gubernatorial race are two of the biggest off-year elections in 2021. 

6. What Local Jurisdictions Adopted It?

Voters in six municipalities opted in 2020 either to adopt or expand ranked-choice voting: Albany and Eureka, California; Bloomington and Minnetonka, Minnesota; Boulder, Colorado; and Portland, Maine.

Beyond that, 20 other municipal and county jurisdictions—including major cities such as Minneapolis, St. Paul, Oakland, and San Francisco—have adopted ranked-choice voting. The state legislatures of Virginia and Utah adopted the system as a local option. 

However, four jurisdictions—Burlington, Vermont; Ann Arbor, Michigan, Aspen, Colorado; and Pierce County, Washington—repealed laws allowing ranked-choice voting. Burlington, Aspen, and Pierce County acted after a plurality winner lost an election. 

7. Does Ranking Candidates Complicate Voting?

Fair Vote cites a Bangor Daily News survey after the 2018 election in which 75% of respondents said they understood the ranked-choice voting system. 

Still, others disagree. 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat from San Francisco, which has the system, vetoed legislation to take it statewide. 

“Where it has been implemented, I am concerned that it has often led to voter confusion, and that the promise that ranked-choice voting leads to greater democracy is not necessarily fulfilled,” Newsom said in a veto message in 2019. 

Ranked-choice voting complicates voting, prompting voters to choose several candidates or risk having their ballots discarded, when most voters don’t know the detailed policy positions of all candidates, the Maine Policy Institute study says

The study cites Pew Research Center data showing that in 2016, only 48% of Hillary Clinton voters and 41% of Donald Trump voters knew “a lot” about their candidates’ policy positions. 

Meanwhile, a 2018 survey found that 34% of registered Republican voters and 32.5% of registered Democratic voters did not know the names of their party’s congressional candidates in their districts during a crucial midterm election. 

“When individuals leave columns blank on their ballots and the candidate(s) they vote for are eliminated from contention, their ballot is not counted in the final tabulation,” the Maine Policy Institute report says, adding:

Therefore, if these voters only choose one candidate on their ballot, it is more likely to become exhausted, thereby giving those who fully complete their ballot more influence over the electoral process. In other words, African Americans, Latinos, voters with less education, and those whose first language is not English are more likely to be disenfranchised with a ranked-choice voting system.

8. How Does It Affect Minority Voters, Candidates?

The ranked-choice voting process has drawn fire from both the left and the right.

New York City adopted it for municipal primary elections, but over the objections in 2019 of prominent minority leaders such as Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP’s New York State Conference, who said the system “is not for us.”

The Manhattan Times reported that New York City Council member Daneek Miller, co-chairman of the council’s Black, Latino & Asian Caucus, argued: “Under ranked-choice voting, the city of San Francisco has seen a depressed voter turnout in communities of color.”

The caucus co-chairwoman, council member Adrienne Adams, told the borough newspaper: “Now that our black and brown communities have found electoral success, the powerful special interests want to change the rules on us.”

The system could be prone to political players who would game it to harm minority candidates, according to a report by professors from Drexel University and the University of Western Australia focusing on Utah’s ranked-choice voting system.

An analysis of San Francisco elections between 1995 and 2001 by Jason McDaniel, an associate professor at San Francisco State University, found that ranked-choice voting likely decreases turnout, primarily among both black and white voters.

Conversely, a 2016 study of California results, sponsored by the advocacy group Representation2020, found that “ranked-choice voting (RCV) increases the likelihood that a woman will win local elective office and, importantly, increases the proportion of female candidates of color running and winning local elective office.” 

9. What Other Countries Use It?

Proponents noted that ranked-choice voting is used by every voter in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Malta, Northern Ireland, and Scotland. 

The system also is used in some form in India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, according to Fair Vote. 

However, in the 2010 elections in Australia, the Labor Party won the Australian House despite getting just 38% of the first-choice votes on the initial ballot. 

The Liberal-National coalition, which came in second place, got 43% of the first-choice votes, or the most votes. But Labor won control of the House despite winning fewer first-choice votes.

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CNN’s Finger-pointing on ‘Misinformation’ Should Be Done in Mirror

Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy, CNN’s in-house cheerleaders for censoring or squelching conservative media outlets, celebrated a letter in which Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee pressed TV providers to punish right-wing spreaders of so-called “misinformation.”

Reps. Anna Eshoo and Jerry McNerney, both California Democrats, asked, “What moral or ethical principles (including those related to journalistic integrity, violence, medical information, and public health) do you apply in deciding which channels to carry or when to take adverse actions against a channel?”

 CNN exudes arrogance about its own performance, never worrying that TV providers will question the quality of its information or its journalistic integrity.

One major provider is AT&T, which owns CNN. Another is Comcast, which owns NBC, CNBC and MSNBC. So those providers dumping Fox or putting them in a more obscure channel tier would look like a crass commercial move, not some public-spirited stand.

Critics can easily assemble a pile of examples of CNN sloppily spreading misinformation during Donald Trump’s presidency:

  • Nov. 16, 2020: CNN spent 23 minutes promoting a South Dakota nurse who claimed her coronavirus patients were so deluded that they denied the virus was real even as they were dying. That was challenged as “fake news.”
  • Sept. 16, 2018: CNN spent 67 minutes promoting The New York Times’ unverified tale that Brett Kavanaugh exposed himself to Deborah Ramirez in his college years.

The Times then sheepishly added an editor’s note saying that Ramirez “declined to be interviewed and friends say that she does not recall the incident.”

CNN spent only three minutes on the correction. Anchor John King disparaged Republicans for pointing at this correction as an attempt “to steer you away from the substance.”

  • July 26, 2018: CNN reported that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen would tell federal investigators that Trump knew of the controversial Trump Tower meeting to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russians before it took place. A month later, Axios reported that Cohen didn’t actually know whether Trump had any knowledge of the meeting. Then, Buzzfeed exposed Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, as CNN’s secret source—after Davis lied on CNN that he wasn’t the source.
  • April 16, 2018: In a sign of CNN’s aggressive exploitation of the unverified Steele dossier, NewsBusters reported that a review of five days of transcripts found 77 separate mentions of the absurd claim that there was a videotape of Trump paying prostitutes to urinate on one another, the alleged “pee tapes.” No such tapes ever emerged.
  • June 22, 2017: CNN’s Thomas Frank reported that Congress was investigating a “Russian investment fund with ties to Trump officials,” especially Anthony Scaramucci. The report was later retracted. Frank and two other CNN employees resigned in the fallout.
  • June 6, 2017: CNN reported that in impending congressional testimony, former FBI Director James Comey was going to refute Trump’s claim that Comey told Trump three times he was not under investigation. Instead, Comey did the opposite and confirmed Trump’s claim.

We won’t even go into all the wild CNN talk of Trump being like Hitler or Stalin, or Stelter’s guest who said Trump would kill more people than Hitler, Stalin, and Mao combined.

CNN pretends that is vital, democracy-saving information, not garishly cartoonish garbage.

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Planned Parenthood Is Providing Less Breast Screenings, Wellness Exams, and More Abortions, Transgender Services

This month, Planned Parenthood Federation of America quietly released its 2019-20 annual report to little fanfare. Like previous years, both the total number of abortions as well as taxpayer funding increased. Meanwhile, the amount of private funding and active individual contributors decreased—the latter dramatically so.

The organization’s super PAC spent $45 million during the 2020 elections. Now, Planned Parenthood and the abortion lobby are aggressively working to influence Congress and the Biden administration’s agenda.

Their legislative goals include: taxpayer funding for elective abortions, gutting existing religious freedom and conscience protections, and promoting a radical sexual orientation and gender identity orthodoxy.

Planned Parenthood’s focus on federal policy is not surprising given the significant investment it routinely makes during election cycles. And while those efforts make headlines, the data and information in annual reports deserve scrutiny and analysis as well.

The medical and financial data provides a revealing display of the organization’s priorities.

Medical data in the 2019-20 annual report actually covers the period from Oct. 1, 2018, to Sept. 30, 2019. Planned Parenthood reported:

  • 354,871 abortions, up from 345,672 the previous year.
  • 542,659 breast screenings and pap tests, down from 566,186 the previous year.
  • 208,248 well woman exams, down from 213,042 the previous year.
  • 2,667 adoption referrals, a significant decline from 4,279 the previous year.

Financial data in the 2019-20 annual report covers the period from July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020. Planned Parenthood reported:

  • More than $2 billion in net assets, up from $1.9 billion the previous year.
  • $618.1 million in government funding, up from $616.8 million the previous year.
  • While total revenue held steady at roughly $1.6 billion, the organization’s excess revenue (calculated by subtracting total expenses from total revenue) fell sharply, coming in at $69.7 million compared to more than $110 million the previous year.
  • $510 million in private funding, down from $591.3 million the previous year.
  • 590,000 active individual contributors, a significant drop from the 1.1 million reported the previous year.

The Charlotte Lozier Institute notes that over the last decade, Planned Parenthood performed roughly 129 abortions for every adoption referral. The institute—which is the research arm of Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life organization—also highlights that in the last decade, cancer screening and prevention services have decreased 63%, prenatal services have decreased 79%, and the number of unique patients has decreased 20%.

Planned Parenthood’s annual report also highlights its work in other areas, such as standing with the “Defund the Police” movement and efforts to oppose other Trump administration priorities, such as judicial nominations and policies related to immigration law.

In the 2019-20 annual report, Planned Parenthood reports that it operates “more than 200 health centers in 31 states providing hormone therapy for transgender patients.” In the previous annual report, Planned Parenthood listed 31 states but didn’t say how many clinics.

As of February 2021, the Planned Parenthood website lists clinics in 33 states as well as the District of Columbia as places people may seek cross-sex hormones to “affirm gender identity.” As previously reported at the Daily Signal, Planned Parenthood is one of the nationwide leaders in providing such services.

Abigail Shrier, author of “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters,” recently wrote about Planned Parenthood’s increasing footprint in the transgender space based on a first-hand account of a former “reproductive health assistant.” The former clinic worker said that “trans identifying kids are cash cows, and they are kept on the hook for the foreseeable future in terms of follow-up appointments, bloodwork, meetings, etc., whereas abortions are (hopefully) a one-and-done situation.”

Shrier’s piece concludes:

According to the Planned Parenthood employee’s testimony, in affirmative care clinics like this one, for teens seeking fast medical transition—the medicine cabinet is fully stocked, the customer is always right, and the light is always green.

Planned Parenthood’s annual reports have long provided the pro-life movement with an opportunity to analyze the organization’s latest medical and financial data. It’s clear that Planned Parenthood has staked a claim in yet another controversial area of services, and going forward, the organization’s involvement in the gender identity space merits closer scrutiny.

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Viral Video Shows Little Girl Bursting Into Tears of Joy When Her Mom Reveals School Is Open

Viral video footage shows a little girl bursting into tears when she discovers that she can finally return to the classroom.

The account Reopen California Schools posted a video Wednesday showing a little girl sobbing in happiness when her mother tells her that she can go back to school next week.

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Reopen California Schools Director Jonathan Zachreson obtained the video and permission to post it from the child’s family after seeing it online, he told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“When I first saw the video come across our Facebook group, it was a story I knew was missing from the conversation,” he told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “I shared this video across our platforms because I wanted to remind everyone, from parents, to teachers, to politicians, that getting schools open is about one thing—the kids.”

Clara Zanotto’s mother Tarine Zanotto told The Daily Caller News Foundation in a phone interview Thursday evening that her 9-year-old daughter will have been out of school for 358 days when she returns to the classroom next week. Clara is in fourth grade and has been doing online schooling since March 2020, her mother said.

The child suffered from anxiety at the beginning of the pandemic, according to her mother, but her parents were able to help her get through this stage. Zanotto said her daughter is “very independent” with her online schooling, but noted, “we do help her.”

The Zanottos live in Redondo Beach, California, where Clara’s mother works as a personal assistant to a family in the area and her father works as a video editor, Zanotto said. 

“She was born here,” Zanotto told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Me and my husband are originally from Brazil, but we live in Redondo Beach since 2007.”

When Zanotto found out that her daughter could return to school, she told the fourth grader by showing her pieces of paper with the dates that Clara was last in school on them. She expected that her daughter would “scream in happiness” and was surprised by her reaction.

“She had that emotional burst of tears, holding back a lot of emotions and everything,” Zanotto told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “She’s doing great with online schooling as far as it’s possible, of course, she’s much happier that she’s going back to school.”

The child’s mother said that “last year was not the best” in regards to how teachers in her child’s school district handled online schooling. But she said that “this school year they improved a lot.”

“It all depends on the child’s personality,” she said. “It’s not an ideal, it was OK, good.”

“I’m really, really excited because I get to go back and see all my friends,” Clara told The Daily Caller News Foundation Thursday evening. She also said she’s excited to see her teacher, who she has only met when “we like got to go pick up supplies to school, but only that.”

The fourth grader said she most misses playing with her friends at recess and “just doing homework with them.” She has occasionally seen her friends on FaceTime, she said, adding that “every once in a while I got to have a play date with them, like a bike ride or something.”

She suggested to The Daily Caller News Foundation that there are both benefits and negatives for children to be stuck home from school.

“I know when I was at school, I was never home much and I didn’t get to be home a lot,” she said. “So that’s the like good part, that staying home, but I guess it’s bad on the part that we can’t go to school. ‘Cause we can’t see our teachers and friends.”

The student told The Daily Caller News Foundation that she has found it easier to learn at home since her classmates can’t really whisper or interrupt the teacher on Zoom. She said she personally feels comfortable participating, telling The Daily Caller News Foundation that this is because “I really want to participate.”

“I guess it’s just harder to talk, have a conversation with one of your friends on Zoom,” she added.

Clara would like to tell parents that she does not think they should prevent their children from going to school since the children probably had “maybe a little less than one semester” in the classroom in the past year.

“It’s pretty hard going from in-person school to online,” she said. “So they should at least let their kid go for a little bit.”

Her mother told The Daily Caller News Foundation that “it’s time” for Clara to return to school.

“I see many more benefits than risk for her,” Zanotto said. “So there’s no more way that I can deny this right to her.”

Zanotto said she had no interest in discussing the politics of lawmakers, school openings, and teachers unions, telling The Daily Caller News Foundation, “I don’t watch news. I don’t follow news, so I don’t even know what they are saying.”

“Please, just spread love,” she urged The Daily Caller News Foundation.

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South Dakotans ‘Devastated’ by Keystone Pipeline Cancellation, Governor Says

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem says President Joe Biden’s executive order canceling the Keystone XL pipeline has “devastated” residents of her state economically.

Not only are thousands of workers left without jobs, Noem said, but communities were preparing for an influx of residents to work on the pipeline and the tax revenues it would generate. 

The nearly 1,200-mile leg of the pipeline was to run from Alberta, Canada, through Montana into South Dakota and on to Nebraska. It was to run diagonally through nine counties in South Dakota before exiting the state.

“[The cancellation] was just wrong. It was responding to politics, but not the facts, behind what this really does for us in this country and the [energy] independence it gives us,” Noem said Wednesday night on Fox News’ Channel’s “Hannity” program. “And I’m all about supporting a diversified energy portfolio, but it should be an American energy portfolio. This is a national security issue.”

A week earlier, on Feb. 16 on “Fox News Primetime,” the Republican governor said construction of the pipeline was well underway when the president pulled the plug on it. “In fact, they had already built a couple of pumping stations. They had the pipeline laid out ready to be installed, and then when [Biden] pulled the permits, everything just stopped.” 

Noem related stories she had heard of families and businesses facing economic hardship that will result from the cancellation. 

“We had restaurants and motels and gas stations that had expanded, getting ready for the workers that were going to be here [for] the next several years building the pipeline,” she said, adding that communities were counting on the property-tax revenues for road maintenance and teachers salaries.

“Overnight, their whole plan for the future was just gone,” Noem said.

A week earlier, on Feb. 8, South Dakota residents and business owners upset by the cancellation appealed to the state’s Republican congressman to help save the project. Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., organized the gathering and was joined by Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., who is sponsoring legislation to restart the pipeline, and Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., chairman of the bipartisan Congressional Western Caucus, the Associated Press reported. 

Jeff Birkeland, the CEO of West Central Electric Cooperative, a business that would have serviced pump stations along part of the pipeline route, said his company “lost $90 million in revenue.” He added that the pipeline would have created an estimated $100 million in annual tax revenues for the state government and municipalities.

Johnson said he hopes the testimonies by South Dakotans would help revive the pipeline project. “It is so often that stories hold more weight than data,” he was quoted as saying. 

South Dakota’s unemployment rate decreased 0.5% to 3.0% in December 2020, before the pipeline cancellation, according to the state’s Department of Labor and Regulation. The number of unemployed decreased by 2,000 (12.5%) to 14,000. 

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Biden’s Assault on Gun Owners

For the duration of his 2020 presidential campaign — which at first appeared to be a long shot, especially given the far left’s vocal disdain for “old, white men” — Joe Biden ran on the promise that he would unite the country. He repeatedly spoke about the importance of America’s institutions and norms, and to the many who ultimately voted for him, those were the halcyon days of this country that they longed for and that Biden promised them.

Unfortunately, it seems that more and more of his supporters are still patiently waiting for him to make good on his campaign promise.

It was, without a doubt, a noble promise. Even if you didn’t agree with Biden or support his policies, Americans of all stripes would agree that a call for national unity amid years of division and political strife is necessary at this point.

However, despite his lofty goals and plans, Biden has, unsurprisingly, returned to Washington as a creature of habit. As a result, instead of uniting the country, Biden is about to divide it even further and in a deeply profound, potentially irreparable way.

In a recent statement from the White House in which he commemorated those who were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Biden called for significant gun legislation.

In his statement, Biden declared that “this Administration will not wait for the next mass shooting to heed that call. We will take action to end our epidemic of gun violence and make our schools and communities safer. Today, I am calling on Congress to enact commonsense gun law reforms, including requiring background checks on all gun sales, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and eliminating immunity for gun manufacturers who knowingly put weapons of war on our streets. We owe it to all those we’ve lost and to all those left behind to grieve to make a change. The time to act is now.”

With a step that will undoubtedly cause millions of Americans to resist Biden and his agenda even more aggressively, the new president has effectively put a nail in his own coffin. He’s lost any remaining benefit of the doubt that conservatives and Republicans were willing to give him based on his repeated calls for national unity.

Throughout his remarks, Biden mentioned the word violence five times, but not once did he attempt to identify or speculate on the root of the violence within America, nor did he offer any tangible solutions. Instead, he immediately pivoted to banning certain magazines and weapons while blatantly ignoring the fact that millions of Americans own AR-15s, the semi-automatic weapon that Biden is going after.

Keep in mind that most of America’s gun owners are decent and law-abiding citizens who pose absolutely no threat to their peers, regardless of what type of weapon they own. By moving down this path, Biden is essentially asking us to ignore the real root of the problems that result in mass shootings, all the while punishing gun owners who don’t break the law or commit crimes. There is a small, disgusting fraction of people who commit heinous acts, and yet the millions of law-abiding citizens are being targeted.

Let’s also not forget that thousands of young men have been killed in urban cities across the country using pistols. Yet, we’re not talking about a ban on pistols. Instead, we argue that those young men need better resources, education, mentorship and other pathways that will help elevate them from poverty.

There are very serious issues when anyone harms another person for no reason other than to cause mass destruction, and there is not a single gun owner who would support such acts. In fact, many condemn these acts because they give the majority a bad rap.

If Biden really wanted to address the issues he mentioned in his White House statement, he would focus on mental health, particularly the mental health of America’s youth. He would focus on building stronger families so that families know what to look for if their child is going through depression or other mental illness. He would focus on making sure urban cities have better education and trade centers; he would focus on working with the private sector to create job opportunities and to improve access to transportation and housing in those areas. These things would have a profound impact on urban communities and would help end gun violence. On the other hand, I can assure you that banning AR-15s will not.

Biden’s priorities are misplaced, and the steps he’s preparing to take will only cause further division in a nation that’s already struggling to hang on by a thread. He should focus on the root of the problems, because that is how we can solve them.

Banning certain guns won’t make a difference, because the underlying problems will persist. These are problems that are so pervasive that focusing on guns instead of realistic solutions is seemingly the only political answer to complex problems.

Democrats such as Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas are proposing far-reaching bills to make it more difficult to purchase firearms. In addition to extending the waiting period, Lee’s bill would create a national registry of all firearm owners and require various new licenses specific to certain types of weapons. It would also ban certain types of ammunition. This is funny coming from Lee because from what I hear, she herself enjoys going to the range, but we’ll save that for a future column.

However, there are states that are pushing back, such as Indiana, which recently eliminated the requirement to have a license to carry a handgun — certainly a victory for Second Amendment supporters, but also a sign that many states will begin to take things into their own hands in preparation for what’s to come from the Biden White House.

If Joe Biden is serious about healing America and bringing this nation together, this isn’t the way to do it. Instead, focusing on mental illness, the importance of family structure, education, trade schools, economic opportunities and better housing is what will help our inner cities.

When people are mentally and spiritually sound and are comfortable in life with a good job, fair pay and a great home, violence will inevitably go down without infringing on the rights of other American citizens.

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No, We Don’t Need to Transform the American Food System

The American food system is a global leader when it comes to productivity, resiliency, and innovation. It provides an abundance of safe and affordable food to not only Americans, but people across the globe. And yet, some on the left want to radically change one of the most impressive food systems in the world.

Here’s some important context: U.S. agricultural productivity has increased dramatically over the past 75 years. American farmers and ranchers produced more food on less land during this time. Farm output nearly tripled while the amount of land actually decreased. Americans are also paying less for food; in 2019, Americans’ share of disposable income going to total food was at a historic low of 9.5%. This number has been declining significantly for decades.

If we want food to be affordable, including for those most in need—then the productivity and efficiency across the food supply chain is critical. Productivity and efficiency are not some cold measurements, but are at the heart of ensuring all Americans have access to a wide range of low-cost food.

For many on the left, there’s actually a general disdain for the American food system, which they view as causing “incalculable damages.” There are policy issues that need to be addressed within food and agriculture, but the critics start with the incorrect premise that the food system itself (i.e. the entire food supply chain) needs to be drastically changed.

To achieve their desired food system, some critics want to develop a national food policy, a federally centralized plan for the food system, from agricultural production to what consumers buy and eat.

Last week, a Biden administration official at the U.S. Department of Agriculture spoke about transforming the food system, as if the American food system is a mess that needs to be fixed by the Department of Agriculture.

While the critics’ plans are short on specifics, they generally want to push the same vague food and agricultural goals espoused by proponents of the Green New Deal. For example, their policy objectives focus on issues ancillary to food production and distribution, especially to achieve their environmental objectives. They want to make these ancillary objectives a top priority for the food and agricultural sector, apparently even a higher priority than efficiently producing food.

Just as there are efforts to radically change the very purpose of businesses in order to push environmental agendas, so too is there an effort to radically change the entire food system.

Many of these critics want to impose their desired agricultural practices onto American farmers, such as moving towards practices that don’t use fossil fuels or otherwise are concerned with achieving environmental objectives, with little consideration given to the costs and tradeoffs of their policies (and the sound environmental stewardship of farmers).

The critics do properly recognize that existing subsidies can be problematic by encouraging the production of certain foods. Yet, instead of removing market-distorting subsidies so that farmers meet consumer demand, they simply want to change the subsidies to directly encourage the production of the foods that they prefer (i.e., what they consider to be “healthy food”).

They would also go beyond subsidies to influence and dictate personal dietary choices. Soda taxes, junk food taxes, and even meat taxes are just some of the ways they seek to reduce the consumption of food that they disfavor.

This food police mentality doesn’t exist merely out of an alleged concern for human health. These critics appear to recognize that influencing and limiting consumer choices can have a direct impact on the food that is produced in the first place. So, for example, if they think meat production is a problem for the environment, then they will try to reduce meat consumption.

Legislators should reject this attempt to use the federal government to radically change the food system. But they should go even further, such as through a legislative resolution, to make it perfectly clear that the American food system (not necessarily our food and agricultural policy) is a model for the world.

They should stress that American farmers and ranchers and other private actors throughout the food supply chain, from truck drivers to food retailers, are among the best in the world (if not the best), and they (not the government) are the driving force behind its success.  

Finally, they should stress that individuals, not federal bureaucrats, should make decisions about their personal dietary choices.

The bottom line: We don’t need a national food policy, and we don’t need to transform our food system. If the federal government got out of the way, the food system would better meet the needs of Americans. It would continue to develop innovations, even those likely to appeal to these critics, such as plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy—ironically, the marketing of these products are being threatened by government intervention.

Policymakers should remove government intervention that hinders those who make our food system possible, while thoughtfully addressing any specific policy concerns, including environmental concerns, in a manner that doesn’t undermine what makes our food system such an incredible success.

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