WRUR_background_155x1600v2.jpg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Morning News Brief

NOEL KING, HOST:

Florida is the latest Republican-led state to put new restrictions on voting.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

After the 2020 presidential election, Governor Ron DeSantis said his state's election was secure and successful. But Republicans in many states have since used false claims about that election as a reason to impose new restrictions on voting. Yesterday, Governor DeSantis went along, signing limits on mail-in voting and access to ballot drop boxes, among other things.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RON DESANTIS: We're proud of the strides that we've made. We're not resting on our laurels, and me signing this bill here says, Florida, your vote counts.

INSKEEP: Voting rights advocates are already going to court alleging this law aims to solve problems that do not exist and is really designed to suppress the votes of people of color.

KING: NPR's Greg Allen is following this story from Miami. Good morning, Greg.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Good morning, Noel.

KING: What is the new law?

ALLEN: Well, you know, this was toned down some as it went through the state legislature. Republican lawmakers took out some of the most controversial measures. But the final version - the main thing here is that the use of drop boxes is cut back. That's probably the most significant change. They'll only be available at early voting sites during working hours. Here's DeSantis again.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DESANTIS: You can't just leave these boxes out where there's no supervision, where they're in all hours of the night. So the drop boxes will be available only when they're monitored and during regular voting hours.

ALLEN: Another change here is that voters will need to have a driver's license or a state-issued ID or a Social Security number to get a mail ballot, which they didn't have to do in the past. They'll also have to reapply every election cycle instead of once every four years, as was previously the case. There's also an interesting question about the new law. You know, for decades in Florida, mail voting has been used best by Republicans. They've used it in much greater numbers. That changed in the last election during the pandemic when, for the first time, Democrats cast more mail ballots than Republicans, nearly 700,000. So now people are wondering when the pandemic ends, when it eases finally and people get out again, will this measure backfire on Republicans?

KING: Yeah, I bet some Republicans are wondering that as well. I want to ask you about the signing ceremony, which is normally not something I would ask you about. But this one was unusual.

ALLEN: Right. You know, he signed - the governor signed the bill in a hotel ballroom in West Palm Beach, which was packed with supporters, felt like a campaign event. Many of them were sporting DeSantis stickers. But this was unlike other bill signings in other ways, in that the media was not informed about it ahead of time and wasn't allowed to cover it. Reporters were kept outside over protests. The only people covering it were Fox News, which carried the bill signing live. Here's DeSantis.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DESANTIS: I have what we think is the strongest election integrity measures in the country. I'm actually going to sign it right here. It's going to take effect.

(CHEERING)

ALLEN: You know, DeSantis had previously bragged about Florida's smooth election last year, yet, you know, there he was. He said yesterday this new law helps keep the state ahead of the curve on the election administration. But, of course, Florida's following many other Republican-led states that are enacting these new restrictions on voting. You know Georgia, as you know, adopted a law in March that sparked lawsuits and a backlash.

KING: Yeah, it's a trend. So what are voting rights advocates saying about this law?

ALLEN: Well, you know, Florida's had expansive early voting and no-excuse mail ballots for years, which has made it very easy for people to vote. In the last election, the results came in quickly and without any real snags. Democrats and many county election supervisors are asking why this measure is needed at all. Democratic Congresswoman Val Demings is expected to announce that she's going to be running against DeSantis for governor next year. She says there's a reason why he signed the bill at an event that was closed to the media and the public.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VAL DEMINGS: Governor DeSantis knows that his voter suppression bill is un-American. And so he is hiding in his ballroom, refusing to answer tough questions.

ALLEN: You know, moments after the bill was signed yesterday, several groups announced that there's going to at least two lawsuits. The suits charge that the law targets minority voters and violates the Voting Rights Act and protections under the Constitution.

KING: NPR's Greg Allen in Miami. Thank you, Greg.

ALLEN: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KING: India is weeks into the world's biggest COVID outbreak. Today alone, the government confirmed more than 414,000 new infections. That is another daily world record.

INSKEEP: Medical supplies are scarce. Hospital beds are scarce. Some people are calling for another national lockdown, which is something that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has resisted.

KING: NPR's Lauren Frayer joins us now from Mumbai. Good morning, Lauren.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Hi there.

KING: So you have been reporting on how sorrow and shock are turning into anger. People are angry. What are they telling you?

FRAYER: Yeah, I mean, it's been weeks of people dying what their families say are preventable deaths because they've been unable to get any medical care. I mean, few could have predicted just how horrible this wave of COVID-19 here in India would be. But also, similarly, few imagined how the health system would collapse so quickly. And it's vaccinations, too. I mean, you've got to make appointments here on this government app that's notoriously buggy. It keeps going down. I had my vaccine appointment canceled. Everyone I know had their vaccine appointments canceled. And you can't imagine what people without smartphones would do here. I mean, that's hundreds of millions of people in India. So a lot of Indians feel like the government is doing a shoddy job in this, they're most desperate hour of need. Here is a woman named Baljeet Asthana. She was outside a hospital in Delhi when she tweeted this video of herself.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

BALJEET ASTHANA: We are struggling to get basic things like oxygen, medicines, hospitals.

FRAYER: And she says her 82-year-old mother is struggling to survive. And she goes on to plead with Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself to legalize mercy killing in India for her mom. She says, look, if you're not going to help, she tells the prime minister, let us die in dignity.

KING: OK. People are very upset, and that is very upsetting to hear. I wonder, if this is an entire systemic collapse, why are people angry at Narendra Modi in particular?

FRAYER: Yeah, so part of it is he's the guy at the top, right? He's always going to get either credit or blame. But part of it is he held political rallies, and he also let this giant Hindu festival go on while cases were rising here. Modi is the most powerful and most popular politician India has seen, really, in decades. And he's cast himself as a protector. He took bold early action last spring when he called a national lockdown, but now he's kind of vanished. I spoke with Milan Vaishnav. He directs the South Asia program at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington, and he says he's just never seen such anger at Modi.

MILAN VAISHNAV: It's the ferocity of the virus coupled with, I think, what people perceive as mismanagement, as a lack of empathy, as a prime minister who is usually leading from the front but seems to be receding into the background.

FRAYER: And so people feel abandoned, and Indians are looking around like, is this not an all-hands-on-deck crisis here? I mean, almost everyone knows someone who has died. So many families have been devastated.

KING: And it's not just a case of Modi being consistent. It's that his behavior has changed. So what might this mean for him in the long run, politically?

FRAYER: The next national election isn't until 2024. Three years is a lifetime in politics. But they don't call him Teflon Modi for nothing. I mean, his popularity didn't budge when the economy shrank last spring. His approval rating has dipped slightly in the past seven days, though. So we have to wait and see.

KING: NPR's Lauren Frayer in Mumbai. Thank you, Lauren.

FRAYER: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KING: In his first weeks in office, President Biden went big on immigration reform.

INSKEEP: He established a task force to reunite families separated at the southern border. He reversed many of the Trump administration's anti-immigration policies and even offered a long-term change, sending Congress an immigration system overhaul. But that's gone nowhere. And in his speech to Congress last week, the president shifted to a narrower approach.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: If you don't like my plan, let's at least pass what we all agree on. Congress needs to pass legislation this year to finally secure protection for DREAMers...

(APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: ...The young people who've only known America as their home.

INSKEEP: You heard lawmakers applauding there, but some immigration advocates say they are feeling abandoned.

KING: NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez is following this story. Good morning, Franco.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hi, Noel.

KING: So Steve laid out some of the chronology there. As you've been observing this, how have you seen Biden's approach change here?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, President Biden initially put out big plans for immigration when he took office. He proposed a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants here, among a lot of other measures. But now he's saying let's move on smaller proposals. There's a bill that would protect farm workers and another to expand protections for people brought to the country illegally as children, the DACA program. The White House, though, says Biden remains committed to his comprehensive plan and that it's not an either-or matter. But they want to see the Senate move on the two measures that have already passed the House.

KING: OK, you've been talking with immigration activists and advocates about this narrowing approach. And what are they saying?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, there were protests last weekend in Washington about the lack of progress. I talked to Gema Lowe. She's an undocumented organizer of Movimiento Cosecha. The smaller measures Biden is talking about wouldn't help her. And she feels Biden gave up too easy.

GEMA LOWE: What he said in his speech is that, oh, I fulfill my promise and now it's off my hands. It's - the Congress now needs to pass it. So he's washing his hands by saying that instead of fighting and putting pressure to pass a bill, not just introducing the bill.

ORDOÑEZ: But, you know, I also talked to Representative Zoe Lofgren of California, who was involved in crafting those bills. She says it's time to at least pass something, noting that past efforts to do top-to-bottom reforms have failed.

KING: Sure they have. And President Biden is trying to do a lot right now. So how much political capital does he have to spend on this?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, right now, his top priority is his infrastructure package. And he's also proposed a massive investment in child care and education. Next week, lawmakers will be at the White House to talk about his priorities. I talked with Ali Noorani of the National Immigration Forum. He gets that Biden is taking a practical approach, but he also says Biden must show he's ready to put some real political muscle behind the fight for immigration.

ALI NOORANI: After infrastructure gets off the table, we need to make sure that immigration is the next issue on the couch at the Oval Office. And we're not there yet.

ORDOÑEZ: And others noted that time is flying. Democrats right now control both chambers of Congress and the White House, but they might not be in the same position after the midterm elections next year.

KING: White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez. Thank you, Franco.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you, Noel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.