On April 27, the Gainesville City Commission essentially exposed itself as an illegitimate government by asking the Alachua County Commission to mandate facial coverings and to send absentee ballots to every voter. The first is an abuse of power; the second is a blatant attempt to encourage voter fraud.
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The facial covering mandate is an example of petty tyranny we’ve been witnessing all over the country. They made that recommendation even though earlier in the day Governor DeSantis held a press conference where Dr. Sunil Desai downplayed the need for masks, saying hand hygiene is more important: “If your hands aren’t clean, that mask is worthless.” He also said, “Hand hygiene and not touching your face and the social distancing, judiciously applied in the most high-risk groups, is the most important” (emphasis added).
Paul Myers, the Alachua County Administrator for the Florida Department of Health, echoed Dr. Desai in the County Commission meeting on April 28, saying that the evidence for the usefulness of masks being worn by the public does not support a mandate for mask wearing. He cited a review of 52 studies that concluded “cloth masks are ineffective as source control” and N-95 masks are “not recommended for source control.” He also said the CDC guidance is that masks should be a “voluntary public health measure” (emphasis added).
So according to local, state, and national experts, the general public does not need to wear masks. Further, Dr. Desai said hand hygiene and social distancing for “the most high-risk groups” (i.e., people over 65 or with existing medical conditions) is most important. There’s no legitimate role for government to compel young, healthy people to do any of these things.
Forcing young, healthy people to wear face masks violates the principle of innocent until proven guilty. The justification that they might have COVID-19 and might spread it to someone who might die effectively grants unlimited power to government to prevent all the other mights.
This abuse of power might enrage voters, but that won’t matter when sending unsolicited absentee ballots effectively disenfranchises residents who take the process seriously and follow the rules.
Sending ballots to all registered voters guarantees fraud because there’s no telling who receives or completes the ballots. Consider that 8 states and over 400 counties have more voter registrations than their total voting age populations. A 2012 Pew study found that one out of every eight voter registrations are “no longer valid or are significantly inaccurate.” Some groups claim fraud cases are rare, but election fraud cases are common enough that The Heritage Foundation has a database to track them.
In-person voting with state-issued ID is the best way to limit voter fraud and ensure election integrity. Opponents of voter ID laws claim they suppress minority voting, but a study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that voter ID laws “have no negative effect on registration or turnout, overall or for any group defined by race, gender, age, or party affiliation.”
Where does the City of Gainesville (or Alachua County) get the power to suspend our civil rights? They just wanted to, so they did. The Florida Constitution says we “have inalienable rights, among which are the right to enjoy and defend life and liberty, to pursue happiness, to be rewarded for industry, and to acquire, possess and protect property” (Article 1, Section 2). How can you pursue happiness when forced into isolation? How can you be rewarded for industry when the government deems your business “non-essential” or prohibits customers from entering your business?
Further, “The people shall have the right peaceably to assemble, to instruct their representatives, and to petition for redress of grievances” (Article 1, Section 5) and “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law” (Article 1, Section 9). There are no exceptions given for pandemics or states of emergency. There is no mention of quarantine, isolation, social distancing, or face masks.
Daniel Horowitz explains that courts granted quarantine powers, but states can’t use them in an “arbitrary, unreasonable manner” or go “far beyond what was reasonably required for the safety of the public” (Jacobson v. Massachusetts (1905)). Horowitz lives in Maryland and quotes their constitution: “That the provisions of the Constitution of the United States, and of this State, apply, as well in time of war, as in time of peace; and any departure therefrom, or violation thereof, under the plea of necessity, or any other plea, is subversive of good Government, and tends to anarchy and despotism” (Article 44).
All state and local orders in response to COVID-19 derive from the Florida statute governing public health emergencies (381.00315), but a careful reading shows that all levels are in violation of the law. The statute defines isolation for “an individual who is reasonably believed to be infected.” There is no provision for isolating the entire population or forcing the use of face masks. The statute also requires “rules to specify the conditions and procedures for imposing and releasing an isolation” (emphasis added). No releasing rules were stated when the stay-at-home order was issued, and they still haven’t been defined. Furthermore, the statute only authorizes isolation and quarantine for “communicable diseases that have significant morbidity.” Each new antibody study confirms that COVID-19 does not have significant morbidity (although that is not a well-defined term), especially for young, healthy people.
The latest study in Florida was done by The University of Miami in Miami-Dade County. They used a random sample of 1,400 participants and found that about 6% of the population had COVID-19 antibodies (95% confidence interval: 4.4% to 7.9%). Miami-Dade’s population is 2,719,940, and the Dashboard shows 11,831 cases and 324 deaths (as of the morning update on April 28). Using the 6% infection rate, the overall fatality rate in Miami-Dade is 0.2% of infections (about 10 times lower than the confirmed case fatality rate of 2.7%).
But COVID-19 is not as dangerous for people under 65. The state’s daily report (April 28, 10 a.m. update) shows 203 deaths for people under age 65. According to Census Data, Florida’s population is 21,477,737, with 79.5% below age 65. Using the Miami-Dade lower bound (4.4%) gives a conservative estimate for the fatality rate for Floridians under age 65: 0.027% of infections. That’s about 1/5 the overall fatality rate for seasonal flu, which is 0.14% of infections, based on data in Figure 2 of the CDC’s “Burden of Influenza” page. That leaves no justification for any restrictions to the vast majority of the population.
The nationwide petty tyranny has gotten so bad that Attorney General William Barr issued a memo to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, stating: “If a state or local ordinance crosses the line from an appropriate exercise of authority to stop the spread of COVID19 into an overbearing infringement of constitutional and statutory protections, the Department of Justice may have an obligation to address that overreach in federal court.”
The Declaration of Independence says “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” The city commission’s blatant desire to infringe on our rights and undermine the security of our elections proves their disdain for our system of government. They would rather trample our rights than secure them. As such, they are illegitimate and subversive of good government.