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Eurovision banned the EU flag from the song contest. The EU is angry and wants to know why

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Eurovision banned the EU flag from the song contest. The EU is angry and wants to know why
ENT

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Eurovision banned the EU flag from the song contest. The EU is angry and wants to know why

2024-05-14 02:58 Last Updated At:03:01

BRUSSELS (AP) — The Eurovision song contest continued to spawn unprecedented controversy, days after the winner was crowned, with the 27-nation European Union lambasting organizers on Monday for their “incoherence” in banning its flag from the concert hall during the final.

In an unusually sharp letter, EU Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas wrote to the Swiss-based European Broadcast Union, which organizes the contest, that its ban contributes to "discrediting a symbol that brings together all Europeans.”

In a contest already full of controversy, the European Commission said it plans “a very lively discussion” with the organizers over the ban. Even though the 27-nation EU did not compete as such, many of its member states did, and the star-spangled blue flag is often seen as a unifier for all involved.

Schinas wrote that “such actions have cast a shadow over what is meant to be a joyous occasion for peoples across Europe and the world to come together in celebration.”

The flag is on show at countless events and across the EU nations and often flies alongside the national colors from tiny city halls to massive governmental buildings.

Schinas was especially bitter since the ban came only a month ahead of EU-wide parliamentary elections where the EU as an institution is an object of fierce debate and often attacked by extremist parties.

“The incoherence in the EBU's stance has left myself and many millions of your viewers wondering for what and for whom the Eurovision Song Contest stands,” the letter said.

During the weeklong contest, organizers were already roiled by the protests linked to the war in Gaza and Israel's participation in the event on top of the controversial disqualification of the Dutch participant over an incident which was never fully explained.

Ahead of the final, a spokesperson for the European Broadcasting Union said ticket holders are only allowed to bring and display flags representing participating countries, as well as the rainbow-colored flag which is a symbol for LGBTQ+ communities.

Swiss singer Nemo won the 68th Eurovision Song Contest Saturday night with “The Code,” an operatic pop-rap ode to the singer’s journey toward embracing a nongender identity.

Eden Golan of Israel enters the arena during the flag parade before the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest in Malmo, Sweden, Saturday, May 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Eden Golan of Israel enters the arena during the flag parade before the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest in Malmo, Sweden, Saturday, May 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Nemo, representing Switzerland, with the song "The Code," wins the final of the 68th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest at the Malmö Arena, in Malmö, Sweden, Saturday, May 11, 2024. (Jessica Gow/TT News Agency via AP)

Nemo, representing Switzerland, with the song "The Code," wins the final of the 68th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest at the Malmö Arena, in Malmö, Sweden, Saturday, May 11, 2024. (Jessica Gow/TT News Agency via AP)

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Tennessee election officials asking more than 14,000 voters to prove citizenship

2024-06-26 06:26 Last Updated At:06:30

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee's top election office has sent letters to more than 14,000 registered voters asking them to prove their citizenship, a move that alarmed voting rights advocates as possible intimidation.

The letters, dated June 13, warned that it is illegal in Tennessee for noncitizens to vote and provided instructions on how to update voter information. The list was developed after comparing voter rolls with data from the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security, said Doug Kufner, spokesperson for the Secretary of State's office, in a statement Tuesday.

Kufner described the data from the state's homeland security department as a “snapshot” of a person's first interaction with that agency. Some may not have been U.S. citizens when they obtained a driver's license or ID card but have since been naturalized and “likely did not update their records," he said. Driver's licenses in Tennessee must be renewed every eight years.

“Accurate voter rolls are a vital component to ensuring election integrity, and Tennessee law makes it clear that only eligible voters are allowed to participate in Tennessee elections,” Kufner said.

The letter does not, however, reveal what would happen to those who do not update their records — including whether people who fail to respond will be purged from the voter rolls. Kufner did not immediately respond to an email seeking clarity on if voters were at risk of being removed.

Instead, the letter contains warnings that illegal voting is a felony and carries penalties of up to two years in prison.

Voting rights advocates began raising the alarm after photos of the letter started circulating on social media. Democrats have long criticized the Secretary of State's office for its stances on voting issues in the Republican-dominant state.

“The fact legal citizens of the United States and residents of Tennessee are being accused of not being eligible to vote is an affront to democracy," said state Rep. Jason Powell, a Democrat from Nashville, in a statement. “These fine Tennesseans are being burdened with re-proving their own voter eligibility and threatened with imprisonment in a scare tactic reminiscent of Jim Crow laws.”

Powell and fellow Democratic Rep. John Ray Clemmons on Tuesday urged Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti to investigate the issue.

Democratic Rep. Gloria Johnson, a Democrat from Knoxville, said she was informed that one of the letter recipients included a “respected scientist in Oak Ridge” who had become a citizen and registered to vote in 2022.

“Maybe the state should verify citizenship with the federal government before sending threatening/intimidating letters to new citizens,” Johnson posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Other leaders encouraged those who received a letter to reach out to the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee for possible legal resources.

"It is surely capturing many, many, many eligible citizens on the rolls and threatening them with criminal prosecution," said Sean Morales-Doyle, director of the voting rights program at The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law. “I think it’s unconscionable. And I think that it likely violates a number of federal laws as well.”

The effort bears some resemblance to the rollout of a sweeping Texas voting law passed in 2021, in which thousands of Texans — including some U.S. citizens — received letters saying they have been flagged as potential noncitizens who could be kicked off voting rolls.

Texas officials had just settled a lawsuit in 2019 after a prior search for ineligible voters flagged nearly 100,000 registered voters but wrongly captured naturalized citizens. A federal judge who halted the search the month after it began noted that only about 80 people to that point had been identified as potentially ineligible to vote.

FILE - A "vote here" sign is seen at the Brainerd Youth and Family Development Center, Aug. 1, 2020, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Tennessee's top election office sent letters to more than 14,000 registered voters asking them to prove their citizenship, a move that alarmed voting rights advocates as possible intimidation. (C.B. Schmelter/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP, File)

FILE - A "vote here" sign is seen at the Brainerd Youth and Family Development Center, Aug. 1, 2020, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Tennessee's top election office sent letters to more than 14,000 registered voters asking them to prove their citizenship, a move that alarmed voting rights advocates as possible intimidation. (C.B. Schmelter/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP, File)

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