Tag: Voting Rights

Dec 20

The Power of One

Many people don’t vote because they believe that their vote doesn’t matter. They are wrong and the Commonwealth of Virginia has proven that the power of one vote can change the entire political picture. In Virginia, a 11,608-to-11,607 Lesson in the Power of a Single Vote The Democratic wave that rose on Election Day in …

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Nov 28

The Best Case For The Recount

It would seem that the fact that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2 million votes and counting and the recount of votes in Wisconsin has gotten under the aging orange thin skin of the bad tempered liar-elect. Over the weekend after gorging himself on dishes named after himself at his resort in Florida, …

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Apr 04

SCOTUS: One Person, One Vote Upheld

The US Supreme Court handed a conservative challenge to one person, one vote principle a unanimous defeat. In Evenwel v Abbott the court ruled (pdf) that states could count the total population, not just eligible voters, in drawing legislative districts. The plaintiffs claimed that redrawing electoral districts based on the population of citizens and non-citizens …

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Oct 10

Voting Rights Laws in Two Red States on Hold

Late yesterday the Supreme Court and s federal judge put the brakes on voter ID laws in two states.

In Texas, US District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos ruled that the law passed in 2011 was tantamount to an “unconstitutional poll tax” and an unconstitutional burden on minority voters

“The court holds that SB 14 creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose,” Ramos wrote in a 147-page ruling. [..]

The trial stemmed from a battle over stringent voter ID measures signed into law by Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry in 2011. The measure, which supporters say will prevent voter fraud, requires voters to present a photo identification such as a driver’s license, passport or military ID card.

Plaintiffs argued the law would hit elderly and poorer voters, including ethnic minorities, hardest because they are less likely to have such identification.

They would therefore be more likely to be turned away on voting day, suppressing the turnout of groups who traditionally have supported Democrats, the plaintiffs charged.

Then last night the US Supteme Court granted the request of civil rights group preventing a new voter identification law in Wisconsin from going into effect. It overturned the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals that that had declared the law constitutional.

On Thursday night the U.S. Supreme Court issued a one-page order that vacated the appeals court ruling pending further proceedings. Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented, saying the application should have been denied because there was no indication that the 7th Circuit had demonstrably erred. [..]

Wisconsin’s photo ID law has been a political flashpoint since Republican legislators passed it in 2011. The GOP argues the mandate is a common sense step toward reducing election fraud. Democrats maintain no widespread fraud exists and that the law is really an attempt to keep Democratic constituents who may lack ID, such as the poor, minorities and the elderly, from voting.

The law was in effect for the February 2012 primary but subsequent legal challenges put it on hold and it hasn’t been in place for any election since.

The ACLU and allied groups persuaded a federal judge in Milwaukee to declare the law unconstitutional in April.

The ACLU has recruited an unlikely ambassador to aid in the fight to overturn and change these laws. At a photo shoot with ACLU’s Voting Rights Project Director Dale Ho, comedian and actor Lewis Black Says F#%! Voter Suppression. (Warning language in the video may not be suitable for the work place.)

Not on our watch.

Oct 16

Ohio Voters Win

The Obama/ Biden campaign sued the state of Ohio  over changes in Ohio law that took away the three days of voting for most people, but made exceptions for military personnel and Ohioans living overseas. The 9th Circuit Cout of Appeals ruled that Ohio must make early voting available (pdf) to all Ohio voters and Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State, John Husted, made an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court weighed in this afternoon declining to block early voting.

The Supreme Court is siding with Democrats in refusing to block early voting in the battleground state of Ohio.

The court on Tuesday refused a Republican request to get involved in a dispute over early voting in the state on the three days before Election Day.

This is not just a win for Democrats, it is a victory for democracy.

Oct 11

Supressing the Vote: Ohio

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

As in the past, Ohio is a key state in the electoral politics of the 2012 general election and the Republican Party is doing their level best to suppress voter turnout. On Friday, 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Ohio must make early voting (pdf) during the three days before the election available to all voters if it’s available to military members and voters who live overseas. The ruling upheld a lower court decision. On Tuesday Ohio Secretary of State John Husted announced that he would appeal the ruling to the US Supreme Court:

This is an unprecedented intrusion by the federal courts into how states run elections and because of its impact on all 50 states as to who and how elections will be run in America we are asking the Supreme Court to step in and allow Ohioans to run Ohio elections.

This ruling not only doesn’t make legal sense, it doesn’t make practical sense. The court is saying that all voters must be treated the same way under Ohio law, but also grants Ohio’s 88 elections boards the authority to establish 88 different sets of rules. That means that one county may close down voting for the final weekend while a neighboring county may remain open. How any court could consider this a remedy to an equal protection problem is stunning.

At FDL News Desk, David Dayen doesn’t think this will fly with the Supreme Court:

Remember that Husted’s original ruling for early voting would have allowed Republican districts to keep their voting hours open longer and for more days. And he sought to keep options for military voters open while closing them for, say, minorities in Cleveland. So his appeal to equal protection, in light of his previous decisions, is comical.

I doubt that the Supreme Court would choose to intervene here, though of course you never know. But that won’t stop Husted’s well-earned gold star as the hardest-working voter suppressor in America.

Who knows what this Supreme Court will do but here’s hoping that they let the lower court decision stand.

Oct 02

PA Voter ID Law Blocked for Now

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Pennsylvania Judge Robert Simpson, who had previously ruled that the state voter ID  law could go forward, has suspended the portion of the law that would required voters to have a state issued ID to vote on November 6. Voters can still be asked for ID but if don’t have it, they can still go ahead and vote:

Judge Simpson said in his Tuesday ruling that for the presidential election of Nov. 6, voters in Pennsylvania could be asked to produce the newly required photo IDs, but if they did not have them could still go ahead and vote. The decision could still be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

“While we’re happy that voters in Pennsylvania will not be turned away if they do not have an ID, we are concerned that the ruling will allow election workers to ask for ID at the polls and this could cause confusion,” said Penda D. Hair, co-director of Advancement Project, one of the groups that challenged the law. “This injunction serves as a mere Band-Aid for the law’s inherent problems, not an effective remedy.”

The ruling does not stop the law from being enforced in future elections and there are some serious concerns. Poll workers can still ask for ID and that creates confusion about provisional ballots, as David Dayen at FDL News points out:

Just think of the scenarios. A voter is asked for ID, and producing none, instructed to write a provisional ballot. Technically that ballot must be counted, but the voter might leave, suspecting their vote won’t count. Or they may not follow the provisional ballot instructions closely enough. Or poll worker error could easily lead to a voter being asked to leave without voting. [..]

So this all relies on poll workers knowing that the provisional ballot process is not in effect for voter ID, but that they have to ask for a voter ID anyway. I’m not necessarily confident in that approach, but it’s better than how it initially looked.

What Atrios said

I tried to read the ruling, but it’s written in gibberish. The smart lawyer people on the internet seem to agree that the judge has decreed that poll workers will ask for IDs, but if people don’t have them they should let them vote anyway. In other words, better than nothing but untrained poll workers are not going to have any idea what they’re supposed to do so this election in PA will be a complete mess.

Sep 22

They See Dead Voters

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

A North Carolina anti-election fraud group delivered a list of nearly 30,000 names to the state board of elections insisting that the names be removed from eligible voters list because, the group claims, these voters are dead. The facts are not all of these people are dead and the group, the Voter Integrity Project, had no evidence that any voted were cast by anyone using a dead person’s name.

The board began reviewing the list last Tuesday and determined that it had almost 20,000 of the names from a 10-year audit of data from the state Department of Health and Human Services, said Veronica Degraffenreid, the board’s director of voter registration and absentee voting.

More than one third of those 20,000 names were already listed as inactive, meaning they were on track for removal from the voting rolls, Degraffenreid said. Of the remaining names provided by the Voter Integrity Project, 4,946 had a match on first and last names and date of birth, Degraffenreid said, and county election boards will investigate to see if they should be removed.

She said that of all the records submitted by the organization, 196 showed voting activity after their date of death, though many of them died within days of the election and had submitted absentee ballots. [..]

Meanwhile, cases of fraud remain rare. In 2009, the board referred 29 cases of double voting to county district attorneys, according to a board report. Since 2000, the board has referred one case of voter impersonation, the report states.

Some voters were pretty upset when they received letters from their local board of elections informing them that they were no longer eligible to vote because they were dead.

Carolyn Perry remembers voting in her first election. It was 1967 in Ohio, a municipal election, and she was 21 years old.

“The people at the polls introduced me and said, ‘This is Carolyn and this is her first time to vote,'” recalled the retired special education teacher.

Perry, who has been registered to vote in North Carolina since at least 1975, according to election records, was dismayed to receive a letter this month from the Wake County Board of Elections suggesting she may no longer be qualified to vote because she might be dead.

“My initial reaction? I was mad as hell,” Perry said Monday morning. [..]

“I’ve had some people call who have been enraged,” said Gary Sims, deputy director of the Wake County Board of Elections. Others, he says, have laughed off the errant letters. That range of reactions has been seen in other states where either official actions or similar nonprofit-driven efforts have sought to purge dead voters. [..]

Gary Bartlett, director of the State Board of Elections, said state officials discovered that the Department of Health and Human Services wasn’t reporting some deaths that occurred out of state to elections officials. Those voters are now being investigated, he said.

But Bartlett adds that neither the state nor any of the county boards have yet discovered someone who voted when they should not have as a result of the Voter Integrity Project’s submission. Bartlett says he doesn’t rule out the possibility it could happen, but he points out that election officials have access to Social Security numbers, birthdays and drivers license numbers that citizen groups cannot legally get. All of those pieces of information have been used to differentiate between those who are really dead and those who are expected to show up at the polls this November, he said.

Sep 21

Fighting for the Right to Vote

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Voting rights have come under attack in the last few years based mostly on the false premise of voter fraud. Civil liberties and private citizen groups have been fighting back with some help from the Federal Government in states that are governed by the 1965 Voting Rights Act that ended “Jim Crow” laws. Recent federal court rulings threw out the voter ID laws in Texas, South Carolina and the District of Columbia.

In Pennsylvania this week, the State Supreme Court handed down a 4 – 2 ruling that returned that state’s controversial voter ID law (pdf) back to the Commonwealth Court for review with these instructions:

Thus, we will return the matter to the Commonwealth Court to make a present assessment of the actual availability of the alternate identification cards on a developed record in light of the experience since the time the cards became available. In this regard, the court is to consider whether the procedures being used for deployment of the cards comport with the requirement of liberal access which the General Assembly attached to the issuance of PennDOT identification cards. If they do not, or if the Commonwealth Court is not still convinced in its predictive judgment that there will be no voter disenfranchisement arising out of the Commonwealth’s implementation of a voter identification requirement for purposes of the upcoming election, that court is obliged to enter a preliminary injunction.

In other words, the state must show that they can get a valid ID in the hands of any eligible voter who wants one between now and the election. If they can’t and , the court believes that voters will be disenfranchised, then the court must issue an injunction enjoining the law.

After all this country went through in the 1960’s to ensure the voting rights of minorities, it seems surreal that we are having a similar battle to protect not only those same minorities but the elderly, the poor, and students.

Sep 01

The American Taliban

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

HBO’s series The Newsroom debuted ten weeks ago. Written by Alan Sorkin it is a fictional behind the scenes look at a cable news network, Atlantis Cable News (ACN), its star, Will McAvoy, the Republican anchor for its premier news program, News Night and his staff. Each episode has focused around a major event in the recent past, such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the killing of Osama Bin Laden. In the last episode of the season, the News Room took on the issue of voter ID laws and the non-issue of voter fraud.

Sometimes it takes a fictional character to poke the hive.

The American Taliban cannot survive if Dorothy Cooper is allowed to vote

Ouch

Jun 03

Are You Too Dumb To Vote?

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg thinks some people are too dumb to vote:

   Personally, I think the voting age should be much higher, not lower.  I think it was a mistake to lower it to 18, to be brutally honest.

   (…)

   It is a simple fact of science, that nothing correlates more with ignorance and stupidity than youth.

In some cases he may be right except that he wouldn’t agree. 46% of Americans believe the creationist view of human existence:

The prevalence of this creationist view of the origin of humans is essentially unchanged from 30 years ago, when Gallup first asked the question. About a third of Americans believe that humans evolved, but with God’s guidance; 15% say humans evolved, but that God had no part in the process.

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Click On image to enlarge

Hmmm, why would that be? Could it be a failure of our schools? Scarecrow at FDL says:

assume these numbers reflect the effects of private religious schooling and the growing trend of devising various schemes to use public dollars to subsidize private/religious schools, as reported in the New York Times.

Every time I hear Arne Duncan go on about NCLB or his Race to the Top and how we ought to be promoting clever ways to give parents more choices outside the public school system in how they teach their children, so as to improve their children’s math and engineering scores, I have to wonder why he just doesn’t make moving the numbers on this chart in a more enlightened direction as a measure of what “success means.” That chart shouts “failure” when I look at.

Or could it be more that our country’s “youths”, as Chris Mooney points out in his new book The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science and Realityyou’re too misinformed to vote if you get your news from Fox News:

In June of last year, Jon Stewart went on air with Fox News’ Chris Wallace and started a major media controversy over the channel’s misinforming of its viewers. “Who are the most consistently misinformed media viewers?” Stewart asked Wallace. “The most consistently misinformed? Fox, Fox viewers, consistently, every poll.”

Stewart’s statement was factually accurate, as we’ll see. The next day, however, the fact-checking site PolitiFact [weighed in http://www.politifact.com/trut… and rated it “false.” In claiming to check Stewart’s “facts,” PolitiFact ironically committed a serious error and later, doubly ironically, failed to correct it. How’s that for the power of fact checking?

There probably is a small group of media consumers out there somewhere in the world who are more misinformed, overall, than Fox News viewers. But if you only consider mainstream U.S. television news outlets with major audiences (e.g., numbering in the millions), it really is true that Fox viewers are the most misled based on all the available evidence-especially in areas of political controversy. This will come as little surprise to liberals, perhaps, but the evidence for it-evidence in Stewart’s favor-is pretty overwhelming.

I am fairly certain Jonah wasn’t pointing his pudgy conservative finger at the religious right or Fox News but if the shoe fits

Oct 10

GOP War On Voting

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Back in August, columnist Ari Berman wrote an article in Rolling Stone about the GOP war minorities, elderly, students and  the poor who traditionally vote Democratic, by passing state laws that make it increasing difficult, not just register to vote but to actually suppress voting:

As the nation gears up for the 2012 presidential election, Republican officials have launched an unprecedented, centrally coordinated campaign to suppress the elements of the Democratic vote that elected Barack Obama in 2008. Just as Dixiecrats once used poll taxes and literacy tests to bar black Southerners from voting, a new crop of GOP governors and state legislators has passed a series of seemingly disconnected measures that could prevent millions of students, minorities, immigrants, ex-convicts and the elderly from casting ballots. “What has happened this year is the most significant setback to voting rights in this country in a century,” says Judith Browne-Dianis, who monitors barriers to voting as co-director of the Advancement Project, a civil rights organization based in Washington, D.C.

On Sunday the Brennan Center for Justice released it’s study that these new laws will disenfranchise at least 5 million votes in 2012.

These new restrictions fall most heavily on young, minority, and low-income voters, as well as on voters with disabilities. This wave of changes may sharply tilt the political terrain for the 2012 election. Based on the Brennan Center’s analysis of the 19 laws and two executive actions that passed in 14 states, it is clear that:

   These new laws could make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.

   The states that have already cut back on voting rights will provide 171 electoral votes in 2012 – 63 percent of the 270 needed to win the presidency.

   Of the 12 likely battleground states, as assessed by an August Los Angeles Times analysis of Gallup polling, five have already cut back on voting rights (and may pass additional restrictive legislation), and two more are currently considering new restrictions.

States have changed their laws so rapidly that no single analysis has assessed the overall impact of such moves. Although it is too early to quantify how the changes will impact voter turnout, they will be a hindrance to many voters at a time when the United States continues to turn out less than two thirds of its eligible citizens in presidential elections and less than half in midterm elections.

This study is the first comprehensive roundup of all state legislative action thus far in 2011 on voting rights, focusing on new laws as well as state legislation that has not yet passed or that failed. This snapshot may soon be incomplete: the second halves of some state legislative sessions have begun.

So far, 34 states have passed such laws.

Mr. Berman sat down for a discussion on Democracy Now with Amy Goodman and ProPublica reporter Lois Beckett who co-wrote, “The Hidden Hands in Redistricting: Corporations and Other Powerful Interests,” about how money is helping re-shape Congressional districts along partisan lines, a practice known as gerrymandering.:

Question: Where is the Obama Justice Department that should be challenging these laws as they relate to the 14th Amendment and the voting rights act?

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