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Norbert Schlei, 73; Principal Author of Civil Rights Act, Other Landmark Laws

LA TIMES

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39 comments for “Norbert Schlei, 73; Principal Author of Civil Rights Act, Other Landmark Laws”

  1. RIP Voting Rights Act:

    TPM Editor’s Blog
    Open Season On Non-White Voting

    Josh Marshall June 25, 2013, 11:44 AM

    I still remain generally hopeful, over the medium term, certainly the long term that the changing nature of the electorate will prove too strong to be bridled by Republican voter suppression efforts which will undoubtedly redouble in response to this wildly activist ruling by the Supreme Court. In the short term, it’s not so clear, though, particularly with regards to 2014. Indeed, the 2012 election and this decision fit together like two pieces of a puzzle.

    Republican state governments pushed through numerous laws to thin the electorate and particularly to reduce minority voting. It wasn’t totally successful because of a mix of energized minority voters who turned out in droves in response to these attacks and also because a small band of civil rights and voting rights attorneys who fought the laws across the country, making ample use of the Voting Rights Act.

    Coming out of the 2012 defeat, the GOP made brief noises about reforming the party to increase its appeal to non-whites. But as we’ve seen over the past six months, the will to do that has diminished rapidly. And the House GOP now appears poised to solidify and confirm its status as the party of white people by preventing a vote on and thus killing immigration reform.

    This decision means it’s back to open season on minority voting. And as the Republican party signals a strategic aim of doubling down on maximizing the white vote (see the debate on immigration reform), the imperative to reduce the minority vote as much as possible only grows greater.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 25, 2013, 8:48 am
  2. Well that didn’t take long.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 25, 2013, 1:18 pm
  3. The new meme: ‘The court recognized that our states no longer pass racist electoral laws. Now check out all these new racist electoral laws. And it’s totally legal! Woooohooo!‘:

    Republicans Across The South Promise Quick Action After SCOTUS Ruling
    BILL BARROW June 26, 2013, 7:01 AM

    ATLANTA (AP) — Across the South, Republicans are working to take advantage of a new political landscape after a divided U.S. Supreme Court freed all or part of 15 states, many of them in the old Confederacy, from having to ask Washington’s permission before changing election procedures in jurisdictions with histories of discrimination.

    After the high court announced its momentous ruling Tuesday, officials in Texas and Mississippi pledged to immediately implement laws requiring voters to show photo identification before getting a ballot. North Carolina Republicans promised they would quickly try to adopt a similar law. Florida now appears free to set its early voting hours however Gov. Rick Scott and the GOP Legislature please. And Georgia’s most populous county likely will use county commission districts that Republican state legislators drew over the objections of local Democrats.

    Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the 5-4 opinion that struck down as outdated a key provision of the landmark 1965 law credited with ensuring ballot access to millions of black Americans, American Indians and other minorities. Roberts’ opinion gives Congress an opportunity to retool the law’s so-called preclearance sections that give the U.S. Justice Department veto power over local elections. But the prospects of a quick fix seem uncertain, at best, given stark ideological divides on Capitol Hill on a host of matters.

    Southern Republicans largely hailed Roberts’ opinion as recognition of racial progress since President Lyndon Johnson signed the law at the apex of the civil rights movement.

    “Over the last half-century, Georgia has reformed, and our state is a proud symbol of progress,” Gov. Nathan Deal said. “Today’s decision guarantees that Georgia will be treated like every other state — a right we have earned.” In neighboring Alabama, where the case originated, Gov. Robert Bentley said, “We have long lived up to what happened” in the Jim Crow era, “and we have made sure it’s not going to happen again.”

    Democrats and civil rights attorneys lambasted the ruling as a setback for the very advancement Republicans highlighted, and the dissenters predicted a proliferation of laws designed to curtail minority participation in elections.

    Rep. John Lewis, an Atlanta Democrat and civil rights activist who was beaten as he advocated for voting rights in the 1960s, called the ruling a “dagger.”

    President Barack Obama said he was “deeply disappointed” in the court overturning “well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair.”

    At Obama’s Justice Department, officials opted for caution. They said the agency, which enforces federal voting laws, has in hand 276 submissions from state and local governments seeking preclearance. The department will issue guidance on those pending laws and procedures in the next few days, they said.

    For five decades, the law required that certain states and localities with a history of discrimination submit all of their election laws — from new congressional district maps to the precinct locations and voting hours — to Justice Department lawyers for approval. Congress reauthorized the law multiple times, the latest in 2006 with overwhelming bipartisanship capped by a 98-0 Senate vote.

    Election officials in Alabama’s Shelby County, a suburban enclave nestled between civil rights hot spots Birmingham and Selma, brought suit asking the courts to invalidate Sections 4 and 5, which set preclearance parameters.

    The Roberts majority, which included conservatives Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, sidestepped whether the advance approval requirement is constitutional, ostensibly leaving Section 5 on the books. But the justices, all appointed by Republican presidents, threw out the Section 4 formula that determined what jurisdictions must have the advance federal oversight. Roberts reasoned that the original formula — extended through reauthorizations — is obsolete because Congress based it on 1960s voter registration and turnout data. The chief justice emphasized, however, that Congress can rewrite the formula to reflect “current conditions,” though he didn’t offer recommendations or acknowledge the inherent political challenges involved.

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented on behalf of the court’s liberal bloc, all of them Democratic appointees. Ginsburg argued that continued discrimination, which Roberts himself noted in the majority opinion, demands continued federal oversight.

    Critics of the majority also chided court conservatives for striking down congressional action, given that the 14th and 15th amendments authorize Congress to enact laws enforcing the amendments’ protections against discrimination.

    Before the ruling, the formula required reviews for all of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia; and parts of California, Florida, Michigan, New York, North Carolina and South Dakota.

    Justice Department attorneys have used Section 5 in multiple cases to block voter identification laws, saying they discriminate against minority and poor voters who are less likely to have the required government-issued documents. Over the law’s existence, many Southern states have ended up watching courts drawing legislative and congressional district lines after federal authorities used Section 5 to invalidate what state lawmakers did.

    South Carolina has successfully implemented a voter identification law, but only after revising its preferred policy after Gov. Nikki Haley and other Republicans negotiated with the Obama administration. Under the court’s ruling, no negotiations would’ve been necessary.

    Within hours of Tuesday’s decision, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott declared on Twitter, “(U.S. Attorney General) Eric Holder can no longer deny VoterID in Texas.” The Texas Department of Public Safety announced later in the day that on Thursday it would begin distributing photo IDs under a 2011 law that Holder’s lawyers had blocked under Section 5.

    In Mississippi, the secretary of state said her office would begin enforcing a pending voter ID law for primaries in June 2014. North Carolina Republicans said they plan swift action on a pending voter ID bill.

    Laughlin McDonald, who heads the American Civil Liberties Union’s voting rights office, said he agrees that pending submissions to the Justice Department are now moot. It’s less clear what happens to scores of laws that the feds have already denied since the 2006 reauthorization. McDonald said he believes a state or other covered jurisdiction would have a strong case to argue that it could implement any affected law it has passed since the reauthorization.

    That could be an issue in some disputes over at-large voting districts. The Justice Department denied some proposals where the population of an entire county or city would elect all representatives of a governing body, potentially diluting the influence of a minority that would otherwise be able to influence outcomes within single districts.

    Future redistricing fights are going to be really interesting.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 26, 2013, 7:32 am
  4. And the zombie shambles on…

    Nikki Haley Takes Heat After Report Blows Up ‘Bogus’ Voter Fraud Claims In South Carolina

    The Huffington Post | By Nick Wing Posted: 07/09/2013 9:44 am EDT | Updated: 07/09/2013 4:34 pm EDT

    For years, South Carolina Republicans have complained about the names of dead voters being used to cast ballots in a broad voter fraud scheme. Now that a recent report by the State Law Enforcement Division has blown up those claims, unable to find a single example of a “zombie voter” committing fraud, one Democrat is demanding that Gov. Nikki Haley (R) apologize for her party’s “bogus” crusade.

    For months, state Republicans highlighted a report from DMV director and Haley appointee Kevin Shwedo that claimed a review of state records had determined around 950 dead people might have voted in the 2010 election. While Shwedo admitted that reporting errors could have led to the discrepancy, the GOP suggested that the identities had been assumed to commit voter fraud, a possibility that was used to bolster controversial voter ID legislation in the state.

    After SLED’s report, it turns out that non-malicious errors were ultimately to blame for the DMV numbers. In a statement released in response to Rutherford’s attack, however, Haley spokesperson Rob Godfrey said that voter ID was still important, despite the failure of Republican voter fraud complaints to pan out.

    “No matter what kind of distractions, rhetoric, or lawsuits have come from opponents of voter ID, the truth is it has always been about one thing and one thing only — securing the electoral process,” he said, according to WIS-TV. “It’s a shame to see Democrats like Todd Rutherford continue to oppose simple measures like showing a picture ID to vote, measures that make sure those who are eligible to vote do vote, and those who aren’t don’t.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 16, 2013, 1:49 pm
  5. The hits keep coming:

    Charlotte Observer
    Senate Republicans unveil stricter NC voter ID bill

    By John Frank
    jfrank@newsobserver.com
    Posted: Thursday, Jul. 18, 2013

    RALEIGH Resurrecting one of the legislative session’s most contentious issues, Senate Republicans unveiled a new voter ID bill Thursday that would further restrict the forms of photo identification accepted at the polls.

    The new measure would require voters to show one of seven types of photo identification issued by the government, such as driver’s licenses, passports, non-driver IDs and military or veteran cards.

    It eliminates about half the types of photo identification allowed under the House version, including cards from UNC system colleges, state community colleges, local governments, private employers and law enforcement agencies. The bill would take full effect in the 2016 elections.

    “We want a state-issued ID or a federal-issued ID,” said Sen. Tom Apodaca, the bill’s chief supporter, expressing concern that college IDs “could be manipulated” and allow out-of-state students to vote in two states.

    “We want it succinct, and we are willing to pay for it,” he added, noting that the bill would provide free photo IDs to people without them.

    The major rewrite came two months after the House approved its voter ID bill and a week before the session’s scheduled end. The disagreement is the latest example of the legislature’s majority party ending up divided over how to deliver on a major campaign promise.

    The prohibition on college IDs will draw the most attention – particularly given President Barack Obama’s reliance on the youth vote to win North Carolina in 2008. The large number of college students in the Triangle area helped push him to victory and kept the margin of defeat close in 2012.

    Emmie Horadam, a rising senior at Queens University and a Democrat, helped register Charlotte-area students to vote in the last election. On college campuses, she said, many students are more likely to carry their school ID instead of a driver’s license. “That’s what we all carry,” she said. “It’s just a lot easier.”

    Neither the House version nor Senate version would allow private school college IDs, but Horadam said that should change. “It’s just one thing Republicans are trying to push through to discourage college students from voting,” she said.State Rep. David Lewis, who sponsored the House bill, said the provision allowing college IDs at the polls is “important and should remain in the ultimate bill.”

    Republican lawmakers are emboldened in their effort to push a photo identification requirement for in-person voting after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The ruling means the bill would no longer need Justice Department approval before it becomes law.

    Other changes in the Senate bill would cut some measures designed to educate voters about the changes. It eliminated a House provision to create a new advisory board tasked with educating the public, instead shifting that responsibility to the State Board of Elections.

    The new bill also seeks to add assistance to help voters in nursing homes and emphasizes warnings that filing a false ballot is fraudulent.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 19, 2013, 12:38 pm
  6. If at first you don’t succeed, try and fail again:

    Sunday, 08.04.13
    The Miami Herald
    Governor to launch new purge of Florida voter rolls

    BY STEVE BOUSQUET and MICHAEL VAN SICKLER

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott will soon launch a new hunt for noncitizens on Florida’s voter roll, a move that’s sure to provoke new cries of a voter “purge” as Scott ramps up his own re-election effort.

    Similar searches a year ago were rife with errors, found few ineligible voters and led to lawsuits by advocacy groups that said it disproportionately targeted Hispanics, Haitians and other minority groups. Those searches were handled clumsily and angered county election supervisors, who lost confidence in the state’s list of names.

    “It was sloppy, it was slapdash and it was inaccurate,” said Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards. “They were sending us names of people to remove because they were born in Puerto Rico. It was disgusting.”

    The state’s list of suspected non-U.S. citizens shrank from 182,000 to 2,600 to 198 before election supervisors suspended their searches as the presidential election drew near.

    “That was embarrassing,” said elections chief Jerry Holland in Jacksonville’s Duval County. “It has to be a better scrub of names than we had before.”

    Election supervisors remain wary of a new removal effort, which the U.S. Supreme Court effectively authorized in June when it struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act. That ruling nullified a federal lawsuit in Tampa that sought to stop new searches for noncitizen voters, and Scott quickly renewed his call for action.

    “If there’s anybody that we think isn’t voting properly, from the standpoint that they didn’t have a right to vote, I think we need to do an investigation,” Scott said the day of the high court decision. Last fall, Scott joined the Republican Party in a fundraising appeal that accused Democrats of defending the right of noncitizens to vote.

    Scott’s top elections official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, is now creating a new list of suspected noncitizen voters by cross-checking state voter data with a federal database managed by the Department of Homeland Security.

    Detzner’s director of elections, Maria Matthews, sent a letter to election supervisors Friday, promising “responsible measures that ensure due process and the integrity of Florida’s voter rolls” and vowing to include supervisors “in the planning and decision-making.”

    Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, chairman of the Florida Hispanic Legislative Caucus, said Detzner told him the state would resume its purge of potential noncitizens within 60 days.

    “I’ve been told that they will go slow,” Garcia said. “I’m completely confident that the process will work.”

    Hillsborough County halted its purge last year after several voters on a list of 72 flagged by the state proved their citizenship.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 5, 2013, 6:29 pm
  7. Rand Paul just asserted that there’s no “objective evidence” that there’s any systematic effort to disenfranchise black voters. Rand’s counter-evidence is the fact that blacks actually voted in a higher percentage in the 2012 election than whites. Hmmmmm….

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 15, 2013, 11:36 am
  8. It’s not voter suppression. It’s non-voter defense against pro-voting harassment:

    The Maddow Blog
    How not to defend voter suppression in North Carolina
    By Steve Benen

    Mon Aug 26, 2013 10:10 AM EDT

    Two weeks after North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) approved the most sweeping voter-suppression law seen in the United States in a generation, the political world is taking note of the disaster in growing numbers. Last week, former Secretary of State Colin Powell condemned the state’s new voting restrictions, and yesterday, pundit Cokie Roberts said, “[W]hat’s going on about voting rights is downright evil.”

    But don’t worry, the Eagle Forum’s Phyllis Schlafly, a prominent leader of the religious right movement for decades, has a new defense. In a WorldNetDaily column, the right-wing activist offered an unexpected explanation of why some of North Carolina’s new restrictions are worthwhile.

    The reduction in the number of days allowed for early voting is particularly important because early voting plays a major role in Obama’s ground game. The Democrats carried most states that allow many days of early voting, and Obama’s national field director admitted, shortly before last year’s election, that “early voting is giving us a solid lead in the battleground states that will decide this election.”

    The Obama technocrats have developed an efficient system of identifying prospective Obama voters and then nagging them (some might say harassing them) until they actually vote. It may take several days to accomplish this, so early voting is an essential component of the Democrats’ get-out-the-vote campaign.

    Have you ever heard a political figure accidentally read stage direction, unaware that it’s not supposed to be repeated out loud? This is what Schlafly’s published column reminds me of.

    For North Carolina Republicans, the state’s new voter-suppression measures are ostensibly legitimate — GOP officials are simply worried about non-existent fraud. The response from Democrats and voting-rights advocates is multi-faceted, but emphasizes that some of these measures, including restrictions on early voting, have nothing whatsoever to do with fraud prevention and everything to do with a partisan agenda.

    And then there’s Phyllis Schlafly, writing a piece for publication effectively saying Democrats are entirely right — North Carolina had to dramatically cut early voting because it’s not good for Republicans.

    Remember, Schlafly’s piece wasn’t intended as criticism; this is her defense of voter suppression in North Carolina. Proponents of voting rights are arguing, “This is a blatantly partisan scheme intended to rig elections,” to which Schlafly is effectively responding, “I know, isn’t it great?”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 29, 2013, 12:44 pm
  9. You mean all these new voter id laws were being advocated by people with ulterior motives? No way!

    TPM Muckraker
    Researchers Find Factors Tied To Voting Restriction Bills Are ‘Basically All Racial’
    Eric Lach – December 20, 2013, 4:02 PM EST

    The debate over voting rights has gone to college.

    Two University of Massachusetts Boston academics — Keith G. Bentele, an assistant professor of Sociology, and Erin O’Brien, an associate professor of Political Science — recently published a paper looking at the proposal and passage of restrictive voter access legislation from 2006 to 2011. In the paper, titled “Jim Crow 2.0? Why States Consider and Adopt Restrictive Voter Access Policies,” the authors conclude that restrictive voter measures are connected to both partisan and racial factors.

    “We looked at proposed and passage over this period, and we looked at just 2011 specifically,” Bentele told TPM in an interview this week. “And you have this consistent emergence — over and over and over — these partisan and racial factors are the most strongly associated with these outcomes.”

    The paper focused on a range of restrictive voter access legislation. That means not just voter ID bills, but also the regulation of groups who register voters, the shortening of early voting periods, and other issues. And these efforts were not limited geographically. Restrictive voter access legislation was proposed in nearly every state in the country during the six-year period looked at, and at least one restrictive change passed in half the states.

    According to Bentele, the most striking findings came when analyzing only the proposed restrictive access legislation. There were a “handful” of factors associated with the proposal of more bills in recent years, Bentele said, and “they’re basically all racial.” States that saw higher minority turnout in the previous presidential election, and states that had more African American and non-citizen residents, saw more bills proposed.

    What about the great Republican specter of voter fraud?

    “If you want to be extraordinarily generous, you could say allegations of voter fraud may have been a very, very small contributing factor,” Bentele said, speaking more generally about voter restriction efforts. “But in general, these partisan and racial effects seem to be really, really strongly associated with this outcome.”

    In related news…

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 21, 2013, 2:41 pm
  10. With violence-prone anarchists, Revolutionary Communists, and the Ku Klux Klan descending on Ferguson, MO, here’s a nice story about a very different approach to starting the healing process: empowerment via voting:

    Think Progress
    This Is The Most Important Reform Ferguson Can Enact To Give Its Black Residents A Voice

    by Ian Millhiser Posted on August 18, 2014 at 9:00 am

    If you compared the racial makeup of Ferguson, Missouri’s population as a whole to that of its government, it would be easy to mistake the city for an enclave of Jim Crow. Although nearly 70 percent of Ferguson is black, 50 of its 53 police officers are white. So are five of Ferguson’s six city council members. The mayor, James Knowles, is a white Republican.

    Ferguson can help ensure that its leaders more closely resemble its population, however. They just need to hold their elections at a time when voters are actually likely to show up.

    To explain, a major contributor to the disparity between Ferguson’s population demographics and that of its leaders is Ferguson’s unusual elections calendar. Under the Ferguson City Charter, “[t]he regular city election shall be held annually on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in April,,” and these elections are held in odd-numbered years. Thus, Ferguson chooses its leadership at a time when there is no state or national-level general election, and it is unlikely that there are even any major primary candidates on the balloto. Missouri, like the federal government, holds its gubernatorial and state legislative elections in even-numbered years.

    The fact that Ferguson’s elections are held at a time when few, if any, high-profile candidates are on the ballot contributes to an almost comically low voter turnout rate in these elections. In 2013, for example, just 11.7 percent of eligible voters actually cast a ballot.

    Turnout is especially low among Ferguson’s African American residents, however. In 2013, for example, just 6 percent of eligible black voters cast a ballot in Ferguson’s municipal elections, as compared to 17 percent of white voters.

    As Zachary Roth explains, there are a number of reasons for this disparity. Ferguson’s white population tends to be older than its black population, and older voters tend to turnout at higher rates than younger voters. Similarly, Ferguson’s black residents are less likely to have longstanding roots in the community, and are more likely to rent than to own their homes. Both home ownership and longstanding residence correlate with higher voter turnout.

    Diminished turnout, however, appears to be a much greater problem in Ferguson’s municipal elections than it is in presidential elections. Though Ferguson’s whites turned-out at nearly three times the rate of African Americans in 2013, black turnout during the 2012 presidential election was almost equal to that of white turnout. Fifty-four percent of Ferguson’s African American voters turned out in November of 2012, as opposed to 55 percent of whites. Admittedly, 2012 may have been an unusually high year for African American turnout in Ferguson, given President Obama’s presence on the ballot, but even if black turnout typically fell 20 points behind white turnout in a presidential year, that would still be better than the 3 to 1 disparity during the April municipal elections.

    So the solution to the fact that Ferguson’s black majority is nearly unrepresented in its government could be as simple as rescheduling its municipal elections so that they are held in November of even-numbered years — the same time that federal elections are held. Ferguson’s City Charter can be amended through a ballot measure initiated by the city’s voters. Under that Charter, “[a]mendments may also be proposed by the council or by initiative petition of not less than ten percent of the registered qualified voters of the city, filed with the clerk, setting forth the proposed amendment.” Once a proposed amendment is submitted along with the required signatures, “[t]he council shall at once provide by ordinance that any amendment so proposed shall be submitted to the voters at the next election held in the city not less than sixty days after its passage, or at a special election held as provided by the constitution and law of the state for a charter.”

    If the residents of Ferguson wish to amend their charter to give the city’s African American majority a greater voice in government, they could start collecting signatures now at a time when the town’s black residents are particularly aware of the shortcomings of their local government. Absent a special election, that would allow Ferguson’s residents to vote on the amendment next April, at a time when black turnout is likely to be higher than it usually is due to lingering concerns over the Brown shooting. And, should the amendment pass, the next municipal election would then be held in November of 2016, during a presidential election when far more of Ferguson’s residents are likely to turn out then in the off-year April elections of the past.

    Well, it may not solve all of the problems plaguing Ferguson but it’s a start! And maybe there could even be some voter registration drives while they’re collecting signatures for a rescheduled election day. Who could argue with that?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 19, 2014, 1:37 pm
  11. Good news!

    Think Progress
    This May Be The Strongest Voting Rights Decision Since The Justices Hobbled The Voting Rights Act

    by Ian Millhiser Posted on September 4, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    Ohio’s attempt to reduce the number of days voters may cast an early ballot is unconstitutional and violates the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act (VRA), according to a decision handed down Thursday by a federal court in that state. Though the decision has a difficult road to travel before Ohio voters can be certain that it will stand — it will appeal to the Sixth Circuit, which has a conservative majority, and ultimately to the same Supreme Court that struck down a key provision of the VRAJudge Peter Economus’ decision may be the strongest voting rights decision handed down since the justices’ attack on the VRA. Or, at least, it may be the strongest decision in the sense that it calls for a very strong shield to be erected around the right to vote. If his reasoning is ultimately upheld by a higher court, that would be a serious blow to efforts by many state lawmakers to enact laws restricting the franchise.

    Much of Judge Economus’ opinion is devoted to explaining how limits on early voting disproportionately impact African-American voters. Many black churches, for example, conduct “Souls to the Polls” events that encourage churchgoers to vote after attending Sunday services — as an Ohio NAACP leader explained, “Sunday was a focal point also because many churches already provide transportation to take people to church, and carpools are also arranged so that everyone is together” — yet the new restrictions on early voting limit these churchgoers’ opportunities to vote on Sunday. Additionally, the new early voting schedule eliminates “Golden Week,” a period when voters can register and vote on the same day. The same NAACP leader testified that African-Americans are especially likely to take advantage of this period because “people in the African-American community in [his community] move frequently, especially since the 2008 recession.”

    Empirical data also demonstrates that black voters are more likely to take advantage of early voting. Indeed, according to University of Florida Research Professor Daniel Smith, an expert witness who testified in this case, the rate of early voting in areas that are entirely African-American is more than twice the rate in areas that are entirely white. Additionally, Smith explained that “there is strong empirical evidence in Ohio that a greater proportion of blacks not only cast [early] ballots than whites but do so on early voting days that have been eliminated by” the new voting schedule.

    This data matters because, under one of the provisions of the Voting Rights Act that was not struck down by the Roberts Court, “[n]o voting qualification or prerequisite to voting or standard, practice, or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any State or political subdivision in a manner which results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.” Moreover, as a precedent cited by Judge Economus explains, this provision of the VRA “does not require proof of discriminatory intent. Instead, a plaintiff need show only that the challenged action or requirement has a discriminatory effect on members of a protected group[.]”

    Yet, while this is the strongest argument presented by Economus’ opinion, that doesn’t mean that it will be upheld on appeal. For one thing, as Sean Trende, a political analyst for the news site Real Clear Politics explained in expert testimony on behalf of the state, “’Ohio maintains one of the most expansive systems of early voting in the country,’ with an early-voting period twice the national median.” Though reducing the number of early voting days in Ohio reduces the opportunities for African-Americans to vote from its previous baseline, it is far from guaranteed that a Supreme Court which has been hostile to the Voting Rights Act in the recent past will hold that Ohio is required to maintain its prior baseline.

    Indeed, just last month a George W. Bush-appointed judge in North Carolina refused to suspend cuts to early voting in that state, arguing that it was “speculative” to assume that black voters will not shift their voting patterns to other days when voting is allowed. This argument could resonate with a conservative Supreme Court.

    Nevertheless, it this decision stands it will be a very important victory for voting rights. Among other things, as Attorney General Eric Holder noted in a press conference Thursday afternoon, Economus’ decision uses some of the “same legal reasoning that underlies the Department’s pending challenges to voting measures” to states like Texas and North Carolina, where lawmakers and state officials are aggressively taking advantage of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down much of the VRA.

    Good news indeed! Well, hopefully the ruling will end up being good news. We still have to wait and see how it progresses through the courts. But as the article below highlights, if this ruling doesn’t end up being good news, it’s basically back to the bad news:

    TPM Livewire
    Voting Complaint: I Prefer ‘Educated Voters’

    By Daniel Strauss
    Published September 9, 2014, 5:56 PM EDT

    The Georgia state senator who ranted about excessive black voting and vowed to fight a move to expand early voting in DeKalb County defended his remarks on Facebook, saying that he would rather have more educated voters than an increase in the total number of voters.

    The Republican state senator, Fran Millar (pictured), wrote that in a comment responding to others on his post where he vowed to end Sunday balloting in DeKalb County because that area is “dominated by African American shippers” and has “large African American mega churches.”

    “I do agree with Galloway and I never claimed to be nonpartisan,” Millar wrote. “I would prefer more educated voters than a greater increase in the number of voters. If you don’t believe this is an efort [sic] to maximize Democratic votes pure and simple, then you are not a realist. This is a partisan stunt and I hope it can be stopped. Furthermore I don’t control where people are allowed to vote but am glad Brookhaven has been added for the last week.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 9, 2014, 2:54 pm
  12. Following a federal appeals court ruling last week that blocked an attempt by the Ohio secretary of state to remove the first week of early voting (the “Golden Week” when new voters can register and vote on the same day), Ohio’s secretary of states and Attorney General asked the US Supreme Court to reverse the ruling and reimpose the cuts that are clearly targeting minority voters. Their argument? “States’ Rights!”:

    MSNBC
    Husted wants Supreme Court to back Ohio’s early voting cuts
    09/26/14 11:17 AM—Updated 09/26/14 01:39 PM
    By Zachary Roth

    Jon Husted, Ohio’s Republican secretary of state, is going to the mat to impose cuts to early voting, and he’s asking the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on his behalf. His office is framing its fight for the cuts – which already been found to discriminate against blacks and Hispanics – as a matter of “protecting states’ rights.”

    Late Thursday, Husted and Attorney General Mike DeWine filed documents asking the nation’s highest court for an emergency stay to reverse a ruling by a federal appeals court panel on Wednesday. The decision earlier in the week upheld an injunction blocking the cuts from taking effect during this fall’s elections. Earlier on Thursday, Husted and DeWine filed a separate appeal for a rehearing of the case by the full appeals court.

    The cuts are being challenged by a coalition of civil and voting rights groups led by the ACLU. A full trial on the cuts is scheduled for next year.

    In an email to reporters announcing the Supreme Court brief, Matthew McClellan, a spokesman for Husted, portrayed the controversy as a battle over state sovereignty. “There are bigger issues at play that whether Ohioans vote over 35 or 28 days,” McClellan wrote. “[T]his is another step in protecting state’s rights.”

    The brief itself makes that states’ rights argument, among others. “The Court has also noted that our constitutional structure requires Congress to include a clear statement if it intends to take away traditional state powers,” lawyers for Ohio wrote. “State law, of course, has long governed elections.”

    In February, Ohio’s Republican-controlled legislature cut the early voting period from 35 to 28 days, citing the need for uniformity across the state. The period that was cut was known as “Golden Week,” when Ohioans can register and vote on the same day. Same-day registration is among the most effective ways to bring new voters into the process, experts say. Days later, Husted issued a directive that ended Sunday voting and weekday voting past 5 p.m. Many African-American churches have in past years conducted “Souls to the Polls” drives on Sundays after services.

    The cuts were originally blocked earlier this month by U.S. District Court Judge Peter Economus, who ruled that they violated the Voting Rights Act’s ban on racial discrimination, in part because minorities are more likely to take advantage of early voting and same-day registration.

    Economus had earlier ordered Husted to restore early voting on the last three days before the election, after the secretary of state had tried to cut those days as well. The judge had also blocked Husted’s efforts to cut those days in the leadup to the 2012 election. Husted appealed to the Supreme Court at that time, too. It declined to get involved.

    If the Supreme Court — no friend of voting rights considering its recent record — decides to intervene this time, it could be bad news for minority voters. This potential case could even give the court a chance to narrow the scope of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) with respect to other restrictions like voter IDs. Despite the district court’s ruling, the case that the cuts violate the VRA is by no means open and shut.

    Yes, “If the Supreme Court — no friend of voting rights considering its recent record — decides to intervene this time, it could be bad news for minority voters. This potential case could even give the court a chance to narrow the scope of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) with respect to other restrictions like voter IDs”. Guess what just happened:

    The New York Times
    The Partisan Court Blocks Extended Voting in Ohio
    By Jesse Wegman
    September 29, 2014 5:42 pm

    On Monday afternoon the Supreme Court justices decided 5-4, on party (of-the-president-who nominated-them) lines, to block extended voting hours and days in Ohio, 16 hours before voting was to begin there. The decision affects everyone in the state but will disproportionately harm poorer and minority voters, who rely on weekend and evening hours to avoid forbiddingly long lines on Election Day.

    The court’s order is technically temporary, but in practice it means that the longer voting hours won’t be in effect in 2014.

    There are reasonable arguments to be made about why these particular restrictions are not the most burdensome in the country, since Ohio already has four weeks of early voting. Still, the plaintiffs made the argument — accepted by a federal trial court and a three-judge appeals panel — that the cuts violated both the Equal Protection Clause and the battered-but-still-standing Voting Rights Act.

    In case anyone is lulled into thinking this is about anything other than politics and race, here is a brief refresher, in the form of recent quotes from players on the ground in Ohio and Georgia, another state where Republicans are fighting to keep the electorate as small and white as possible:

    “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine. Let’s be fair and reasonable.” — Doug Preisse, chairman of the Franklin County, Ohio Republican Party and elections board member, August 2012

    “You know the Democrats are working hard, and all these stories about them, you know, registering all these minority voters that are out there and others that are sitting on the sidelines, if they can do that, they can win these elections in November.” — Brian Kemp, Georgia Secretary of State, July 2014

    “There have been six states that have been targeted, Georgia being one of them, that this would be a way just to wring out every last vote.” — Rinda Wilson, Republican Commissioner, Bibb County, Ga., Board of Elections, Sept. 25, 2014

    “Now we are to have Sunday voting at South DeKalb Mall just prior to the election. … this location is dominated by African American shoppers and it is near several large African American mega churches such as New Birth Missionary Baptist.” — Fran Millar, Georgia Senator, Sept. 2014

    Millar later clarified that comment: “I would prefer more educated voters than a greater increase in the number of voters. If you don’t believe this is an efort [sic] to maximize Democratic votes pure and simple, then you are not a realist. This is a partisan stunt and I hope it can be stopped.”

    Ah, the Roberts Court: The GOP’s gift that keeps on giving. And taking.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 29, 2014, 5:50 pm
  13. Scott Walker told Wisconsin voters during a debate last week that Wisconsin’s new voter id laws are needed regardless of how many actual illegal votes are actually cast. As Walker put it, “It doesn’t matter if there’s one, 100, or 1,000,…Amongst us, who would be that one person who would like to have our vote canceled out by a vote that was cast illegally?” Curiously, the feelings of the ~300,000 Wisconsin voters that would have their votes canceled (by literally not being allowed to vote due to Walker’s new voter id laws) were left out of Walker’s empathic plea. Imagine that:

    The Los Angeles Times
    A conservative judge’s devastating take on why voter ID laws are evil

    Michael Hiltzik
    10.13.2014 10:17 AM

    In a rational world, the debate over voter ID laws would be ended by the eloquent, incisive and angry opinion issued late last week by U.S. Circuit Judge Richard A. Posner of Chicago in a case concerning Wisconsin.

    But this isn’t a rational world. So not only will the debate continue, but Posner’s opinion failed even to sway his fellow judges on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. The court split 5-5 on Posner’s request for an en banc — that is, full court — rehearing of the Wisconsin case, in which a three-judge panel already had cleared the state’s ID law to go into effect for next month’s election. That meant Posner’s request was turned down and his opinion was in the nature of a dissent.

    As it happens, the Supreme Court has stepped in and suspended the Wisconsin law, probably invalidating it for the upcoming polls. But Posner’s 30-page dissent, laid out in his typical lucid and direct manner, is as exacting an examination as you’re likely to find of why voter ID laws are corrupt and iniquitous, and why their usual rationale — to combat voter fraud — is a lie.

    Before walking through Posner’s opinion, a few words about why he’s important. Posner, 75, is no wooly-headed liberal, but a card-carrying conservative who was appointed to the circuit bench by Ronald Reagan in 1981. He’s widely regarded as the smartest jurist in the federal judiciary, and was identified in 2000 by Fred Shapiro of Yale Law School as the most-cited legal scholar of all time. (Shapiro’s full list is here.)

    Posner’s dissent in the Wisconsin voter ID case is especially telling, because he wrote the so-called Crawford decision in 2007 upholding Indiana’s voter ID law, in which he was upheld by the Supreme Court. But he has since recanted. In a 2013 book, he accepted the view that such laws are properly regarded as “a means of voter suppression rather than fraud prevention.” That’s the view that informs his latest opinion.

    “There is only one motivation for imposing burdens on voting that are ostensibly designed to discourage voter-impersonation fraud,” he writes, “and that is to discourage voting by persons likely to vote against the party responsible for imposing the burdens.”. More specifically, he observes, photo ID laws are “highly correlated with a state’s having a Republican governor and Republican control of the legislature and appear to be aimed at limiting voting by minorities, particularly blacks.” In Wisconsin, according to evidence presented at trial, the voter ID law would disenfranchise 300,000 residents, or 9% of registered voters.

    Posner systematically demolishes every argument mustered in support of voter ID laws. Combating voter fraud? “There is compelling evidence that voter-impersonation fraud is essentially nonexistent in Wisconsin.” Assertions about voter fraud are “a mere fig leaf for efforts to disenfranchise voters.” He adds that “some of the ‘evidence’ of voter-impersonation fraud is downright goofy, if not paranoid, such as the nonexistent buses that according to the ‘True the Vote’ movement [a voter suppression organization originating in the tea party movement] transport foreigners and reservation Indians to polling places.”

    Indeed, Posner writes, lists of the states that impose the strictest requirements “imply that a number of conservative states try to make it difficult for people who are outside the mainstream, whether because of poverty or race or problems with the English language…to vote.”

    How about the argument that photo ID is required to board a plane and for many other routine actions, so what’s the harm in requiring it for voting? Posner points out that the requirement of photo ID for flying is “a common misconception.” Nor is it true, as the three-judge appeals panel had it, that photo ID is required to pick up a prescription (not so in Wisconsin and 34 other states, Posner observes); open a bank account (not true anywhere in the country) or buy a gun (not true under federal law at gun shows, flea markets, or online).

    Then there’s the argument that getting a photo ID is easy and cheap, and therefore that people without them must not care enough about voting to bother. The three-judge panel wrote that obtaining a photo ID merely requires people “to scrounge up a birth certificate and stand in line at the office that issues driver’s licenses.” Posner replies that he himself “has never seen his birth certificate and does not know how he would go about ‘scrounging’ it up.” Posner appends a sheaf of documents handed to an applicant seeking a photo ID for whom no birth certificate could be found in state records. It ran to 12 pages.

    As for its supposedly negligible cost, “that’s an easy assumption for federal judges to make, since we are given photo IDs by court security free of charge. And we have upper-middle-class salaries. Not everyone is so fortunate.” He cites a study placing the expense of obtaining documentation at $75 to $175 — which even when adjusted for inflation is far higher than “the $1.50 poll tax outlawed by the 24th amendment in 1964.”

    Posner places Wisconsin’s argument for its voter ID law within a “fact-free cocoon.” Last week, the state’s governor, Scott Walker, defended the law by asserting it’s worthwhile whether it stops “one, 100 or 1,000″ illegal votes.” Leaving aside that the number of illegal votes for which there’s any evidence is zero, the very idea of disenfranchising 300,000 voters in the hope of stopping even 1,000 illegal votes is beyond fatuous, and well into the category of hopelessly cynical. Walker’s lawyers tried to make that case before Judge Posner, his written opinion shows what he thought of it.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 14, 2014, 2:51 pm
  14. When the constitutionality of civil rights is in doubt some judges err on the side of caution. Others err a different way:

    The New York Times
    Texas May Proceed With Voter ID Law, Appeals Court Finds.

    By ERIK ECKHOLM
    OCT. 14, 2014

    A federal appeals court said Tuesday that Texas can enforce its strong voter identification requirements in the November election, temporarily blocking a lower court’s ruling last week that the law was an unconstitutional effort to suppress the votes of blacks and Hispanics.

    The three-judge panel put off consideration of whether the lower-court decision, which condemned the law, should stand permanently. Rather, it said that with early voting starting on Oct. 20, a change in the rules could cause confusion among voters and poll workers, something the Supreme Court has sought to avoid in other cases.

    “Based primarily on the extremely fast-approaching election date, we stay the district court’s judgment pending appeal,” Judge Edith Brown Clement wrote on behalf of the panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, based in New Orleans.

    The contested Texas law requires that voters show certain types of state-issued ID, a far tighter requirement than in the past, when voters could provide varied evidence, even an electric bill, establishing their identities. Virtually no examples of in-person voter fraud have been reported.

    In a 147-page opinion issued Thursday, after a two-week trial, Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos had said the law “creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote.” She noted the lack of evidence that voter fraud was a threat and cited expert testimony that about 600,000 Texans, mainly poor, black and Hispanic, lack the newly required IDs.

    Judge Ramos ruled that the law was adopted “with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose.” If her finding of intentional discrimination is upheld, it could trigger new federal oversight of Texas election procedures, something the Justice Department is seeking.

    In another case last week, involving Wisconsin, the United States Supreme Court temporarily barred the imposition of new voter ID requirements, with the opposite effect of the Texas order but for the same stated reasons. The Wisconsin law took effect only last month, with little advance preparation by election officials, and the court apparently believed that its immediate imposition would disrupt voting on Nov. 4.

    Greg Abbott, the Texas attorney general and the Republican candidate for governor, made a similar argument about timing to the Fifth Circuit, in addition to challenging Judge Ramos’s condemnation of the law. But in this case, opponents, including a range of citizen groups as well as the federal Department of Justice, said that the state could easily revert to its longstanding, looser identification requirements.

    The opponents of the law expressed concern about the order, saying the risk of disenfranchising voters outweighed the potential for disruption. They were considering whether to file an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court.

    The order “places in harm’s way the votes and voices of more than 600,000 registered voters, a disproportionate number of whom are people of color,” said Ryan P. Haygood, a lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. “This law does all harm and no good,” he said in a statement, adding that the appeals court order “will not stand.”

    Note that opponents of the law have referred the case to the Supreme Court in the hopes to have the ruling overturned. Guess which Supreme Court Justice gets to decide if the the court takes the case:

    McClatchy
    Texas voter ID case flies up to Supreme Court

    By Michael Doyle

    McClatchy Washington Bureau
    October 15, 2014

    WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Wednesday received several last-ditch pleas from opponents of the tough new Texas voter ID law.

    Acting one day after an appellate court effectively kept the Texas law in place, opponents including the Obama administration filed multiple emergency applications asking the high court to remove the lower court’s stay.

    “The need to ensure that hundreds of thousands of voters in Texas are able to exercise their right to vote, the need to stamp out intentional racial discrimination, and the need to ensure that elections are administered fairly, efficiently, and equitably, the public interest overwhelmingly favors vacating the stay,” attorneys wrote.

    The initial emergency application, signed by Houston-based attorney Chad W. Dunn, was submitted to Justice Antonin Scalia, who oversees emergency issues in Texas and other Fifth Circuit states. Scalia has the option of forwarding the application to all nine justices.

    Scalia gave Texas until 5 p.m. Thursday to respond.

    The initial application filed Wednesday morning was reinforced early Wednesday evening by an Obama administration filing.

    “Without this court’s intervention, registered voters across Texas will be irreparably harmed,” the administration’s lawyers argued, warning about “the potential disenfranchisement of over 600,000 Texas voters” as well as “widespread confusion at the polls.”

    The Texas branches of the NAACP also filed an application Wednesday with the Supreme Court.

    The race to the Supreme Court is the latest development following the injunction imposed Oct. 11 by U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos. The Corpus Christi, Texas-based trial judge had imposed the injunction following release of a 147-page opinion late Thursday, in which she concluded the Texas law was discriminatory and unconstitutional.

    Prior to passage of the law, dubbed SB 14, Texas voters only had to provide a voter registration card or another form of identity proof, like a utility bill.

    The Supreme Court has already intervened in other states’ voting-law fights this campaign season, though with different results.

    In late September, the high court in a 5-4 decision removed a judge’s order that would have restored early voting in Ohio. In a 7-2 decision issued Oct. 8, the court then effectively blocked restoration of same-day voting in North Carolina.

    The Supreme Court took a different tack with Wisconsin, declaring in a 6-3 decision issued Oct. 10 that Wisconsin could not implement a law requiring voters to present photo identification

    “Scalia has the option of forwarding the application to all nine justices.” Good luck Texas voters!

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 15, 2014, 6:24 pm
  15. Surprise! The Supreme Court just ruled that Texas’s new election law, which was found by a Federal Court judge to be the equivalent of a poll tax, can be used in this year’s elections. Ok, maybe it’s not a surprise:

    Supreme Court Allows Texas Voter ID Law To Stand

    By SAM HANANEL
    Published October 18, 2014, 7:38 AM EDT

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court said Saturday that Texas can use its controversial new voter identification law for the November election.

    A majority of the justices rejected an emergency request from the Justice Department and civil rights groups to prohibit the state from requiring voters to produce certain forms of photo identification in order to cast ballots. Three justices dissented.

    The law was struck down by a federal judge last week, but a federal appeals court had put that ruling on hold. The judge found that roughly 600,000 voters, many of them black or Latino, could be turned away at the polls because they lack acceptable identification. Early voting in Texas begins Monday.

    The Supreme Court’s order was unsigned, as it typically is in these situations. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented, saying they would have left the district court decision in place.

    “The greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters,” Ginsburg wrote in dissent.

    The law sets out seven forms of approved ID — a list that includes concealed handgun licenses but not college student IDs, which are accepted in other states with similar measures.

    The 143-page opinion from U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos called the law an “unconstitutional burden on the right to vote” and the equivalent of a poll tax in finding that the Republican-led Texas Legislature purposely discriminated against minority voters in Texas.

    Texas had urged the Supreme Court to let the state enforce voter ID at the polls in a court filing that took aim at the ruling by Ramos, an appointee of President Barack Obama. Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican who’s favored in the gubernatorial race, called Ramos’ findings “preposterous” and accused the judge of ignoring evidence favorable to the state.

    The court had intervened in three other disputes in recent weeks over Republican-inspired restrictions on voting access. In Wisconsin, the justices blocked a voter ID law from being used in November. In North Carolina and Ohio, the justices allowed limits on same-day registration, early voting and provisional ballots to take or remain in effect.

    Ginsburg said the Texas case was different from the clashes in North Carolina and Ohio because a federal judge held a full trial on the Texas election procedures and developed “an extensive record” finding the process discriminated against ballot access.

    Texas has enforced its tough voter ID in elections since the Supreme Court in June 2013 effectively eliminated the heart of the Voting Rights Act, which had prevented Texas and eight other states with histories of discrimination from changing election laws without permission. Critics of the Texas measure, though, said the new ID requirement has not been used for an election for Congress and the Senate, or a high-turnout statewide election like the race for governor.

    Keep in mind that a recent study found that, out of 1 billion votes cast in US elections from 2000-2014, only 31 instances of voter fraud were found. So, sure, voter fraud does happen,but the odds of someone having cast a fraudulent ballot from 2000-2014 is ~100 times less than the odds that that same person is struck by lightning this year. And yet, thanks to the Roberts Court, voting ID laws are likely to spread across the entire country which means the phrase “vote early and often” (which virtually never happens in US elections), is probably going to have to be replaced with “vote now, while you still can“:

    Think Progress
    The Dangerous Legal Rule Behind The Supreme Court’s Latest Voter Suppression Decision
    by Ian Millhiser Posted on October 18, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    As a matter of precedent, the Supreme Court’s decision on Saturday to allow Texas’ Voter ID law to take effect is defensible. In 2006, a lower federal court halted Arizona’s voter ID law shortly before an election. The Supreme Court, in a case known as Purcell v. Gonzalez, reinstated the law. “Court orders affecting elections,” according to the justices, “can themselves result in voter confusion and consequent incentive to remain away from the polls. As an election draws closer, that risk will increase.” Thus, courts should be reluctant to hand down decisions affecting a state’s election law as the election itself draws nigh.

    At least on the surface, the Texas voter ID case looks fairly similar. A federal judge in Texas struck down the state’s law in the October before an election. Moreover, while Texas’ voter ID law is the “strictest regime in the country,” according to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s opinion dissenting from the Court’s decision to reinstate the law, it is, at the very least, a similar law to the one at issue in Purcell.

    Nevertheless, there is a very important distinction between Purcell and the Texas voter ID case that Ginsburg also highlights in her dissent. Purcell was handed down nearly seven years before theSupreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013. The Texas voter ID law, by contrast, went into effect despite the fact that it did not survive review under the fully operational Voting Rights Act prior to the Court’s 2013 decision. Saturday’s order reinstating the voter ID law, in other words, is an early sign of how much easier it will be for states to enact voter suppression laws under the Roberts Court’s narrow vision of voting rights.

    The Purpose of Voter ID

    Lest there be any doubt, voter ID laws are voter suppression laws. Though the laws’ supporters often claim they are needed to prevent in-person voter fraud, such fraud barely exists. From 2002 until 2011, Ginsburg explains in her dissent, “there were only two in-person voter fraud cases prosecuted to conviction in Texas.” A Wisconsin study examining the 2004 election found just seven cases of fraud out of 3 million votes cast, and none of these seven cases were the kind of in-person voter fraud that is prevented by a voter ID law. The evidence, in other words, suggests that Texas is likely to run its entire 2014 election without a single voter trying to impersonate another at the polls.

    What voter ID laws do accomplish is that they disproportionately target groups like racial minorities, low-income voters and young voters who are particularly likely not to have a photo ID — and who also tend to prefer Democrats over Republicans on election day. As the trial judge who struck down the Texas law explained, approximately 600,000 voters are likely to be disenfranchised by the law.

    The Usual Wisconsin Case

    On the surface, Purcell‘s insight that courts should be reluctant to change a state’s election law as the election itself draws closer appears to be a neutral rule that favors neither voting rights nor voter suppression laws such as voter ID. Indeed, it is notable that just last week the Supreme Court suspended Wisconsin’s voter ID law law in a decision that most likely relied on Purcell.

    The Wisconsin case, however, was unusual in that federal trial judge struck down the Wisconsin voter ID law in April, but, for various reasons, a federal appeals court did not get around to reinstating the law until mid-September. It was this decision to reinstate the law less than two months before an election that was rejected by the Supreme Court.

    Typically, however, courts move much faster. In Texas, for example, a federal trial court handed down its judgment striking down the Texas voter ID law on October 11. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit stayed that decision on October 14, and the Supreme Court decided to leave that stay in place on Saturday the 18th. As the Texas case shows, Courts are capable of acting very quickly when one party seeks emergency relief from a lower court’s decision — and they often do.

    One Free Election For Vote Suppressors

    As Ginsburg alludes to in her dissent in the Texas case, however, the judiciary is unlikely to act quickly when it strikes down an illegal voter suppression law. The trial court in the Texas case set an expedited schedule to resolve that case in November of 2013. Yet it took nearly a year for the attorneys challenging the law to compile the evidence needed to convince the court to strike down the law, and for the court to fully consider that evidence. Though that evidence was compelling — it showed, among other things, that the lawmakers behind the law had an incentive to “‘gain partisan advantage by suppressing’ the ‘votes of African-Americans and Latinos,’” and that they rejected means to reduce the law’s impact on minorities without good reason — it could not have been compiled overnight.

    Admittedly, the plaintiffs in the Texas case could have sought a quicker decision by requesting a “preliminary injunction,” an order that allows a court to halt a law prior to a full trial on the merits. The Roberts Court, however, has already shown that it is willing to uphold voter suppression laws based on very flimsy evidence. In Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, the Supreme Court upheld a voter ID law despite the fact that the lead opinion was only able to identify one case of in-person voter fraud in the proceeding 140 years! So there is a lot of danger in challenging a voter suppression law without first taking the time to compile a full record laden with evidence demonstrating why the law should be struck down. The Supreme Court has already shown that, if they can identify a fig leaf enabling them to uphold the law, they will.

    The result is that, when a state enacts a voter suppression law, it may take a year or more for a trial court to determine that the law is illegal and must be struck down. By that point, the state may have already run an election under that law. And even if they haven’t, Purcell suggests that the court’s order halting the voter suppression law must be stayed if it is handed down too close to an election.

    At the very least, vote suppressors will often get one free election when they enact a law making it harder to vote, where the law will go into effect regardless of whether or not it violates the Constitution or federal law. Texas will get to run the 2014 election under its voter ID law. Ohio will get to cut early voting days in 2014, despite the impact these cuts will have on low-income and minority voters. And North Carolina will get to run its 2014 election under what is likely the most comprehensive voter suppression law in the country. Some or all of these laws may eventually be struck down, but that won’t unelect the people elected because of them this November.

    The Jim Crow Precedent

    As I explain in my book, Injustices: The Supreme Court’s History of Comforting the Comfortable and Afflicting the Afflicted the Afflicted, anyone who cares about voting rights should be frightened by a regime that allows voter suppression laws to remain in place for even a single election, as vote suppressors have historically proven much more nimble than courts.

    For much of the Jim Crow Era, the South was a one party region. General elections were largely formalities, and the Democratic Party’s candidate was all but guaranteed victory. So, in 1923, Texas tried to prevent African Americans from voting by enacting a law providing that “in no event shall a negro be eligible to participate in a Democratic party primary election held in the State of Texas.” When this law was struck down by the Supreme Court, Texas enacted a new law allowing the state Democratic party to establish rules that only permitted “white democrats” to vote in the primary. When that law was struck down, the state party passed a resolution, pursuant to no law whatsoever, providing that only “white citizens” may vote in a Democratic primary. This action by the state Democrats was ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court, although the justices reversed course nine years later.

    The lesson is that, if you allow a voter suppression law to go into effect for just one election, then the supporters of that law are likely to come up with a new way to suppress the vote if the first law is ultimately struck down. And even if the second voter suppression law is ultimately struck down, this cycle can continue forever so long as each law is allowed to be in effect for just one election. This is why, when President Lyndon Johnson proposed the Voting Rights Act to a joint session of Congress, he warned that “[e]very device of which human ingenuity is capable” was used to deny African Americans the right to vote in the Jim Crow South. As I explain in Injustices,

    Segregationists were nothing if not creative in their efforts to drive African Americans away from the polls. When the Supreme Court said Texas could not disenfranchise black voters directly, they tried to do so indirectly. When that failed, they let party delegates do it for them. And when this tactic failed nearly ten years later, white racists could fall back on poll taxes, or literacy tests, or any of a myriad of other devices intended to keep black voters from the polls. . . .

    Voter registrars in the South often wielded absolute authority over who could or could not register to vote. As President Johnson told the nation after Selma, “[t]he Negro citizen may go to register only to be told that the day is wrong, or the hour is late, or the official in charge is absent.” And should they succeed in speaking to a registrar, a black voter “may be disqualified because he did not spell out his middle name or because he abbreviated a word on the application.”

    The key to preventing this extraordinary creativity from standing in the way of the franchise was to stop voter suppression laws before the next election took place. That was the genius of Section Five of the Voting Rights Act, which required states and localities with a history of racial voter suppression to “preclear” any new voting rules with federal officials before those rules could take effect. And, yet, the Roberts Court neutered Section Five in its 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder. Vote suppressors in Texas may once again turn “every device of which human ingenuity is capable” to the task of voter suppression.

    So vote now, while you still can if you still can. It might be the last vote you ever make…for a variety of reasons.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 18, 2014, 1:24 pm
  16. Here’s an interesting twist on the GOP’s endless voter fraud hysteria/voter suppression drive: with a week and a half left to go before the midterms the Washington Post’s “Monkey Cage” blog has a post by two Old Dominion academics (one of whom really really likes the Flat Tax) about their yet-to-be published study on voting by non-citizens. Their conclusion: if their assumptions are correct, the authors concluded non-citizen voting could possibly swing extremely close elections, citing Senator Al Franken’s 312 margin of victory in 2008. It’s sort of a “duh” conclusion since anything that somehow slightly skews the vote in an election that close could plausibly swing the elections. For instance, voter ID laws that eliminate far more legal voters than non-legal voters (like the 9% of registered voters that would have been prevented from voting in Wisconsin if its voter ID laws were upheld) would obviously swing that very same close election and swing it far more than non-citizen voting, although this wasn’t mentioned in the piece.

    Interestingly, what they do conclude regarding voter ID laws is that they aren’t actually effective for preventing non-citizen voting. Why? Because these voting non-citizens are voting because they were improperly registered, not because they’re pretending to be someone else. The authors instead conclude that greater public education would be more effective at informing the green card holders that they can’t vote even if they’re accidentally registered.

    So it was one helluva confusing mind bomb for the Washington Post to drop right before the election: Yes, non-citizen voters could maybe (if their assumptions are correct) swing extremely close elections (again, duh) but the voter ID laws embraced by the GOP can’t even prevent it:

    Washington Post
    Monky Cage
    Could non-citizens decide the November election?
    By Jesse Richman and David Earnest October 24 at 3:06 PM

    Could control of the Senate in 2014 be decided by illegal votes cast by non-citizens? Some argue that incidents of voting by non-citizens are so rare as to be inconsequential, with efforts to block fraud a screen for an agenda to prevent poor and minority voters from exercising the franchise, while others define such incidents as a threat to democracy itself. Both sides depend more heavily on anecdotes than data.

    In a forthcoming article in the journal Electoral Studies, we bring real data from big social science survey datasets to bear on the question of whether, to what extent, and for whom non-citizens vote in U.S. elections. Most non-citizens do not register, let alone vote. But enough do that their participation can change the outcome of close races.

    Our data comes from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES). Its large number of observations (32,800 in 2008 and 55,400 in 2010) provide sufficient samples of the non-immigrant sub-population, with 339 non-citizen respondents in 2008 and 489 in 2010. For the 2008 CCES, we also attempted to match respondents to voter files so that we could verify whether they actually voted.

    How many non-citizens participate in U.S. elections? More than 14 percent of non-citizens in both the 2008 and 2010 samples indicated that they were registered to vote. Furthermore, some of these non-citizens voted. Our best guess, based upon extrapolations from the portion of the sample with a verified vote, is that 6.4 percent of non-citizens voted in 2008 and 2.2 percent of non-citizens voted in 2010.

    Estimated Voter Turnout by Non-Citizens
    2008 2010
    Self reported and/or verified 38 (11.3%) 13 (3.5%)
    Self reported and verified 5 (1.5%) N.A.
    Adjusted estimate 21 (6.4%) 8 (2.2%)

    Because non-citizens tended to favor Democrats (Obama won more than 80 percent of the votes of non-citizens in the 2008 CCES sample), we find that this participation was large enough to plausibly account for Democratic victories in a few close elections. Non-citizen votes could have given Senate Democrats the pivotal 60th vote needed to overcome filibusters in order to pass health-care reform and other Obama administration priorities in the 111th Congress. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) won election in 2008 with a victory margin of 312 votes. Votes cast by just 0.65 percent of Minnesota non-citizens could account for this margin. It is also possible that non-citizen votes were responsible for Obama’s 2008 victory in North Carolina. Obama won the state by 14,177 votes, so a turnout by 5.1 percent of North Carolina’s adult non-citizens would have provided this victory margin.

    We also find that one of the favorite policies advocated by conservatives to prevent voter fraud appears strikingly ineffective. Nearly three quarters of the non-citizens who indicated they were asked to provide photo identification at the polls claimed to have subsequently voted.

    An alternative approach to reducing non-citizen turnout might emphasize public information. Unlike other populations, including naturalized citizens, education is not associated with higher participation among non-citizens. In 2008, non-citizens with less than a college degree were significantly more likely to cast a validated vote, and no non-citizens with a college degree or higher cast a validated vote. This hints at a link between non-citizen voting and lack of awareness about legal barriers.

    There are obvious limitations to our research, which one should take account of when interpreting the results. Although the CCES sample is large, the non-citizen portion of the sample is modest, with the attendant uncertainty associated with sampling error. We analyze only 828 self-reported non-citizens. Self-reports of citizen status might also be a source of error, although the appendix of our paper shows that the racial, geographic, and attitudinal characteristics of non-citizens (and non-citizen voters) are consistent with their self-reported status.

    Another possible limitation is the matching process conducted by Catalyst to verify registration and turnout drops many non-citizen respondents who cannot be matched. Our adjusted estimate assumes the implication of a “registered” or “voted” response among those who Catalyst could not match is the same as for those whom it could. If one questions this assumption, one might focus only on those non-citizens with a reported and validated vote. This is the second line of the table.

    Finally, extrapolation to specific state-level or district-level election outcomes is fraught with substantial uncertainty. It is obviously possible that non-citizens in California are more likely to vote than non-citizens in North Carolina, or vice versa. Thus, we are much more confident that non-citizen votes mattered for the Minnesota Senate race (a turnout of little more than one-tenth of our adjusted estimate is all that would be required) than that non-citizen votes changed the outcome in North Carolina.

    Our research cannot answer whether the United States should move to legalize some electoral participation by non-citizens as many other countries do, and as some U.S. states did for more than 100 years, or find policies that more effectively restrict it. But this research should move that debate a step closer to a common set of facts.

    So what does the right-wing media respond to this “revelation” that extremely close elections could be swung by the assumed sliver of non-citizen voters? Well, the Daily Caller reported on the story without mentioning the part about how voter ID laws were ineffective. A National Review piece noted that the study authors never specify if the “non-citizens” are in the US legally or illegally and then proceeds to wonder if 6.4% (the 2008 “adjusted estimate” of non-citizen voting in the study) of all 11 undocumented immigrants in the country are voting in US election and swinging more than just close elections. And Red State described the findings as suggesting that voter ID laws are “insufficient” (implying you still want the voter ID laws in addition to other voter restrictions) and concludes:

    The fact that the Democrats will not agree to that point and take any steps to ensure that is the case simply validates what we already knew. In most of the country if Democrats are prevented from cheating they cannot win.

    That’s pretty much the range of responses we should have expected. But it will be interesting to see how long it takes before this study is used to tout one of the GOP’s other favorite methods of voter suppression: scrubbing the voter rolls. Aggressive voter roll purges, after all, are a voter suppression gold-mine (It’s an oldie but a goodie)!

    But with a little over a week left to go before the midterms and the GOP having already placed all of its voter-suppression eggs in the voter ID law basket (ok, there are a few other eggs in that basket) it appears we’ll have to wait until after the elections to see if the US electorate is in for another round of focused voter roll scrubbing as the official cure all for the much feared illegal vote. How will those voter suppression efforts manifest? We’ll find out! Soon.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 25, 2014, 6:04 pm
  17. Well, at least technically this lawsuit isn’t another closet case of the GOP pushing a white supremacist agenda. If anything it’s the opposite: Dallas County conservatives are suing to give white voters protected status

    Talking Points Memo DC
    Conservatives Accuse Texas County Of Violating White People’s Voting Rights
    By Dylan Scott
    Published January 20, 2015, 12:15 PM EST

    A conservative group is suing Dallas County, Texas, for allegedly discriminating against white people in violation of the Voting Rights Act. But the catch is that the 5-member county body they’re suing about has a majority of white members. The problem, apparently, is that the board is majority Democratic.

    “Like something out of the bad old days, a southern electoral body plays naked racial politics, intentionally using its power to minimize a dissenting race’s political sway,” according to the lawsuit, filed last week in federal court by the Equal Voting Rights Institute on behalf of individual white plaintiffs.

    The lawsuit asserts that the five-member Dallas Commissioner Court used its 2010 drawing of the county’s districting map to “violate the rights of Dallas’s Anglo minority, denying it rights protected by the United States Constitution and the Voting Rights Act.”

    The suit notes that whites lost their majority status in 2006. According to the Census Bureau, Dallas County is now 32 percent white, 39 percent Hispanic and 23 percent black.

    The suit argues that Hispanics and African-American voters tend to prefer Democratic candidates, while whites favor Republicans. For the moment, the board has three white members and one black and one Hispanic member.

    That’s the twist, as the Dallas Morning News reported last week: the Dallas County commissioners are mostly white, albeit Democratic. Four of the board’s five members are Democrats. The suit alleges that the county board’s current districting map is “designed to punish its racial enemies, while patting itself on the back for its adherence to the Voting Rights Act.”

    The case is the first to be brought by the Equal Voting Rights Institute, whose board includes Republican state legislator Matt Rinaldi, per the Morning News. Its executive director, Dan Morenoff, was previously a local chapter president of the Federalist Society, a national group of conservative and libertarian attorneys, according to his law firm’s website.

    “Like something out of the bad old days, a southern electoral body plays naked racial politics, intentionally using its power to minimize a dissenting race’s political sway.” So white Republicans in Texas require protected racial minority status? In Texas. This isn’t a joke:

    The Dallas Morning News
    Lawsuit claims Dallas County’s commissioner districts discriminate against whites

    By MATTHEW WATKINS
    Staff Writer

    Published: 15 January 2015 09:38 PM
    Updated: 15 January 2015 09:40 PM

    A conservative group that lists a Texas legislator on its governing board has filed a lawsuit claiming Dallas County is violating the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against white people.

    The suit, filed in federal court Thursday by the Dallas-based Equal Voting Rights Institute, argues that whites, a racial minority in the county, have been unable to elect their chosen Republican candidates to the Commissioners Court. It asks that the county’s district map be thrown out and a new one drawn before the 2016 elections.

    Newly elected state Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, is one of four people on the institute’s oversight board, according to the group’s website.

    Even though whites occupy 60 percent of the court’s five seats, the lawsuit argues that the political sway of white voters has been purposefully diminished. Whites in Dallas County overwhelmingly vote Republican, the suit said, while blacks and Hispanics tend to vote for Democrats. The 4-to-1 Democratic majority on the Commissioners Court is evidence that whites have been disenfranchised, it said.

    The suit against the county lists five white residents as plaintiffs. It blames a 2011 redistricting for the Democratic dominance. Before then, there were two Republicans on the court.

    One legal expert called the case unusual. Most of the time, the Voting Rights Act is used to protect nonwhite voters.

    “I haven’t seen anything like this,” said Guy-Uriel Charles, a Duke University law professor and founding director of the Duke Law Center on Law, Race and Politics.

    “Essentially, it looks like the conservatives are doing what they believe Democrats have done in the past,” he said. “They believe the Democrats have used the Voting Rights Act to create Democratic districts. So now they are trying to use the Voting Rights Act to create and protect Republican districts.

    “Whether this will work or not will depend on the facts on the ground.”

    The presence of three whites on the Commissioners Court probably hurts the plaintiffs’ case but doesn’t necessarily doom it, Charles said.

    The institute may argue that having only one Republican on the court is a sign that the white vote has been diluted. That could work if the institute’s lawyers can prove that the court is divided along racial lines and that whites form a cohesive but politically weakened bloc.

    It’s easy to make the case that blacks vote cohesively, with more than 90 percent supporting Democrats. It may be harder to make a comparable case for whites, Charles said. Even though Texas white voters lean strongly Republican, they aren’t as reliably tied to the party as blacks are to the Democratic Party.

    Dan Morenoff, executive director of the Equal Voting Rights Institute, said the group’s legal strategy was still being worked out.

    “We wouldn’t have brought this suit if we didn’t think this was going to be a strong case,” he said.

    Morenoff declined to offer much information about his nonprofit group. He said he didn’t know who the organization’s biggest donors were and didn’t want to divulge its budget.

    In addition to Rinaldi and Morenoff, the institute’s board includes Chart Westcott, an unsuccessful 2014 candidate to represent the Park Cities in the Texas House. Westcott lost in the Republican primary after he was accused — in some cases, by fellow Republicans — of spreading false and distorted information about the opponent.

    The lawsuit, filed on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, is the first from the institute, but not necessarily the last, Morenoff said. The country is getting more diverse, and many other areas soon will have white minorities in areas dominated by Democrats, he said.

    “It is very important that our laws are our laws and that the same rules apply regardless of who is in control of the levers of power,” he said.

    Is America ready for a large number of specially created majority white districts? We’ll see.

    But this mysteriously funded conservative group seems to be pretty confident that it can prove the need for the courts to protect white voters from systematic racial discrimination. Wow. Just imagine how bad it must be for whites living in Dallas County. Just imagine…

    The Los Angeles Times
    Should students read Ayn Rand instead of a book about poverty?

    By Michael Schaub
    January 19, 2015, 9:42 AM

    A parent in the wealthy Texas town of Highland Park has challenged a book about people living near the poverty line, and suggested books by Ayn Rand, Ben Carson and Karen Hesse as replacements, the Dallas Morning News reports reports.

    The challenged book, David K. Shipler’s “The Working Poor: Invisible in America,” was one of seven suspended by the Highland Park school district in September. Those suspensions were eventually reversed, but the district announced in November that students would needpermission slips from parents to read “The Working Poor” and five other books. Shipler’s book, which is being taught in an advanced placement class for high school juniors, will be reviewed by a committee including school staff, students and parents, and will remain in use until then.

    The parent who objected to the book wrote in her complaint: “‘The Working Poor’ is not a great work of literature or an example of rich writing we want our students to emulate. One must ask, is this the best piece of literature our students can read to learn to write?” The Dallas Morning News notes the parent criticized the book for its “depiction of abortion, and sexual abuse and … its portrayal of women ‘as weak, pathetic, ignorant, sexual objects and incapable beings.'”

    The parent offered three suggestions for a replacement book: Ayn Rand’s “We the Living,” Karen Hesse’s “Out of the Dust,” and Ben Carson’s “America the Beautiful.” Carson’s book was the subject of controversy earlier this month after BuzzFeed reported that sections were plagiarized from several sources, including a website called SocialismSucks.net.

    As we can see, Highland Park, in the heart of Dallas County, is clearly indoctrinating its school children with dangerous anti-white anti-poverty propaganda. And there’s nothing they can do about it! It’s no wonder voters are feeling so disempowered. Although you have to wonder if a non-white Republican author like Ben Carson would be considered white-friendly enough to protect Dallas County’s vulnerable population. Should his books really be pushed on those young minds without a white republican counter-point? Carson has a lot to teach the next generation about what it takes to be successful, although they’ve probably learned a lot of it from other sources, so maybe it won’t be such a loss if Carson’s book is replaced with something more appropriate.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 20, 2015, 2:44 pm
  18. Well look at that: The ‘voter ID’ laws that everyone knows is really all about suppressing Democratic-leaning voters turns out to suppress the vote of Democratic-leaning voters:

    Think Progress
    Study Reveals The True Scope Of Voter Disenfranchisement In Texas

    by Ian Millhiser
    Aug 10, 2015 12:18pm

    A Texas law, which closely resembles similar laws erecting obstacles to the franchise in other states, does far more to keep voters from casting a ballot than previously thought, according to a study conducted by researchers at Rice University and the University of Houston.

    Typically, analysts examining how voter ID laws affect turnout have honed in on voters who lack ID as the obvious victims of such a law. The Rice/Houston study, however, reveals that these laws reach far beyond the universe of people without IDs. “[T]he most significant impact of the Texas voter photo ID law on voter participation,” at least within the congressional district examined by the study, “was to discourage turnout among registered voters who did indeed possess an approved form of photo ID, but through some combination of misunderstanding, doubt or lack of knowledge, believed that they did not possess the necessary photo identification.”

    The study surveyed 400 registered voters who did not cast a ballot in the November 2014 election. All of these non-voters reside in Texas’s 23rd Congressional District — a district the researchers describe as “the only one of the state’s 36 U.S. House districts where both the Democratic Party and Republican Party candidates have a realistic chance of victory in November.” In 2014, Republican Will Hurd narrowly defeated Democratic incumbent Rep. Pete Gallego in the 23rd district.

    Altogether, 12.8 percent of the non-voters surveyed in the study said that lack of identification was a reason why they did not vote in the 2014 election, and 5.8 percent said that this was the principal reason why they did not vote. Yet, despite the relatively high numbers of voters who cited lack of ID when asked why they did not cast a ballot, the researchers determined that only “2.7% of the respondents did not possess any of the seven valid forms of photo identification” and “only 1.0% did not possess a photo ID and agreed that a lack of this photo ID was a reason why they did not vote.”

    At best, this suggests that more than half of the voters who did not cast a ballot because they believed they lacked the identification required to do so actually did have a valid form of ID.

    The study also confirms many of Democrats’ worst fears about the potential impact of voter ID. According to the study, “five times as many non-voters who listed the photo ID law as the principal reason they did not participate would have voted for Gallego rather than for Hurd.” Though the researchers are unable to state with certainty whether the law changed the result of this election, they do conclude that the voter ID law “may have possibly cost [Gallego] the election.” Hurd defeated Gallego by just over 2,400 votes in 2014.

    Although the voter ID law was in place for the 2014 election, it may not stay in effect in 2016. A federal appeals court held that Texas’s law violates the Voting Rights Act last week — although this decision is likely to be reviewed by a Supreme Court that has shown a great deal of skepticism towards voting rights claims in the past.

    Happy anniversary.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 11, 2015, 4:35 pm
  19. Raise taxes? Or cut voting rights? What’s Alabama’s GOP-controlled legislature going to do….hmmmmm….

    Think Progress
    Alabama Is About To Make It Much Harder To Get A Voter ID

    by Alice Ollstein Aug 26, 2015 2:12pm

    With Alabama’s Republican-controlled legislature refusing to consider any tax hikes, the state is preparing to take drastic measures to address its budget crisis — including shutting down all state parks and the vast majority of Departments of Motor Vehicles (DMVs). The proposal to close dozens of DMVs across the state — starting in rural areas — could hurt voters who need access to those offices in order to get the ID they need to cast a ballot.

    Susan Watson, the executive director of the Alabama American Civil Liberties Union, told ThinkProgress this could put up yet another barrier to voting for the state’s lowest-income residents.

    “They want to disenfranchise the most people possible,” she said. “It seems like they work hard to try to find ways to make it harder to vote. We have zero days of early voting. You aren’t allowed to vote absentee unless you’re out of the county or working more than 10 hours on Election Day. It’s already hard to get an ID if you are in a rural place and don’t have a DMV close to you. But if they shut these offices down, I’m wondering what people are supposed to do.”

    The proposed budget leaves just four DMV offices in the state, in Birmingham, Montgomery, Mobile and Huntsville, meaning potentially several hours of driving and long lines for the tens of thousands of people who live far from those cities.

    “This won’t just hurt voters,” said Watson. “I can see a lot more people getting arrested and fined for not having a current drivers license, since it’ll be harder for them to get one.”

    Alabama implemented its voter ID law shortly after the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which required the state get preapproval from the Justice Department every time it changed its voting laws because of its long history of racially-based and often violent voter suppression. The ACLU and other voting rights groups argue the law disproportionately burdens the elderly, people of color, students, and the poor — who may have difficulty finding transportation to an office during the narrow hours they are open, and who may lack a birth certificate or other document needed to get the free identification card.

    The state itself estimated that 250,000 eligible voters lacked the proper ID, but gave out only about 1,000 as of last April.

    But Ed Packard, Alabama’s Director of Elections, defended the law, telling ThinkProgress that if the DMVs close, voters can still go to their Board of Registrar’s office in their county, or meet up with the mobile unit that travels around the state processing voter IDs. But he also admitted the Registrar offices have no evening or weekend hours, which presents difficulties for those with full-time jobs or multiple jobs. As for the mobile unit, it generally visits just one county per day and is open for just two hours at a time. Though Packard says his office plans to keep running the mobile unit through October, he told ThinkProgress that the future of the service is uncertain because of the current budget crisis.

    As it becomes more difficult to get a voter ID, the state may demand more people obtain one. Alabama’s Secretary of State John Merrill told ThinkProgress earlier this year that he is pushing for the state to require a photo copy of an ID from those who vote absentee — who currently do not have to provide one. He added that Alabama residents should “forgive people” for past racial voter suppression policies and “move on.”

    The state legislature will decide whether to go forward with the budget cuts and office closures during a special session in the coming weeks.

    Ok, so…


    The proposed budget leaves just four DMV offices in the state, in Birmingham, Montgomery, Mobile and Huntsville, meaning potentially several hours of driving and long lines for the tens of thousands of people who live far from those cities.

    “This won’t just hurt voters,” said Watson. “I can see a lot more people getting arrested and fined for not having a current drivers license, since it’ll be harder for them to get one.”

    The state itself estimated that 250,000 eligible voters lacked the proper ID, but gave out only about 1,000 as of last April.


    “As it becomes more difficult to get a voter ID, the state may demand more people obtain one. Alabama’s Secretary of State John Merrill told ThinkProgress earlier this year that he is pushing for the state to require a photo copy of an ID from those who vote absentee — who currently do not have to provide one. He added that Alabama residents should “forgive people” for past racial voter suppression policies and “move on.”

    “He added that Alabama residents should “forgive people” for past racial voter suppression policies and “move on.””

    Wow. Trolling the people that probably won’t be able to vote you out of office because of the stuff you’re trolling them over. Impressive.

    It’s also worth noting that reversing laws like this could be surprisingly easy: Congress just needs to pass a law that reinstates Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court struck down, which was exactly what congressional Democrats proposed back in June. Now all that needs to happen is for the Democrats to take back the House and Senate. Voila! Oh….right.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 26, 2015, 7:12 pm
  20. Back in 2013, following the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act, Republican officials in Florida did exactly what you would expect them to do in such a situation: Go on a purge binge:

    Think Progress
    With Voting Rights Act Gutted, Florida Set To Resume Voter Purge

    by Aviva Shen Jul 25, 2013 9:08am

    Florida’s controversial initiative to screen for suspected non-citizens and purge them from the voter rolls is allowed to officially resume, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

    A Hispanic civil rights group and two naturalized citizens sued last year to block the purge, arguing that it needed to be approved by the federal government because five Florida counties were covered under the Voting Rights Act. After the U.S. Supreme Court tossed out a key section of the law, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit had little choice but to dismiss the suit. Secretary of State Ken Detzner (R) said he plans to resume the voter purge.

    In 2012, the Department of Justice warned that Florida’s voter purge, which targeted roughly 180,000 people, was illegal, and all of the state’s county election supervisors refused to execute the purge. The lists of flagged individuals — many of whom had Latino-sounding names — also turned out to be largely inaccurate. These flagged individuals would receive notifications in the mail notifying them that they had 30 days to contest the purge.

    After all the legal battles and thousands of wasted taxpayer dollars, the state could not turn up virtually any non-citizens who were registered to vote.

    Florida voters, particularly in minority-heavy urban areas, suffered some of the longest lines and most chaotic elections in the country last year. The mayhem was largely created by Republican lawmakers’ efforts to suppress votes. Besides trying to purge voters, Republicans cut the number of early voting days in half, changed ballot length restrictions so they could add frivolous constitutional amendments to 12-page ballots, and restricted voter registration. These voter suppression efforts discouraged at least 201,000 Floridians from voting, and black and Latino voters waited nearly twice as long as white voters. The backlash was so fierce that even Gov. Rick Scott (R), the primary defender of these voter suppression laws, agreed to sign an election reform law undoing most of the damage.

    Prominent Florida Republicans admitted shortly after the election that the motive behind all these election law changes was to make it harder for Democrats to vote.

    “In 2012, the Department of Justice warned that Florida’s voter purge, which targeted roughly 180,000 people, was illegal, and all of the state’s county election supervisors refused to execute the purge.”
    But that was, of course, in 2012, before the Supreme Court purged the federal election laws of the Voting Rights Act. Nowadays it’s ‘purge baby purge!’ Well, sort of. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals did rule last year that the 2012 voter purges less than 90 days before the election were illegal, so hopefully Florida’s Republicans won’t get quite so purge happy in the lead up to elections going forward.

    Of course, if Florida’s GOP does indeed somehow restrain itself from another round of illegal voter purges in 2016, that just leaves them all them the other methods for swinging an election. Like prison-centric gerrymandering schemes, for instance…:

    TPM Muckraker
    White GOPer: We Can Beat Black US Rep By Adding More Prisoners To Her District

    By Catherine Thompson
    Published September 24, 2015, 3:10 PM EDT

    A white Florida Republican suggested knocking a black, longtime Democratic congresswoman out of her seat by gerrymandering more prisoners into her district, according to audio obtained by Politico and published on Wednesday.

    Politico reported that state Rep. Janet Adkins (R) made the suggestion regarding U.S. Rep. Corrinne Brown’s (D) district in a closed-door meeting of the North Florida Republican caucus.

    “It’s a perfect storm,” Adkins said on the audio recording. “You draw it in such a fashion so perhaps, a majority, or maybe not a majority, but a number of them will live in the prisons, thereby not being able to vote.”

    Adkins made sure there were no reporters in the room before she made her comments, according to the report.

    When Politico approached Adkins, who is white, about the comments she made on the recording, she said she was having a “private conversation” and noted that she does not serve on the state House redistricting committee.

    Adkins said in a statement released later Wednesday that she was simply trying to explain what had been discussed in a special session on redistricting.

    “My comments regarding the proposed realignment of congressional district five (as recommended by the Florida Supreme Court) were an attempt to explain some of issues that came up in debate during the redistricting special session,” Adkins wrote in a statement, as quoted by The Florida Times-Union. “I apologize if my statements offended anyone. Because congressional redistricting is a pending legal issue, I will not comment on this matter any further.”

    “It’s a perfect storm…You draw it in such a fashion so perhaps, a majority, or maybe not a majority, but a number of them will live in the prisons, thereby not being able to vote.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 24, 2015, 9:25 pm
  21. Someone should probably inform Jeb Bush’s campaign, a campaign that declared minority outreach as integral to its strategy, that “dog whistling” is a euphemism, and everyone can actually hear what he’s saying:

    Huffington Post

    Jeb Bush’s “Free Stuff” Racial Insult Was a Shrewd Calculation.

    Earl Ofari

    Posted: 09/25/2015 5:36 pm EDT

    GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush knew exactly what he was doing when he insulted African-American voters by alleging that the Democrats buy their votes with “free stuff.” In fact, it was no accident that he hurled his slur at Democrats at a campaign stop in South Carolina.

    Bush is wallowing in single digits in the polls and he needed some spark to get the attention and touch the nerve of Deep South white, conservative voters. It’s not a new ploy. Three and a half decades ago then GOP presidential candidate Ronald Reagan kicked off his presidential bid by thundering about states rights to a lily white campaign crowd in Neshoba, Mississippi.

    In 2012, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney punched the same familiar race-tinged code themes: out of control spend thrift, bloated government to a virtually lily white crowd in Norfolk, Virginia. Romney later doubled down on his subtle race card code message by insulting blacks as Bush did with the crack that Democrats supposedly bribe them by ladling out all sorts of welfare and entitlement goodies.

    Bush can’t openly espouse states rights as Reagan crudely, and Romney only slightly less crudely, did. But he updated the code themes by lambasting Democrats, wasteful big government, run-away deficit spending on entitlement programs, and their full-blown assaults on the so-called Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security programs, and labor unions.

    The “free stuff” to blacks dig was simply etching a lurid racial stereotype graphic to it for conservative voters. And stereotype it is. The majority of the recipients of these programs have always been white seniors, retirees, women, and children, and white workers. But these programs have been artfully sold to many Americans as handouts to lazy, undeserving blacks, Hispanics and minorities.

    Bush as Reagan and Romney ripped a page directly from the time tested Southern Strategy playbook of Richard Nixon for GOP presidential candidates. The strategy has always had two hinges. One is to attack the allegedly liberal and bloated and tax-and-spend big government. The second is to firmly lock down the majority popular and electoral vote in the 11 old Confederate and Border states. These states hold more than one-third of the electoral votes needed to bag the White House.

    Bush’s blunt revival of the Southern Strategy bluntly recognizes two realities. If he’s the eventual GOP presidential nominee, he will get a negligible percentage of the black vote, and only a slightly higher percentage of the Latino vote. Despite much talk that the white conservative vote has shrunk to the point of being marginalized, it isn’t. Whites make up more than 60 percent of America’s electorate. That’s a huge drop from what they represented in the 1980 presidential election. But even that doesn’t tell the white story.

    In the 2012 election, President Obama won only a majority of white vote in four states Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut and New Hampshire. He could not even get a majority of white voters in Deep Blue, heavily Democratic California, New York and Pennsylvania. Overall, Romney bagged nearly sixty percent of white voters. That translated out to a whopping 20 percent margin over Obama.

    The raw racial vote numbers belie another stark political reality: Lyndon Johnson in 1964 was the last Democratic presidential candidate to win more than half the white vote. In every election since Nixon’s win in 1968 whites have voted consistently by either sizeable or comfortable margins for GOP presidential candidates.

    Whites favored Reagan in 1984 by a 64-35 margin. They favored George Bush Sr. in 1988 by a 59-40 margin. Even when Democratic incumbents have won reelection by landslide margins as in Clinton’s reelection win in 1996, GOP Presidential contender Bob Dole still edged Clinton out with white voters. He walloped Clinton by a double-digit margin of white conservative protestant voters.

    Bush’s neo-Southern Strategy is anchored in another political reality. He hopes to duplicate what Romney did and that’s grab the majority of conservative white voters. In Romney’s 2012 GOP primary wins he got two-thirds of those that self-labeled themselves “strongly conservative” or “somewhat conservative. This is no surprise for another reason. Elections are usually won by candidates with a solid and impassioned core of bloc voters. White males, particularly older white males, vote consistently and faithfully. And they vote in a far greater percentage than Hispanics and blacks.

    So Bush knowingly played the race card in part to boost his faltering campaign, in greater part because the recent history of presidential election have shown that a GOP candidate’s only path to the White House is getting an overwhelming number of white voters in the South, the Heartland States, and the swing states. Bush shrewdly calculated that in his political insult.

    Note that while it’s true that:


    Bush’s neo-Southern Strategy is anchored in another political reality. He hopes to duplicate what Romney did and that’s grab the majority of conservative white voters. In Romney’s 2012 GOP primary wins he got two-thirds of those that self-labeled themselves “strongly conservative” or “somewhat conservative. This is no surprise for another reason. Elections are usually won by candidates with a solid and impassioned core of bloc voters. White males, particularly older white males, vote consistently and faithfully. And they vote in a far greater percentage than Hispanics and blacks.

    one reason “white males, particularly older white males, vote consistently and faithfully” is that their voices were actually allowed to be heard at the ballot box. Minority voters in Florida , on the other hand, haven’t been able to do voice their political will quite as a widely in recent elections. Dog whistles speak louder than words. And votes:

    The Huffington Post
    Florida Voter Purge Fiasco May Complicate Jeb Bush’s Appeal To Minorities

    Scott Conroy
    Posted: 06/25/2015 7:44 am EDT Updated: 07/31/2015 10:59 am EDT

    On Friday morning, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush continued to emphasize his push for a more inclusive Republican Party in a much anticipated speech at the annual National Urban League Conference.

    Bush has centered his presidential campaign around his efforts to emphasize upward mobility, particularly in minority communities.

    But Bush’s relationship with the African-American community in Florida during his governorship was rocky, particularly as it related to the botched felon “voter purge” that took place under his tenure preceding the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections.

    In light of Bush’s speech this morning, we are reposting our story from last month on that complicated episode. Read it below.

    MIAMI –- Something was noticeably different about the crowd packed inside a gymnasium at Miami Dade College’s Kendall campus last week to welcome Jeb Bush into the ranks of the announced 2016 Republican presidential candidates.

    In a vivid departure from the nearly all-white audiences that typically turn out to greet GOP White House contenders, Bush’s racially and ethnically diverse supporters mirrored the demographics of this multicultural city.

    The scene was meant to emphasize a core Bush strength, if not send a message to fellow Republicans, that an inclusive and aspirational brand of politics offers the GOP an opportunity to re-engage with minority voters, including African-Americans, who long ago abandoned the party of Lincoln en masse.

    Even some Democratic operatives acknowledge privately that Bush — a fluent Spanish speaker with a Mexican-born wife — has a biography and demeanor that could chip away at the coalition that twice propelled Barack Obama to the White House.

    Bush’s critics in Florida, however, scoff.

    As the 2016 campaign heats up, an episode from his tenure as Florida governor reveals why Bush’s image as a “uniter, not a divider,” as his older brother used to put it, may not stand up. The state’s deeply flawed purge of felons from its voting rolls in advance of the 2000 presidential election remains a scar that still has not healed for many in the state.

    “I’ll never the forget people that came up to me and said, ‘You let them steal our votes,’” Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.), who became state’s first African-American elected to Congress since Reconstruction when she won her seat in 1992, told The Huffington Post. “So many people were just wiped off the rolls — people who’d been voting for years and years. You had the obligation to prove that you weren’t a felon.”

    The felon purge wrongfully denied thousands of legitimate voters the ability to participate in a presidential election pitting Republican George W. Bush against Democrat Al Gore. Ultimately, a few hundred Florida ballots would determine the presidency, and with it, the nation’s path for the next eight years and, really, well beyond.

    Though it received little notice outside of Florida in the election’s immediate aftermath, as hanging chads and butterfly ballots took center stage during the recount, the purge remains for many the most egregious example of voter disenfranchisement that took place during the 2000 presidential election, which was ultimately decided by a Supreme Court ruling.

    “The purge was right out of one of these playbooks in how you diminish minority turnout — there was absolutely no justification for it,” said Dan Gelber, a former Democratic state legislator and a longtime Bush nemesis. “It was almost a purposeful crashing of a car. They knew it was irresponsible and about something incredibly important, and they went forward knowing that the only mistakes were going to benefit them.”

    Florida has banned convicted felons from participating in elections since 1868. But it wasn’t until 1998 — the year before Bush took office — that state legislators passed a law intended to clean up the voter rolls after a Miami mayoral election was overturned amid widespread cases of absentee ballot fraud.

    The secretary of state’s office subsequently awarded Database Technologies Inc., or DBT, a $4 million contract to carry out the effort to ensure that felons, deceased voters, and non-residents would be blocked from participating in the 2000 election.

    It would not be an easy task.

    Since Florida did not track its voters by Social Security number, the company was instructed to engage in a subjective process that attempted to match felon names and dates of birth with voter records, allowing for “ near matches” that were close, but not exact.

    After Jeb Bush took office in 1999, this process continued. In the months leading up to the 2000 presidential election, local election supervisors began receiving lists from state officials of people DBT had identified as convicted felons and thus needed to be eliminated from the voting rolls.

    It became immediately clear that the effort was generating a slew of false positives. Voters in good standing, who happened to share names with convicted felons, but had never been in trouble with the law, were being taken off the voting rolls.

    But election officials in Tallahassee — led by Secretary of State Katherine Harris, who would later gain infamy over her controversial handling of the election recount — declined to make the process more transparent and uniform.

    Charges that the purge was politically motivated grew louder when it was revealed that the man responsible for determining the parameters for voter removal was Emmett “Bucky” Mitchell IV — a Division of Election attorney who went on to become general counsel for the Florida Republican Party.

    In early 1999, DBT product manager Marlene Thorogood warned Mitchell of false positives generated by the guidelines that he had set. But in an email Mitchell sent in March of that year, he instructed Thorogood not to concern herself with wrongly eliminating non-felons from the voter rolls. It was better to purge too many people than too few, in Mitchell’s estimation.

    “Obviously, we want to capture more names that possibly aren’t matches and let the [county elections] supervisors make a final determination rather than exclude certain matches altogether,” Mitchell wrote.

    This decree from Tallahassee having been made clear, county-level election officials began receiving lists of voters they were told to remove from their rolls in the months leading up to an Election Day that would prove to be among the most memorable in American history. The local officials’ responses to this instruction varied. Some tossed out the lists altogether. Others used their discretion to try to correct them. Some used the lists with full knowledge that they were defective.

    Estimates vary on just how many non-felons in Florida were wrongly denied the right to vote on Election Day, but the total was at least 1,100, according to a 2001 Palm Beach Post analysis, and may have been much higher.

    Following the election recount, in which he officially recused himself, Jeb Bush sought to distance himself from the botched purge, arguing that as governor, he was not charged with administering the election.

    A post-election investigation by the U.S. Commission On Civil Rights, however, in which Bush was subpoenaed, was dubious about this reasoning, noting that the actions Bush took immediately after the 2000 election demonstrated that he did, in fact, have the ability to act on voting-related matters.

    “Florida’s governor insisted that he had no specific role in election operations and pointed to his secretary of state as the responsible official,” the commission wrote in its report. “After the election, however, the governor exercised leadership and responsibility in electoral matters in the commendable action of appointing a task force to make recommendations to fix the problems that occurred.”

    The report found a “strong basis” for determining that violations of the 1965 Voting Rights Act had occurred during the election in Florida. While it did not find that “the highest officials of the state conspired to disenfranchise voters,” the report singled out Bush and Harris, saying their “overall lack of leadership in protecting voting rights was largely responsible for the broad array of problems in Florida during the 2000 election.”

    “The state’s highest officials responsible for ensuring efficiency, uniformity, and fairness in the election failed to fulfill their responsibilities and were subsequently unwilling to take responsibility,” the report said.

    African-Americans were nearly 10 times more likely than white voters to have their ballots discounted in Florida, the report found, and it singled out for criticism the felon voter purge’s “sloppy and irresponsible” implementation.

    “The governor, the secretary of state, or the director of the Division of Elections should have provided clear instructions to their subordinates on list maintenance strategies that would protect eligible voters from being erroneously purged from the voter registration rolls,” the report said.

    Aides to Jeb Bush at the time criticized the report by the Commission On Civil Rights, controlled by a Democratic majority, as “biased” and “sloppy” in its own right — charges that did nothing to quell widespread outrage, particularly among African-Americans, in Florida.

    But any lingering bad feelings about Bush were not apparent at his presidential campaign announcement last week, when R.B. Holmes, Jr. — an African-American minister from Tallahassee — delivered impassioned praise of the former governor in introducing him on stage.

    In an interview with The Huffington Post, Holmes noted that he appreciated Bush’s efforts to appoint more African-Americans to judgeships in Florida when he was governor.

    “Jeb Bush is a very compassionate person,” Holmes said. “I respect his core values. I respect that he married a minority, and he did that back in the day. Think of how unpopular that was for a Bush of his status to go to Mexico and find a bride.”

    Holmes is far from the only African-American in Florida who retains positive feelings toward Bush.

    After famously saying during his failed 1994 gubernatorial run that he would do “probably nothing” to help blacks, Bush changed his tone dramatically when it came to engaging in matters of race and identity during his 1998 campaign. That year, he ended up earning the support of 61 percent of Hispanics and 14 percent of African-Americans — impressive numbers for a Republican.

    Even though he didn’t do as well with either group during his successful 2002 re-election bid, Bush’s reputation as a bridge-builder who actively concerned himself with lifting up minority communities — boosted, in part, by his high-profile push for expanded educational opportunities — remains a central tenet of his political identity.

    Mac Stipanovich, a Florida Republican lobbyist who advised Harris throughout the 2000 recount, was blunt in arguing that Bush had not erred in failing to provide any oversight of the botched felon purge.

    “Any time you attempt to pare the voting rolls in Florida, regardless of what the reason is, you are anti-democratic with a small-D and probably racist,” Stipanovich said by way of discounting those accusations.

    But criticism of how Bush and members of his administration handled the purge became even louder four years later, when he and other Florida officials failed to correct the problems that arose during the previous presidential election year and, in fact, may have made it worse.

    The 2004 iteration of the felon voter purge — this time carried out by the Department of Elections itself — ended with a whimper when a peculiar (some would say “fishy”) anomaly was discovered the summer before Bush’s brother stood for re-election.

    That year’s list of 48,000 felons who were to be purged from the voting rolls contained more than 22,000 African-Americans’ names, but just 61 Hispanics. (In Florida, Hispanic communities tend to be more Republican-leaning than they are nationally.)

    Bush administration officials denied there was any partisan motivation in the discrepancy, calling it “unintentional.” But as Democrats scoffed and public pressure mounted, Florida officials ended up scrapping the list entirely.

    Some 15 years later, Jeb Bush, now running his own presidential campaign, has treated the Florida voting purge as a foreign object — an episode that had little if nothing to do with him.

    Asked during a press conference during a campaign swing through Iowa last week whether he believes that African-Americans were disproportionately affected by those efforts, he waffled a bit before rephrasing the question in his own manner.

    “I don’t think so,” he said. “I don’t think there was any — no, if you’re going to say, ‘Did the Florida Department of Law Enforcement target African-Americans?’ No.”

    Meanwhile, Florida remains one of just three states where all convicted felons automatically lose their voting rights and must petition the governor and a clemency board in an arduous process in order to try to get them restored.

    In 2007, Gov. Charlie Crist, then a Republican, initiated a change in the clemency policy, which made it so that most convicted felons in Florida would automatically have their voting rights restored after the state ensured that they had paid restitution to victims.

    Those new guidelines were then rolled back by Gov. Rick Scott (R) shortly after he took office in 2011.

    According to a 2012 study by The Sentencing Project, a nonprofit group advocating for judicial sentencing reform, Florida continues to have the highest rate of African-American disenfranchisement in the country with 23 percent of the adult African-American population in the state barred from voting.

    “I think that the purge system brought a real apartheid type of politics that was going on in Florida,” said former Democratic state Rep. Tony Hill. “Look at the people who were purged — they were African-American. They just discounted our votes without any recourse.”

    “According to a 2012 study by The Sentencing Project, a nonprofit group advocating for judicial sentencing reform, Florida continues to have the highest rate of African-American disenfranchisement in the country with 23 percent of the adult African-American population in the state barred from voting.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 27, 2015, 6:41 pm
  22. With Alabama set to to shut down 31 drivers license offices due to a significant budget shortfall (it turns out Alabama is one of the states that suffers from Kansas-itis), now is probably a good time to go get that drivers license if you’re going to need it any time soon. Especially if you happen to live in one of Alabama’s predominantly African-American counties:

    AL.com
    Voter ID and driver’s license office closures black-out Alabama’s Black Belt

    By Kyle Whitmire on September 30, 2015 at 3:55 PM, updated October 01, 2015 at 5:57 PM

    I still remember when the lady in the uniform giving me my driver’s test asked me to do a three-point turn.

    Instead, I gave her a blank stare. I had no idea what a three-point turn was. It was a couple of days after my sixteenth birthday, and I knew right then that I wouldn’t be getting a license that day, but the lady was nice about it. Politely, she explained what I was supposed to do. Next we drove back to the Clarke County courthouse, and she failed me.

    A couple weeks later, I took the test again. That time, I passed, but my parents weren’t all that happy that we had to make a second trip.

    And that trip was only 10 miles, each way. When you live in a rural area, 10 miles seems a lot farther there.

    However, today a lot of folks will have to drive a lot farther just to be able to drive.

    The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s website says their office at the Clarke County Courthouse is still open, but soon a lot of others nearby won’t be. On Wednesday, the agency announced that it would close 31 offices throughout the state, leaving 29 counties without a place where 16-year-olds can take a driver’s test, whether they pass on the first try or not.

    That’s an inconvenience.

    But there’s something bigger happening here.

    In 2011, Alabama lawmakers approved the state’s voter ID law, making it illegal to vote in Alabama without a government-issued photo ID.

    For most folks, that’s a driver’s license.

    In those 29 counties you might be able to register at the courthouse, but you won’t be able to cast a ballot there unless you have that ID.

    That’s not just an inconvenience. That’s a problem.

    But it gets worse.

    Look at the list of counties now where you can’t get a driver’s license. There’s Choctaw, Sumter, Hale, Greene, Perry, Wilcox, Lowndes, Butler, Crenshaw, Macon, Bullock …

    If you had to memorize all the Alabama Counties in 9th grade, like I did — and even if you forgot most of them, like I have — you can probably guess where we’re going with this.

    Depending on which counties you count as being in Alabama’s Black Belt, either twelve or fifteen Black Belt counties soon won’t have a place to get a driver’s license.

    Counties where some of the state’s poorest live.

    Counties that are majority African-American.

    Combine that with the federally mandated Star ID taking effect next year, and we’re looking at a nightmare.

    Or a trial lawyer’s dream.

    When the state passed Voter ID, Republican lawmakers argued that it was supposed to prevent voter fraud. Democrats said the law was written to disenfranchise black voters and suppress the voice of the poor.

    Maybe, maybe not.

    But put these two things together — Voter ID and 29 counties without a place where you can get one — and Voter ID becomes what the Democrats always said it was.

    A civil rights lawsuit isn’t a probability. It’s a certainty.

    What a coincidence:


    Depending on which counties you count as being in Alabama’s Black Belt, either twelve or fifteen Black Belt counties soon won’t have a place to get a driver’s license.

    Counties where some of the state’s poorest live.

    Counties that are majority African-American.

    What a stunning coincidence.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 1, 2015, 7:16 pm
  23. Oh look, Jeb Bush finally found something to publicly disagree about with his brother. While George W. actually reauthorized the Voting Rights Act in 2006 for another 25 years, Jeb wouldn’t support reauthorizing it “as is” since he doesn’t think there’s still a role left for the federal government to play in overseeing elections given all the progress that’s been made since the 60’s. But he did hedge his answer in an interesting way that really warrants a follow up question, because Jeb did suggest that, although most states don’t require oversight, “there could be some”. So Jebbers thinks there could indeed be some states that require federal oversight. But he didn’t tell us which. What a fun mystery!

    The Huffington Post
    Jeb Bush Opposes Reauthorizing The Voting Rights Act ‘As Is’
    He thinks it helped 50 years ago, but isn’t necessary now.

    Igor Bobic
    Associate Politics Editor, The Huffington Post

    Posted: 10/08/2015 12:05 PM EDT | Edited: 10/08/2015 12:13 PM EDT

    WASHINGTON — Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) said Thursday that he opposes reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act, the landmark civil rights law whose protections the Supreme Court watered down in 2013.

    “There’s been dramatic improvement in access to voting. I mean exponentially better improvement,” the presidential candidate said in Iowa. “And I don’t think there’s a role for the federal government to play in most places, there could be some, but in most places where they did have a constructive role in the ’60s. So I don’t support reauthorizing it as is.”

    In a 5-4 decision two years ago, a conservative majority of justices struck down a key provision of the 1965 law that designated which parts of the country must have changes to their voting laws cleared by the federal government. This stipulation applied widely to states in the South, where changes to voting laws have historically worked to keep low-income and minority voters away from the polls. The court, however, wrote “things have changed in the South.”

    One major issue with Bush’s statement is that even the law’s advocates don’t want to reauthorize it exactly “as is.”

    Multiple attempts to restore the law’s protections have been rejected by Republicans in Congress. As a way to address the court’s objections, Democrats have introduced bills in Congress seeking to update the formula used to determine which states require federal approval before updating voting laws. But that legislation, too, has failed to receive a vote.

    Bush’s contention that access to voting has improved “exponentially” is also questionable. Since 2010, when Republicans won a large majority of state houses across the country, civil rights groups have been fighting a wave of new voting restrictions called up under the auspices of voter fraud. Most recently, a federal appeals court ruled Texas’ restrictive voter ID law violates the Voting Right Acts and has a discriminatory impact on voters.

    Bush’s opposition to reauthorizing the law sets him apart from his brother. Former President George W. Bush renewed the law in 2006 and said it “helped bring a community on the margins into the life of American democracy.” He further promised that his administration would “vigorously enforce the provisions of this law, and we will defend it in court.”

    “There’s been dramatic improvement in access to voting. I mean exponentially better improvement….And I don’t think there’s a role for the federal government to play in most places, there could be some, but in most places where they did have a constructive role in the ’60s. So I don’t support reauthorizing it as is.”
    Yes, there could definitely be some states where federal oversight is still very necessary.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 12, 2015, 6:31 pm
  24. Following a national outcry over the decision by Alabama’s government to shut down 31 DMV offices in majority-black counties after passes a new photo-ID voting law, Alabama’s governor has a new plan to assuage his critics. So what’s the plan? Well, it appears to center around trolling his critics:

    Think Progress
    Alabama Addresses Voter Suppression Accusations By Keeping Rural DMVs Open One Day A Month

    by Alice Ollstein
    Oct 21, 2015 4:24pm

    After national outcry from civil groups and politicians, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley announced he is somewhat reversing his decision to shut down 31 DMV offices in rural, majority-black counties across his state. Under the new plan, the offices will remain open just one day a month, beginning this November.

    Alabama officials acknowledge that a drivers license or DMV-issued state ID are the most common forms of identification used to vote, but argue residents who need an ID have plenty of ways to obtain one.

    Ed Packard, Alabama’s Director of Elections, told ThinkProgress that voters can still go to the Board of Registrar’s office in their county, or meet up with the mobile unit that travels around the state processing voter IDs. But he also admitted the Registrar offices have no evening or weekend hours, which presents difficulties for those with full-time jobs or multiple jobs. As for the mobile unit, it generally visits just one county per day and is open for just two hours at a time.

    In a recent campaign visit to Alabama, presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton slammed the state’s Republican legislature for cutting funds for the DMV offices amid their budget crisis, calling it “a blast from the Jim Crow past.” Other critics have noted that both the voter ID law itself and the DMV closures could have been prevented had the full Voting Rights Act of 1965 not been severely limited by a 2013 Supreme Court ruling — based on a case that also originated in Alabama.

    A federal bill to restore the Voting Rights Act’s protections was introduced in June, but the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has so far declined to take it up.

    So it looks like the epic Tuba troller at the KKK march earlier this year is getting some ironic “troll of the year” competition: One day a month. Just imagine a month’s worth of DMV processing all in one day. Just imagine…

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 21, 2015, 5:45 pm
  25. With the 2016 US election season really starting to heat up, it’s probably a good time to ask ourselves what types of voter suppression techniques will be the GOP’s method of choice of the 2016 race. And, sadly, to answer that question we simply need to take a look at whichever voter-fraud witch hunts Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach engaged in last year that happen to still be unresolved:

    The Nation

    A Voter-Fraud Witch Hunt in Kansas

    The leading crusader behind the myth of voter fraud now has the power to prosecute bogus fraud cases.

    By Ari Berman

    June 11, 2015

    In fall 2010, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach held a press conference alleging that dead people were voting in the state. He singled out Alfred K. Brewer as a possible zombie voter. There was only one problem: Brewer was very much alive. The Wichita Eagle found the 78-year-old working in his front yard. “I don’t think this is heaven, not when I’m raking leaves,” Brewer said.

    Since his election in 2010, Kobach has been the leading crusader behind the myth of voter fraud, making headline-grabbing claims about the prevalence of such fraud with little evidence to back it up. Now he’s about to become a lot more powerful.

    On Monday, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed a bill giving Kobach’s office the power to prosecute voter-fraud cases if county prosecutors decline to do so and upgrading such charges from misdemeanors to felonies. Voters could be charged with a felony for mistakenly showing up at the wrong polling place. No other secretary of state in the country has such sweeping prosecutorial power, says Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.

    “It means a person and an office with no experience or background in criminal prosecutions is now going to be making a determination of whether there’s probable cause to bring a criminal case against an individual who may have just made a paperwork mistake,” Ho says. “There is a reason why career prosecutors typically handle these cases. They know what they’re doing.”

    Kobach claims there are 100 cases of “double voting” from the 2014 election that he wants to prosecute, but there’s been scant evidence of such fraud in Kansas in past elections. From 1997 to 2010, according to The Wichita Eagle, there were only 11 confirmed cases of voter fraud in the state.

    Such fraud has been just as rare nationally, even according to Kobach’s own data, noted The Washington Post:

    Kansas’ secretary of state examined 84 million votes cast in 22 states to look for duplicate registrants. In the end 14 cases were referred for prosecution, representing 0.00000017 percent of the votes cast.

    Kobach says he needs this extraordinary prosecutorial power because county and federal attorneys are not bringing enough voter-fraud cases. But Kansas US Attorney Barry Grissom said last year that Kobach’s office had not referred any cases of voter fraud to his office. “We have received no voter fraud cases from your office in over four and a half years,” Grissom wrote to Kobach.

    Kobach has been a leading proponent of his state’s strict voter-ID law, which decreased turnout by 2 percent in 2012, according to the Government Accountability Office, with the state falling from 28th to 36th in voter turnout following its implementation.

    He’s also been the driving force behind Kansas’s 2011 proof-of-citizenship law for voter registration, which requires voters to show a birth certificate or passport to participate in the political process. Twenty-five thousand voters had their registrations “suspended” in the 2014 election because of the law; even the right-wing group True the Vote claimed that only 1 percent of the list were verified non-citizens.

    After the Supreme Court found that Arizona’s proof-of-citizenship law violated the National Voter Registration Act, Kansas and Arizona instituted a two-tiered voting system, arguing that those who registered through the federal NVRA form could not vote in state or local elections. That system has it roots in the Jim Crow South.

    Kobach, who wrote Arizona’s “papers, please” anti-illegal immigration law, alleges “in Kansas, the illegal registration of alien voters has become pervasive.” That defies common sense, as Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe pointed out. “Why would an illegal alien want to go to vote and draw attention to himself?” Howe asked.

    Kobach has asked the Supreme Court to restore the proof-of-citizenship law. The Court will decide on June 25 whether to take the case. If Kobach succeeds, proof-of-citizenship laws will spread to more states, and Kobach’s voter-fraud crusade will become even more influential.

    “After the Supreme Court found that Arizona’s proof-of-citizenship law violated the National Voter Registration Act, Kansas and Arizona instituted a two-tiered voting system, arguing that those who registered through the federal NVRA form could not vote in state or local elections. That system has it roots in the Jim Crow South.”
    Well, that’s appears to be a prime candidate for at least one of this year’s voter suppression methods of choice: A two-tiered voting system with a proof-of-citizenship requirement just to vote in state elections. Sure, there will be plenty of other suppression techniques tried, but this one appears to be where Kobach and other like-minded secretaries of state are going to be investing thier energies.

    Of course, they’re still going to need to get the green light from the courts:


    Kobach has asked the Supreme Court to restore the proof-of-citizenship law. The Court will decide on June 25 whether to take the case. If Kobach succeeds, proof-of-citizenship laws will spread to more states, and Kobach’s voter-fraud crusade will become even more influential.

    And that’s exactly where self-appointed crusades against fictional voter fraud violations tend to hit a legal wall

    Roll Call

    Voting-Rights Advocates Get Win at Supreme Court

    By Simone Pathé Posted at 3:57 p.m. on June 29, 2015

    Monday’s big election law news came from the Supreme Court’s penultimate decision of the term upholding Arizona’s congressional districts.

    But before handing down its last three decisions, the court made voting-rights advocates happy by deciding not to review a different election case.

    “Arizona citizens can continue to participate in voter registration drives without worrying about not having proof of citizenship documents,” Shirley Sandelands of the League of Women Voters of Arizona said in a statement Monday.

    The case, Kobach, et al. v. Election Assistance Commission, et al., was about whether Arizona and Kansas could require voters to prove their citizenship when registering to vote with the so-called federal form. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach led the suit against the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which was an appeal of a lower court decision.

    Both Kansas and Arizona have state laws that require applicants to prove their citizenship when applying to vote with state forms (for state or federal elections). But the U.S. EAC denied the states’ requests to have their citizenship laws applied when would-be voters use the standardized federal form.

    The Supreme Court had already ruled in 2013 that state proof-of-citizenship laws couldn’t be applied when people try to register with the federal form. The states’ direct request to the EAC was a last-ditch effort to get around that.

    By not hearing the case, the Supreme Court effectively upheld the decision of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled against Arizona and Kansas in November 2014, saying the EAC did not have to modify its form to meet state laws. Under the federal form, would-be voters need only swear under penalty of perjury that they are citizens.

    “This is a very big deal,” University of California Irvine Law Professor Rick Hasen wrote on his election law blog Monday. “Kobach had the potential to shift more power away from the federal government in administering elections toward the states,” he added.

    But Kobach still hopes states’ authority will be recognized.

    “Our position in court is that we’re exercising our state’s right to define the qualifications of electors,” Kobach told CQ Roll Call Monday afternoon. “By creating this loophole, the federal agency is interfering,” he said in reference to the EAC.

    Kobach emphasized the court’s decision not to review the case does not reflect its opinion on the issues of the case.

    “The Supreme Court decision not to review was not particularly surprising given the fact that there was no circuit split yet,” he said.

    Typically, Kobach continued, “the Supreme Court favors reviewing decisions where one circuit has gone one way and another circuit has gone another way. It appears that the Supreme Court is waiting for another circuit to weigh in.” He expects the 11th Circuit, which he said has jurisdiction over two states with similar proof-of-citizenship laws, to eventually get involved.

    The Kansas and Arizona laws stand, meaning that people wishing to register to vote with state forms are required to show proof of citizenship. Kobach said more than 99 percent of Kansans use the state forms. “But because of the Supreme Court decision not to review the case,” he added, “we do have a small limited loophole.” The slim majority that uses the federal form can “refuse to provide proof of citizenship,” he said, “but that will only suffice for federal elections.”

    Kobach said he’ll be sending another request to the EAC, but that it will be presented differently from the state’s previously denied request.

    “Every time an alien votes, it may not steal an election, but it will cancel out a vote of a U.S. citizen,” Kobach said.

    “By not hearing the case, the Supreme Court effectively upheld the decision of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled against Arizona and Kansas in November 2014, saying the EAC did not have to modify its form to meet state laws. Under the federal form, would-be voters need only swear under penalty of perjury that they are citizens.”

    Ok, so the Supreme Court has already shot down the notion that Kansas and Arizona can require that voters show proof-of-citizenship when filling out federal voting registration forms:


    Both Kansas and Arizona have state laws that require applicants to prove their citizenship when applying to vote with state forms (for state or federal elections). But the U.S. EAC denied the states’ requests to have their citizenship laws applied when would-be voters use the standardized federal form.

    But there’s still the open question of state elections and whether or not states can set up the two-tier voter registration system and require proof-of-citizenship for state elections. Although it’s a little less open a question, after a state district court just ruled it illegal for Kansas:

    The Huffington Post
    Kansas Secretary Of State Loses Battle For Stricter Voter Registration — Again
    Kris Kobach’s efforts to make voters prove that they’re citizens aren’t going so well.

    01/19/2016 06:04 pm ET

    Robert Baldwin III
    Politics Fellow, The Huffington Post

    A district state judge declared Friday that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has overstepped his legal authority by implementing a dual voter registration system.

    The federal voter registration form only requires a sworn statement, under penalty of perjury, that citizens who are registering are U.S. citizens. Kobach introduced a requirement that residents of Kansas seeking to vote must produce documentation of citizenship, like a passport or birth certificate. The requirement took effect in 2013.

    In his ruling last week, Judge Franklin Theis wrote, “The Secretary is not empowered to determine or declare the method of registration or create a method of ‘partial registration’ only.”

    “In Kansas, a person is either registered to vote or he or she is not,” he continued. “By current Kansas law, registration, hence, the right to vote, is not tied to the method of registration.”

    After introducing the more stringent procedure for registration, Kobach lost his suit to compel the federal election officials to change the federal forms to require citizenship documentation. The Supreme Court ruled against him in 2013, saying that states cannot impose a proof-of-citizenship documentation requirement on federal forms.

    Kobach then attempted to circumvent the Supreme Court’s ruling by arguing that any Kansan who registered using the federal form could only vote in federal elections. To exploit the court’s ruling, he created a two-tier voting system where voters who registered using the federal forms could vote for offices like the presidency and U.S. Congress seats, but were barred from voting for local and state offices. If the voter were to cast a local vote on the federal ballot, those votes would go uncounted.

    Kobach has justified his state’s proof-of-citizenship requirement by arguing that it protects against fraud, even though cases of in-person impersonation fraud, which such a requirement is meant to guard against, are exceedingly rare.

    In response to the ruling, Kobach said that he plans to appeal.

    Well, that certainly doesn’t bode well for Kobach’s proof-of-citizenship voting scheme. First the Supreme Court shoots the idea down that it can be applied to federal elections down (again), and then the state courts shoot down the idea for state elections (again).

    So does this mean Kris Kobach’s proof-of-citizenship scheme is off the table for wider national use by the many GOP-controlled states? Of course not. This is the GOP we’re talking about here. Voter suppression schemes are always on the table, one way or another. For instance, if the new executive director of the Election Assistance Commission appointed back in November happens to have been plucked from the state of Kansas, you just might see the EAC surprised everyone (including other members of the EAC) and announce that some states (like Kansas) can impose proof-of-citizenship requirements for both state and federal elections:

    Associated Press

    Official: In Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, voters need citizenship proof

    By ROXANA HEGEMAN
    Published February 5, 2016, 3:23 PM EST

    WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal elections official has decided — without public notice or review from his agency’s commissioners — that residents of Alabama, Kansas and Georgia can no longer register to vote using a federal form without providing proof of U.S. citizenship.

    The action by the new executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission is being roundly criticized by voting rights activists, who say the “secretive move” will create additional barriers for potential voters, and one of the agency’s own commissioners, who says it contradicts policy and precedent.

    The new instructions were posted on the agency’s website, according to EAC’s executive director Brian Newby, who sent letters dated Jan. 29 to the three states that had requested the change. Under the new rule, any resident in those states who registers to vote using the federal form must show citizenship documentation — such as a birth certificate, naturalization papers or passport. In other states, no such documentation is needed to register; voters need only sign a sworn statement.

    The changes took effect immediately, Newby said, adding that any interested party could request a review from the commission, which is appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

    That review may very well happen. EAC Commissioner Thomas Hicks, told The Associated Press that he’s weighing his options so that the commissioners can address the issue. The Democrat posted a blistering statement on the agency’s website this week, and said Thursday that Newby’s action constitutes a policy change that should have been taken up by the commission and approved by at least three of four commissioners. Currently, there are three sitting members and a vacancy to be filled.

    “I guess it is in effect, but I don’t want it to be in effect,” he said. The other commissioners, both Republicans, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

    Newby took over in November and came from Kansas, whose Republican secretary of state, Kris Kobach, has been a staunch advocate for such citizenship requirements and has fought court battles over them. Kobach also had appointed Newby to be a county elections commissioner.

    Newby defended his decision as a routine administrative action, insisting it was within his authority and that he didn’t look at the decision to add state-specific instructions in the context of the citizenship issue.

    “I don’t think there is any discretion that I am given to make a determination on which instructions submitted are OK and which ones aren’t,” Newby said. “And that is the rub here.”

    Newby said the move was prompted by a Nov. 17 letter from Kobach’s office requesting the addition of thecitizenship documentation requirements to the federal form, and he looked at similar pending requests from Georgia and Alabama.

    Hicks acknowledged that the commission was aware Newby was reviewing the requests, but wrote earlier this week that it had “addressed this matter several times over the last decade and voted to decline requests to add conflicting language to the voter registration form.”

    lThe American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas, which has fought Kobach in the courts over voting rights, echoed Hicks.

    “We think this is neither appropriate, nor legal — not to mention simply bad policy,” ACLU executive director Micah Kubic said. “There is a reason EAC has held the position that it did for so many years, which is that there should be one standardized federal form.”

    Kansas already had moved ahead with a dual voter-registration system, banning those who registered through the federal form from voting in state and local races. A state court recently ruled Kobach did not have the legislative authority to create such a dual system, but Kobach said Thursday that it’s now a moot point.

    Alabama was waiting for EAC guidance to implement a proof-of-citizenship requirement because of questions of authority, state Elections Director Ed Packard said Thursday. He noted that it’s unclear how soon the new rule will be implemented, or what effect it might have.

    “It’s really hard to predict whether there will be any dramatic or noticeable impact in terms of voter registration,” he said. “Certainly we don’t see it as something that’s going to increase the rate of registration … Obviously there’s gonna have to be a public relations campaign to get the word out because people are not used to having to show proof of citizenship to register to vote.

    Georgia hasn’t implemented proof-of-citizenship requirements, and has put no restrictions on voters who register through federal forms, said David Dove, a spokesman for Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

    “Newby took over in November and came from Kansas, whose Republican secretary of state, Kris Kobach, has been a staunch advocate for such citizenship requirements and has fought court battles over them. Kobach also had appointed Newby to be a county elections commissioner.”

    Yep, the recently appointed head of the federal agency that oversees voting registration rules just happened to come from Kansas and just happened to have been appointed to his previous position by Kris Kobach. And following the Supreme Court’s rejection of Kobach’s federal voting scheme last June, and a state district judge rejecting his state-voting-only proof-of-citizenship scheme, the new head of the EAC just unilaterally legalized Kobach’s original scheme to suppress not just state but federal voting too. And Alabama and Georgia also get this special treatment.

    So that happened.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 8, 2016, 2:13 pm
  26. Oh look, Kansas has another ‘WTF’ moment in voting rights, although in this case it’s unclear how directly it involves Kris Kobach, Kansas’s Secretary of State afflicted with a compulsion to restrict voter-rights over unfounded fears of illegal voting or if it was just an ‘oopsy’ from someone in the Secretary of State’s office: It was discovered that Kansas’s Spanish-language voting guides just happen to include incorrect voting registration dates that could lead voters missing the registration deadline. Also, for some reason the Spanish-language guides left off information about how you can use your passport as a proof-of-ID, a form of id particularly important for new citizens. While it certainly seems like the kind of thing Kobach would like to do, it’s being attributed to human error:

    The Kansas City Star

    Errors in Kansas’ Spanish voting guide include wrong registration deadline

    * English version was correct

    * Voters relying on the Spanish guide could have missed registration deadline

    * Secretary of state’s office blames administrative error, works to fix problems

    By Dion Lefler
    April 9, 2016 5:20 PM

    Spanish-language voter guides distributed by the Kansas secretary of state’s office did not match the English-language version and contained errors that could have resulted in people being unable to register and vote.

    The errors added fuel to complaints that Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s voter registration policies pose hurdles for some voters, including minorities. Ongoing lawsuits challenge the proof-of-citizenship requirements he wrote and shepherded through the Legislature.

    Craig McCullah, who is in charge of the office’s publications and a spokesman for Kobach, accepted responsibility for the errors and said they resulted from a clerical mistake in updating the guides for this year’s elections.

    “It was an administrative error that I am diligently working to fix,” he said.

    McCullah said discrepancies in registration deadlines were corrected in the online version of the guide in the past 24 hours, and the rest of the text is being sent to a professional translating service to eliminate mismatches between the English and Spanish versions.

    The problem went public in a post on the Daily Kos website by Democratic consultant Chris Reeves of Overland Park. Reeves said a native Spanish speaker alerted him to the errors when he stopped by Garden City to check in with local Democrats while on a trip to western Kansas.

    They found two significant differences between the guides published for English and Spanish speakers:

    * The Spanish version of the guide said, in two places, that voters could register up to 15 days before an election. The actual deadline, 21 days before the election, was correct in the English guide.

    * The English guide noted that prospective voters could use a passport as evidence of citizenship to register to vote. Passports, likely to be held by Hispanic naturalized citizens, were left off the list of acceptable ID in the Spanish-language guide.

    About half of Garden City residents are Hispanic, according to the Census Bureau.

    “An individual there was very concerned and she said, ‘Well, these guides are all trash. They’re wrong,’ ” Reeves said. “I went back and I went to the VoteKS website. Sure enough, there they were, and they were wrong.

    “It’s pretty easy to spot something’s wrong when they’re using the numeral 21 (in the English guide) and in the other one, the numeral’s 15,” he said. “That doesn’t take any translation. The numbers are the numbers.”

    He said he contacted an attorney who confirmed that federal voting-rights law requires states to give the same information in English and alternate-language guides. The guides are used to advise voters for both state and federal elections.

    In 2014, the state changed the deadline for registering from 15 days before an election to 21 days, McCullah said. He said he’s still investigating where the errors crept in, but it appears the updated guide contained language copied from a guide published before the 2014 change.

    “The errors added fuel to complaints that Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s voter registration policies pose hurdles for some voters, including minorities. Ongoing lawsuits challenge the proof-of-citizenship requirements he wrote and shepherded through the Legislature.”
    Well, ideologically convenient human errors do occur. Of course, so does ideologically driven voter-suppression with subsequent denials. What a fun mystery. Hopefully someone gets to the bottom of it.

    And in other news, guess which GOP presidential campaign Kris Kobach is claiming to be advising. Hint: it’s exactly the campaign one would expect him to advise.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 11, 2016, 1:23 pm
  27. Remember how Alabama completely shut down rural DMV offices in its predominantly black counties and argued that doing so wouldn’t unfairly restrict those voters in those counties, and then relented by keeping the offices open one day a month last year?

    Well, it looks like Wisconsin’s GOP discovered a new way to troll democracy in our post-Voting Rights Act era that’s sort of the inverse of what Alabama did: Kathleen Novack, the county clerk for Waukasha county which contains a number of Milwaukee’s suburbs, testified in federal court in a lawsuit over a series of restrictive voting laws Wisconsin has passed in recent years. And while Novack asserted in her testimony that “from the start, we have had virtually no problems at all,” and the new laws haven’t negatively affecting voting in her county, she still argued that early voting shouldn’t be allowed on weekends in Wisconsin’s big cities like Milwaukee. Why? Because otherwise inner city voters would have too much access to the voting relative to surrounding suburbs. And if taking away weekend voting means there are long lines on election day at those urban voting, those long lines are evidence of how easy it is for voters to vote:

    The Capital Times

    Waukesha county clerk: Weekend voting gave ‘too much access’ to Milwaukee, Madison

    JESSIE OPOIEN | The Capital Times | jopoien@madison.com | @jessieopie May 24, 2016

    A series of changes to Wisconsin election laws including a voter ID requirement hasn’t negatively affected voting in suburban communities near Milwaukee, city and county clerks testified in federal court Tuesday.

    “From the start, we have had virtually no problems at all,” said Waukesha County clerk Kathleen Novack.

    Their testimony came as the state began its defense in a trial challenging voting policies signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker between 2011 and 2015 including restrictions on early voting hours and locations, the elimination of straight-ticket voting and the photo identification requirement.

    The lawsuit contends those changes place a disproportionate burden on non-white voters. Tuesday marked the seventh day of the trial, which is expected to last almost two weeks.

    Cedarburg city clerk Constance McHugh testified that a policy limiting in-person absentee voting to one location allows her to have more control over the process, and said she believes more than one location would be confusing for Cedarburg voters.

    McHugh said she hasn’t seen long lines or other complications as a result of the photo ID requirement, and said voters in her community have been pleased to have it in place.

    Port Washington city clerk Susan Westerbeke agreed that the provision barring municipalities from having more than one location for in-person absentee voting is a good policy.

    Westerbeke also spoke favorably of a provision limiting early voting hours and eliminating weekend voting, arguing statewide consistency can limit voter confusion.

    Voters in Port Washington generally receive their news from Milwaukee media, she said, and might be confused if Milwaukee offered weekend voting while Port Washington didn’t.

    Cedarburg and Port Washington are both cities of about 11,000 in Ozaukee County, not far from Milwaukee’s population of 600,000. Cedarburg is 96 percent white, and Port Washington is 95 percent white, compared to 45 percent of Milwaukee.

    Ozaukee County as a whole is about 95 percent white and neighboring Waukesha County is about 94 percent white. With Washington County — 96 percent white — they make up the state’s deep-red "WOW counties." The deeply conservative counties form an arc around Democratic Milwaukee County, which is 65 percent white.

    Novack said she believes eliminating weekend voting “level(s) the playing field” between large urban areas and smaller suburban and rural communities that lack the resources to staff weekend hours.

    “If there’s an office open 30 days versus an office that’s only open 10 work days, there are obviously voters that have a lot more access than someone else,” Novack said. “There has to come a point where it’s just giving over-access … to particular parts of the state.”

    Asked whether she thought voters in Milwaukee and Madison — communities that previously used weekend voting — had too much access, Novack said, “too much access to the voters as far as opportunities.”

    If long lines start to form at a polling place, Novack said, it would make more sense to add more staff and open more lines within that location rather than opening a second one.

    “For instance if you’re in the grocery store and there’s a long line, they open up another line,” she said.

    She also argued long lines could be evidence that access is not an issue in urban areas.

    “Apparently access is an easy thing or they wouldn’t have long lines,” she said.

    Plaintiffs in the case include One Wisconsin Institute, Citizen Action of Wisconsin Education Fund and six individuals. The first week of the trial included testimony from elections experts, DMV employees, a former Republican legislative staffer and several witnesses who faced difficulties obtaining photo IDs.

    “Apparently access is an easy thing or they wouldn’t have long lines,” she said.
    Congrats Wisconsin. Your long statewide nightmare of having some of the shortest wait times and highest voter turnout in the nation will finally be coming to an end. Well done. Let the celebrations commence, although if you’re an elected GOP official you might not want to celebrate too loudly:

    Salon

    Wisconsin’s voter ID sham: Republican rep admits the law targets Democrats — it’s time for the rest of the GOP to say it, too
    The truth comes out — a Republican congressman boasts that voter ID laws are an asset to his party

    Simon Maloy
    Wednesday, Apr 6, 2016 12:10 PM CST

    Tuesday’s presidential primaries in Wisconsin were the first big elections held in the state following the implementation of the voter ID law signed by Gov. Scott Walker in 2011, and early indications are that a lot of people were denied their right to cast a vote. As the Nation’s Ari Berman writes, the strict ID requirements and lack of public education about the law resulted in massive registration lines and disenfranchisement among younger voters and minorities – demographics that typically vote Democratic. From a civic health standpoint, that’s not great news. But from the Republican standpoint, the law worked exactly as intended.

    The purpose behind voter ID laws like the one in Wisconsin is, according to Republicans and conservatives, to fight the scourge of voter fraud. But that official line is nonsense: voter fraud is vanishingly rare in Wisconsin and elsewhere, and in those rare instances in which voter fraud does occur, it’s almost always done via absentee ballot, which in-person voter ID laws don’t affect. The true purpose of these laws to do exactly what Wisconsin’s law achieved on Tuesday: suppress the votes of traditionally Democratic voter groups. The evidence points to that truth, but even if you’re unwilling to believe the observable impacts of erecting barriers to ballot access, you can trust the words of Republican politicians who freely admit as much.

    Speaking to a local TV station on Tuesday night, Wisconsin Republican Rep. Glenn Grothman boasted that the state’s voter ID law will help whoever the Republican presidential nominee is to win Wisconsin in the general election. “I think Hillary Clinton is about the weakest candidate the Democrats have ever put up,” Grothman said. “And now we have photo ID, and I think photo ID is going to make a little bit of a difference as well.”

    This comment is being treated as a Kinsley gaffe, but it’s actually pretty standard fare for Grothman, who has been a hard-charging proponent of voter ID laws and the political benefit they confer on Republicans. Back in 2012, when Grothman was a state senator, he was asked by ThinkProgress if the Wisconsin voter ID law could help Mitt Romney win the state, and he said yes, explaining that only Democrats commit voter fraud. “I think if people cheat,” he said, “we believe the people who cheat are more likely to vote against us.”

    These remarks are part of a growing number of comments from Republican officials and conservative activists stating in plain terms that voter ID laws are fantastic at suppressing the Democratic vote. It’s impossible to ignore the partisan motivation here, just as it’s impossible to ignore the actions Republican-led states are taking in conjunction with voter ID laws to make it more and more difficult for Democratic constituencies to vote. In Mississippi, the state passed a law requiring a photo ID to vote, and then announced that it was closing driver’s license offices in “predominantly black and poor” counties across the state (the state’s actions are under federal investigation). In Wisconsin, they’ve dismantled the independent board in charge of supervising elections, devoted little resources to educating voters about the new laws, and made it more difficult to conduct voter registration drives.

    These remarks are part of a growing number of comments from Republican officials and conservative activists stating in plain terms that voter ID laws are fantastic at suppressing the Democratic vote. It’s impossible to ignore the partisan motivation here, just as it’s impossible to ignore the actions Republican-led states are taking in conjunction with voter ID laws to make it more and more difficult for Democratic constituencies to vote. In Mississippi, the state passed a law requiring a photo ID to vote, and then announced that it was closing driver’s license offices in “predominantly black and poor” counties across the state (the state’s actions are under federal investigation). In Wisconsin, they’ve dismantled the independent board in charge of supervising elections, devoted little resources to educating voters about the new laws, and made it more difficult to conduct voter registration drives.
    One of the interesting legal questions regarding the growing number GOPers from states all over the country openly admitting that they’re attempting blatant partisan voter suppression is that the elements of the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court overturned in 2013 that helped fuel this flood of voter suppression laws only required a relatively small number of southern states to submit their voting laws to federal “pre-clearance”. But is there a any state where where the GOP isn’t somehow trying to pass a voter suppression law?

    So, let’s say a future Supreme Court reverses that 2013 decision and we get the full VRA back in force. Should it really be limited to just those original southern states when all these officials from other states like Wisconsin keep admitting that their initiatives that just happen to primarily target minority voters are part of partisan voter suppression effort? What if it’s no long specific states that are intent are intent on suppression their citizens’ right to vote but a national party that’s been doing it for decades?

    It’s an interesting question regarding potential Supreme Court voting rights rulings. Of course, given the reality that existing voter suppression laws could end up giving us President Trump with a GOP-controlled House and Senate, it’s a question that could soon be moot.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 25, 2016, 6:04 pm
  28. Remember how North Carolina’s voter ID laws, among the most aggressive in the nation, only proceeded ahead after the Supreme Court shot down the Voting Rights Act and removed the requirement that the state not get “pre-clearance” and prove that its laws won’t discriminate against minority groups? Well, here’s a good example of why some state governments sadly and clearly still need that “pre-clearance” requirement:

    The Washington Post

    Republicans tried to disenfranchise black voters

    By Christopher Ingraham
    July 29, 2016

    Today, a federal court struck down North Carolina’s voter-ID law, one of the strictest in the nation. In addition to requiring residents to show identification before they can cast a ballot, the law also eliminated same-day voter registration, eliminated seven days of early voting and put an end to out-of-precinct voting. The federal court ruling reinstates these provisions, for now.

    Supporters of the law, like North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, have ldong maintained that requirements like these were necessary to prevent voter fraud. But time and time again, scholars and legal experts have found that the type of fraud these laws are meant to combat is largely nonexistent.

    One of the most comprehensive studies on the subject found only 31 individual cases of voter impersonation out of more than 1 billion votes cast in the United States since the year 2000. Researchers have found that reports of voter fraud are roughly as common as reports of alien abduction.

    The federal court in Richmond found that the primary purpose of North Carolina’s wasn’t to stop voter fraud, but rather to disenfranchise minority voters. The judges found that the provisions “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.”

    In particular, the court found that North Carolina lawmakers requested data on racial differences in voting behaviors in the state. “This data showed that African Americans disproportionately lacked the most common kind of photo ID, those issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV),” the judges wrote.

    So the legislators made it so that the only acceptable forms of voter identification were the ones disproportionately used by white people. “With race data in hand, the legislature amended the bill to exclude many of the alternative photo IDs used by African Americans,” the judges wrote. “The bill retained only the kinds of IDs that white North Carolinians were more likely to possess.”

    The data also showed that black voters were more likely to make use of early voting — particularly the first seven days out of North Carolina’s 17-day voting period. So lawmakers eliminated these seven days of voting. “After receipt of this racial data, the General Assembly amended the bill to eliminate the first week of early voting, shortening the total early voting period from seventeen to ten days,” the court found.

    Most strikingly, the judges point to a “smoking gun” in North Carolina’s justification for the law, proving discriminatory intent. The state argued in court that “counties with Sunday voting in 2014 were disproportionately black” and “disproportionately Democratic,” and said it did away with Sunday voting as a result.

    “Thus, in what comes as close to a smoking gun as we are likely to see in modern times, the State’s very justification for a challenged statute hinges explicitly on race — specifically its concern that African Americans, who had overwhelmingly voted for Democrats, had too much access to the franchise,” the judges write in their decision.

    This is about as clear-cut an indictment of the discriminatory underpinnings of voter-ID laws as you’ll find anywhere. Studies have already shown a significant link between support for voter ID and racial discrimination, among both lawmakers and white voters in general.

    “Faced with this record,” the federal court concludes, “we can only conclude that the North Carolina General Assembly enacted the challenged provisions of the law with discriminatory intent.”

    “Most strikingly, the judges point to a “smoking gun” in North Carolina’s justification for the law, proving discriminatory intent. The state argued in court that “counties with Sunday voting in 2014 were disproportionately black” and “disproportionately Democratic,” and said it did away with Sunday voting as a result.”

    Yep, North Carolina’s voter ID law was specifically designed to minimize the black vote and the state admitted it. Thus the “smoking gun” and the subsequent court invalidation of the law. Ok, great. But what about all the other voter ID laws passed in recent years in other GOP states that were basically the same law, but where the state government isn’t stupid enough to admit discrimination was the intent? Are theses laws still constitutional without the open admission or do we just have to wait for lawmakers to spill the beans? It’s a pretty important and urgent question.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 1, 2016, 4:59 pm
  29. With Donald Trump’s latest attempt at minority voter outreach looking more like an attempt to rebrand dehumanizing hate speech as ‘outreach’(in keeping with the larger goal to mainstream the ‘Alt-Right’ and white supremacy), while simultaneously claiming the voting and polls are all rigged against him, it’s going to be increasingly important to keep in mind that that one of the many reasons the Trump campaign isn’t bothering to engage in minority outreach is because the GOP already has a wildly successful minority vote-suppression project already in place and ready to go for the 2016 election:

    Rolling Stone

    The GOP’s Stealth War Against Voters

    Will an anti-voter-fraud program designed by one of Trump’s advisers deny tens of thousands their right to vote in November?

    By Greg Palast
    8/24/2016

    When Donald Trump claimed, “the election’s going to be rigged,” he wasn’t entirely wrong. But the threat was not, as Trump warned, from Americans committing the crime of “voting many, many times.” What’s far more likely to undermine democracy in November is the culmination of a decade-long Republican effort to disenfranchise voters under the guise of battling voter fraud. The latest tool: Election officials in more than two dozen states have compiled lists of citizens whom they allege could be registered in more than one state – thus potentially able to cast multiple ballots – and eligible to be purged from the voter rolls.

    The data is processed through a system called the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, which is being promoted by a powerful Republican operative, and its lists of potential duplicate voters are kept confidential. But Rolling Stone obtained a portion of the list and the names of 1 million targeted voters. According to our analysis, the Crosscheck list disproportionately threatens solid Democratic constituencies: young, black, Hispanic and Asian-American voters – with some of the biggest possible purges underway in Ohio and North Carolina, two crucial swing states with tight Senate races.

    Like all weapons of vote suppression, Crosscheck is a response to the imaginary menace of mass voter fraud. In the mid-2000s, after the Florida-recount debacle, the Bush administration launched a five-year investigation into the allegedly rampant crime but found scant evidence of wrongdoing. Still, the GOP has perpetuated the myth in every national election since. Recently, North Carolina Board of Elections chief Kim Strach testified to her legislature that 35,750 voters are “registered in North Carolina and another state and voted in both in the 2012 general election.” Yet despite hiring an ex-FBI agent to lead the hunt, the state has charged exactly zero double voters from the Crosscheck list. Nevertheless, tens of thousands face the loss of their ability to vote – all for the sake of preventing a crime that rarely happens. So far, Crosscheck has tagged an astonishing 7.2 million suspects, yet we found no more than four perpetrators who have been charged with double voting or deliberate double registration.

    In our effort to report on the program, we contacted every state for their Crosscheck list. But because voting twice is a felony, state after state told us their lists of suspects were part of a criminal investigation and, as such, confidential. Then we got a break. A clerk in Virginia sent us its Crosscheck list of suspects, which a letter from the state later said was done “in error.”

    The Virginia list was a revelation. In all, 342,556 names were listed as apparently registered to vote in both Virginia and another state as of January 2014. Thirteen percent of the people on the Crosscheck list, already flagged as inactive voters, were almost immediately removed, meaning a stunning 41,637 names were “canceled” from voter rolls, most of them just before Election Day.

    We were able to obtain more lists – Georgia and Washington state, the total number of voters adding up to more than 1 million matches – and Crosscheck’s results seemed at best deeply flawed. We found that one-fourth of the names on the list actually lacked a middle-name match. The system can also mistakenly identify fathers and sons as the same voter, ignoring designations of Jr. and Sr. A whole lot of people named “James Brown” are suspected of voting or registering twice, 357 of them in Georgia alone. But according to Crosscheck, James Willie Brown is supposed to be the same voter as James Arthur Brown. James Clifford Brown is allegedly the same voter as James Lynn Brown.

    And those promised birth dates and Social Security numbers? The Crosscheck instruction manual says that “Social Security numbers are included for verification; the numbers might or might not match” – which leaves a crucial step in the identification process up to the states. Social Security numbers weren’t even included in the state lists we obtained.

    We had Mark Swedlund, a database expert whose clients include eBay and American Express, look at the data from Georgia and Virginia, and he was shocked by Crosscheck’s “childish methodology.” He added, “God forbid your name is Garcia, of which there are 858,000 in the U.S., and your first name is Joseph or Jose. You’re probably suspected of voting in 27 states.”

    Swedlund’s statistical analysis found that African-American, Latino and Asian names predominate, a simple result of the Crosscheck matching process, which spews out little more than a bunch of common names. No surprise: The U.S. Census data shows that minorities are overrepresented in 85 of 100 of the most common last names. If your name is Washington, there’s an 89 percent chance you’re African-American. If your last name is Hernandez, there’s a 94 percent chance you’re Hispanic. If your name is Kim, there’s a 95 percent chance you’re Asian.

    This inherent bias results in an astonishing one in six Hispanics, one in seven Asian-Americans and one in nine African-Americans in Crosscheck states landing on the list. Was the program designed to target voters of color? “I’m a data guy,” Swedlund says. “I can’t tell you what the intent was. I can only tell you what the outcome is. And the outcome is discriminatory against minorities.”

    Every voter that the state marks as a legitimate match receives a postcard that is colorless and covered with minuscule text. The voter must verify his or her address and mail it back to their secretary of state. Fail to return the postcard and the process of taking your name off the voter rolls begins.

    This postcard game amplifies Crosscheck’s built-in racial bias. According to the Census Bureau, white voters are 21 percent more likely than blacks or Hispanics to respond to their official requests; homeowners are 32 percent more likely to respond than renters; and the young are 74 percent less likely than the old to respond. Those on the move – students and the poor, who often shift apartments while hunting for work – will likely not get the mail in the first place.

    At this point, there’s no way to know how each state plans to move forward. If Virginia’s 13 percent is any indication, almost 1 million Americans will have their right to vote challenged. Our analysis suggests that winding up on the Crosscheck list is hardly proof that an individual is registered in more than one state. Based on the data, the program – whether by design or misapplication – could save the GOP from impending electoral annihilation. And not surprisingly, almost all Crosscheck states are Republican-controlled.

    The man behind crosscheck is Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Yale-educated former law professor. After 9/11, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft tasked Kobach with creating a system to track foreign travelers. (It was later shut down over concerns about racial profiling.) He is best known as the author of Arizona’s “Driving While Brown Law,” which allowed cops to pull over drivers and ask for proof of their legal status. He co-wrote the ultraconservative 2016 RNC party platform, working in a recommendation that Crosscheck be adopted by every state in the Union. He’s also the Trump adviser who came up with a proposal to force Mexico into paying for Trump’s wall.

    In January 2013, Kobach addressed a gathering of the National Association of State Election Directors about combating an epidemic of ballot-stuffing across the country. He announced that Crosscheck had already uncovered 697,537 “potential duplicate voters” in 15 states, and that the state of Kansas was prepared to cover the cost of compiling a nationwide list. That was enough to persuade 13 more states to hand over their voter files to Kobach’s office.

    In battleground-state Ohio, Republican Secretary of State John Husted’s Crosscheck has flagged close to half a million voters. In Dayton, we tracked down several of the suspects on our lists. Hot spots of “potential duplicate” voters, we couldn’t help but notice, were in neighborhoods where the streets are pocked with rundown houses and boarded storefronts. On Otterbein Avenue, I met Donald Webster, who, like most in his neighborhood, is African-American.

    Crosscheck lists him registered in Ohio as Donald Alexander Webster Jr., while registered a second time as Donald Eugene Webster (no “Jr.”) in Charlottesville, Virginia. Webster says he’s never been a “Eugene” and has never been to Charlottesville. I explained that both he and his Virginia doppelgänger were subject to losing their ability to vote.

    “How low can they go?” he asked. “I mean, how can they do that?”

    I put his question to Robert Fitrakis, a voting-rights attorney who examined our Crosscheck data. I showed him Donald Webster’s listing – and page after page of Ohio voters. Fitrakis says that the Ohio secretary of state’s enthusiasm for Crosscheck fits a pattern: “He doesn’t want to match middle names, because he doesn’t want real matches. They’re targeting people with clearly defined ethnic names that typically vote for the Democratic Party. He wants to win Ohio the only way he knows how – by taking away the rights of citizens to vote.”

    Kobach refused to speak for this story. So I went to Newton, Kansas, where he was headlining an ice-cream-social fundraiser in a public park. I approached Kobach with the Crosscheck list he had refused me, and asked, “Why are these lists so secret?”

    “They aren’t,” Kobach answered, contradicting what his attorney had told me.

    I pointed to a random match on the Crosscheck list and asked him why it identified James Evans Johnson as the same voter as James P. Johnson.

    Kobach denied the name could be on the list. “Our system would not yield this match,” he said. (And according to the rules of his program, it shouldn’t have.)

    “This is the list you gave [Virginia], and they knocked off 41,000 voters,” I said.

    “That is false!” he said, as he hurried away. “You know why? Federal law prohibits that.”

    Kobach is correct that federal regulation typically would complicate such a sweeping purge, but somehow tens of thousands of voters in Virginia got knocked off the rolls anyway.

    Kobach’s Crosscheck purge machinery was in operation well before Trump arrived on the political scene – and will continue for elections to come. Low voter turnout of any kind traditionally favors the GOP, and this is the party’s long game to keep the rolls free of young people, minorities and the poor. Santiago Juarez of New Mexico, an attorney who has done work for the League of United Latin American Citizens, has spent years signing up Hispanic voters in the face of systemic efforts to suppress their vote. He scoffed at the idea of a massive conspiracy among Latinos to vote in two states. “Hell,” he said, “you can’t get people to vote once, let alone twice.”

    “Kobach is correct that federal regulation typically would complicate such a sweeping purge, but somehow tens of thousands of voters in Virginia got knocked off the rolls anyway.”

    Oh wow, so the GOP’s anti-voter-fraud initiative that has already purged half a million voters in Ohio and over 7 million voters nationally from the voting rolls is not just fraudulent designed to maximize discrimination but also fraudulently implemented. What a total shocker. It’s almost as shocking as inertia.

    So that’s happening. But also keep in mind that this voter-suppression program could end up getting extra-turbo-charged if Trump does win (due in part to a mysteriously low minority voter turnout in key states like Ohio in a year when an open white supremacist is running) now that Trump is apparently “softening” his stance on deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants. Why? Because if Trump wins but the mass deportations don’t happen for whatever reason, a massive crackdown on minority voters (under the pretense of preventing undocumented immigrants from voting) is probably going to be one of the “compromise” policies the Trump administration uses to placate his white nationalist base. So the bargain GOP will make with its base is “Sure, we won’t get rid of all those Mexicans we know you hate, but we’re going to continued presence as an excuse to suppress minority voters of all types everywhere. How’s that sound instead? Please don’t be too upset with us!”

    Whether or not that kind of ‘dump the deportations for extra voter suppression’ compromise would be enough to satisfy a base that’s been salivating over the prospects of mass deportations for over a year now remains to be seen, but if the mass deportations really have been dropped from the Trump platform the GOP is going to have increase its minority-bashing somewhere, and mass minority voter suppression is a pretty big deal for the GOP’s white nationalist base too. So it might be enough. Still, with the hard core Alt-Right/white nationalist core that’s become Trump’s biggest base of support, it could be a tough sell.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 25, 2016, 2:44 pm
  30. Imagine that: The GOP Secretary of State in Georgia, a state that still uses paperless electronic voting machines and has unexpectedly become a battleground state in 2016, is refusing an offer from the Department of Homeland Security to help find and fix voting system vulnerabilities. Why? Because, Secretary of State Brian Kemp asserts, the federal government is attempting to “subvert the Constitution to achieve the goal of federalizing elections under the guise of security.”:

    ThinkProgress

    State That Exposed 6 Million Voters’ Private Data Says It Doesn’t Need Election Security Aid

    Alice Ollstein
    8/29/2016

    Georgia’s aging, paperless voting machines have been called a “sitting duck” for hackers. Six million Georgia voters had reams of personal information exposed by a data breach in Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office earlier this year.

    Yet Kemp is refusing an offer from the Department of Homeland Security to help shore up the cyber-security of the state’s vulnerable voting machines. Instead, he accused the federal government of attempting to “subvert the Constitution to achieve the goal of federalizing elections under the guise of security.” He said the state is capable of handling its own election security, and opined a hack is “not probable at all.”

    Less than a year ago, Kemp’s office accidentally mailed out a dozen discs containing the private information of more than six million Georgia voters, including Social Security numbers, birth dates, and driver’s license numbers. At the time, Kemp told state lawmakers that while he is “no expert on data security,” he was confident that no information “made it out to the bad guys.”

    A year before that, tens of thousands of new voter registrations went missing from the state’s database — the vast majority of them belonging to low-income people of color.

    Once solidly Republican, a massive effort to register voters of color and a major immigration influx have helped put Georgia on the cusp of becoming a swing state. Donald Trump’s polarizing campaign is not helping the GOP’s cause, and polls for both the presidential and Senate races are tight. This makes Georgia an even more attractive target for hackers, who could flip votes in just a few counties to change the outcome statewide.

    Georgia is also one of the few states to still use electronic voting machines that have no paper trail, making a post-election audit to check for hacking or vote-flipping nearly impossible. The decade-old software the machines use — Windows 2000 — also makes the system a “sitting duck” for hackers, cyber-security experts told NPR.

    Still, Georgia and other states are refusing the federal government’s offer to inspect their voting systems for bugs and other vulnerabilities, characterizing it as a sneaky federal intrusion on state sovereignty under the guise of trumped up hacking concerns. Currently, only 12 states require full federal certification of their voting machines.

    Instead, Kemp and other Republican secretaries of state have focused most of their efforts on combating in-person voter fraud, the rate of which is “infinitesimal” according to a recent national, multi-year study. The study, conducted by a team at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism in Arizona, found just 10 proven cases of voter impersonation since 2000?—?out of 146 million votes cast.

    “Georgia is also one of the few states to still use electronic voting machines that have no paper trail, making a post-election audit to check for hacking or vote-flipping nearly impossible. The decade-old software the machines use — Windows 2000 — also makes the system a “sitting duck” for hackers, cyber-security experts told NPR.”

    Yep, Georgia’s voting systems are a “sitting duck” for hackers, but the Secretary of State is still pretty sure that a hack is “not probably at all” and that this is really all part of a federal plot to subvert the Constitution. So this is probably a good time to remind ourselves that if federal involvement in voting systems is part of a federal plot to subvert the Constitution, Georgia is already one the most subverted state in the union since 88 percent of its voting machines are from 2002, when the federal government paid for new (often insecure) electronic voting machines around the nation as a response to the 2000 Florida recount:

    PBS Newshour

    Should primary voters be worried about aging voting machines?

    BY Phil Hirschkorn

    February 28, 2016 at 12:41 PM EDT

    NEW YORK – As this year’s presidential primaries move beyond the First Four states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina, and into the dozen “Super Tuesday” states voting on March 1, millions of Americans will find themselves exercising their right to vote on computerized machines from the pre-iPhone era running on software like Windows 2000 with hardware like 512 kilobyte memory cards.

    “It’s concerning because this is the infrastructure for our elections,” said Lawrence Norden, co-author of America’s Voting Machines at Risk, a recentBrennan Center for Justice report found 43 states have counties using voting equipment 10 to 15-years-old.

    “The most immediate short-term concern is that we get more failures on election days – that machines crash or shut down or have to be taken out of service, because they’re not working like they’re supposed to,” Norden said. “That can create chaos at the polling place and long lines.”

    An ‘impending crisis’ on Election Day?

    His concern is bolstered by what happened in the 2012 general election, when an estimated 500,000 to 700,000 people did not vote because of long lines, according to a study by the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project, Waiting in Line to Vote.

    The study found average voter wait times on November 6, 2012, ranged from a minute-and-half in Vermont to 39 minutes in Florida, though reduced early voting days and long ballot referenda text contributed to the lines.

    With 8,000 separate election jurisdictions using equipment of their own choosing, the recommendation that states increase the number of voting machines and poll workers is easier said than done.

    The CalTech/MIT study was commissioned by the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration, which issued its own report in 2014 forecasting “an impending crisis” with voting machines.

    In a January 22 presentation updating the commission’s work, Republican co-chair Ben Ginsberg said there is a “crisis of technology that our machines are about to fall apart on us.”

    The machines in need of replacement were purchased following the disputed 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore, when a recount of the Florida vote was stymied by the state’s use of punch cards at the polls.

    After the election was settled, in 2002, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) which appropriated $3.6 billion for states to buy new electronic voting equipment.

    Initially, about 70 percent of the machines purchased were ATM-style touch screens, but by 2008 shrinking confidence in their reliability led to states like Iowa, New Mexico, Maryland and Florida to pull the plug on them.

    Now touch-screens facilitate less only one-third of registered voters, with two-thirds of registered voters using optical scannersthat read voter-marked paper ballots, according to a November 2015 summary by Election Data Services.

    “Due to aging machines, we are seeing some strong movement away from the electronic systems to the optical scan systems in the past six months,” said EDS president Kimball Brace.

    Decade-old voting machines to be used on Super Tuesday and beyond

    In Texas, the biggest Super Tuesday prize, more than 40 percent of the counties will use voting machines that are 10 or more years old, according to the Brennan report, while Travis County – Austin – bought its machines in 1999.

    Georgia purchased 88 percent of its machines in 2002. In Arkansas, machines in 80 percent of the counties are a decade old, as are the machines in 95 percent of Tennessee’s counties.

    Looking ahead to the March 15 primaries, around 90 percent of Ohio’s and North Carolina’s counties use touch screen machines that are 10 or more years old. In Florida, one-third of the counties use decade-old machines.

    Georgia purchased 88 percent of its machines in 2002. In Arkansas, machines in 80 percent of the counties are a decade old, as are the machines in 95 percent of Tennessee’s counties.”

    That’s right, 88 percent of Georgia’s voting machines were purchase in 2002, thanks to a congressional act that allocated billions of dollars to the states specifically so they could buy election voting machines:


    After the election was settled, in 2002, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) which appropriated $3.6 billion for states to buy new electronic voting equipment.

    So the the fact that the vast majority of Georgia’s current voting machines are increasingly out of date and prone to failure and purchased as part of a big federal initiative to push electronic voting machines across the country doesn’t appear to have raised suspicions among Georgia’s state officials that their existing machines are part of some federal plot. But now that the DHS is offering to help secure these systems, it’s a federal plot. A plot to subvert the constitution.

    It’s funny how that works. It’s funny how a lot of things work.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 30, 2016, 1:07 pm
  31. The Florida Democratic Party filed a lawsuit against Florida Governor Rick Scott over his refusal to extend the voter registration deadline (which is today) as Hurricane Matthew was barreling down on the state. And while it remains to be seen how that lawsuit will pan out, it’s unfortunately worth keeping mind that if the rest of the various successful court orders against GOP’s voter suppression efforts this year are any indication of how successful the Democrats will be in their lawsuit, it’s probably the case that a successful lawsuit won’t actually matter. Why? Because the GOP isn’t just great at developing voter suppression schemes. It’s also great at developing schemes to suppress the court-ordered overturning of its voter suppression schemes:

    Talking Points Memo DC

    States Keep Weaseling Around Court Orders Blocking GOP Voting Restrictions

    By Tierney Sneed
    Published October 6, 2016, 6:00 AM EDT

    After a spree of favorable court rulings that softened or blocked Republican-passed voting restrictions, voting rights advocates are engaged in a new phase of trench warfare with a mere month left before November’s election and early voting in some places already underway. There was no time for civil rights groups to rest on their laurels after winning the high-profile legal challenges. In many states, such rulings were met with attempts to undermine or circumvent court orders meant to make it easier to vote.

    “You take a step back and it’s really appalling,” said Dale Ho, the director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project who has been involved in many of the legal challenges to state voting restrictions.

    “I mean the Department of Justice and other groups, we have all won the cases … you would have thought we would have been finished with this whole thing, when, up until Election Day, we have to stay on these people,” Ho told TPM.

    At times, it’s hard to pin down whether issues red states have faced in implementing court orders have been motivated by bureaucratic incompetence or something worse. But the pattern is undeniable. In almost every state where voting rights advocates have scored a major legal victory in recent months, they have had to threaten to drag state officials back into court over the shoddy job election administrators have done following the rulings.

    “There’s two things going on: One is that we have seen court-ordered softening [of voter ID laws] in places like Wisconsin and Texas, and then either foot-dragging or incompetence in carrying it out, which has led to follow-up lawsuits or threats of lawsuits,” said Richard Hasen, a professor at UC-Irvine School of Law who also runs the Election Law Blog. “The other thing that is going on is new shenanigans in response to court rulings. And that’s North Carolina.”

    In North Carolina, the partisan-motivated chicanery has been perhaps most glaring.

    After an appeals court ruling restored a week of early voting –– in a monumental decision that said provisions of a 2013 North Carolina election law were passed with discriminatory intent — a handful of GOP-led county election boards sought to limit voting hours in the extra week to the bare minimum, apparently at the behest of a leaked memo sent by a state Republican Party official. Early voting is disproportionately popular among Democratic-leaning minorities.

    Some of the disputes between county officials and voting rights advocates were settled by the state election board. But five counties are now the subject of an emergency motion filed last week by Marc Elias — a voting rights lawyer and counsel to the Clinton campaign — on the behalf of North Carolina voters objecting to their skimpy early voting schedules.

    “The trend that you’re definitely seeing is that although you may win in a court, so much of what actually matters to voters depends on implementation of a court victory,” said Jennifer Clark, counsel for the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “So getting a ruling that blocks or softens a restrictive voting law is really only the first step in making sure that people have the right to vote.”

    Voting rights groups on Tuesday filed a motion, in the ongoing legal battle over Wisconsin’s voter ID requirement, questioning the state’s effort to provide non-ID holding voters a free ID card to vote in time for the election, as ordered previously by a federal judge. The filings come after reports that, at a number of local elections offices, administrators had told potential voters that they would not be able to obtain the free IDs in time. Nonetheless, Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb said Tuesday in legislative testimony on the matter that the court-ordered process was “sound.” U.S. District Judge James Peterson has scheduled a hearing on the motion for next week.

    At the urging of the Department of Justice, a federal judge in Texas last month had to order state officials to re-write the educational materials explaining how their voter ID law — which was ruled discriminatory in its effect by a full appeals court — had been softened for non-ID holders. The state had used harsher language in explaining how non-ID users could vote by affidavit than had been agreed upon after the appeals court ruling.

    Kansas Secretary Kris Kobach, facing a contempt-of-court hearing, agreed last week to fix the implementation of multiple rulings blocking the state’s proof-of-citizenship requirement for voter registration. The civil rights groups that sued Kobach over the requirement noticed that the newly eligible voters were not being notified that they were now fully registered to vote, nor were their names coming up in the state’s online voting registration database.

    The list goes on.

    Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted is under fire for failing to send absentee ballots to more than a million of Ohio’s 7.7 million registered voters. Among those not receiving ballots were those voters whose registrations were restored after an appeals court blocked blocked a purge of them from the rolls. They were being purged because they didn’t vote in the 2012 or 2014 elections and did not respond to local county boards’ mailers requesting they confirm their registrations.

    A key element in the slow-rolling of court decisions upholding voting rights is the 2013 Supreme Court decision Shelby County vs. Holder. The ruling invalidated a formula in Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which determined which states had to get changes to their election protocols pre-approved by the feds in a process known as preclearance. The current battles in North Carolina and Texas would have also most certainly been prevented by a fully-functioning Section 5.

    “It’s a shame we have to keep, even after winning these cases, we have to continue to monitor these states,” Ho, the ACLU lawyer, said. “It’s part of the reason why the Section 5 preclearance regime was so valuable, why we instituted it in the first place. Because plaintiffs and the Department of Justice would win these cases and then the tactics would shift.”

    ““The trend that you’re definitely seeing is that although you may win in a court, so much of what actually matters to voters depends on implementation of a court victory,” said Jennifer Clark, counsel for the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “So getting a ruling that blocks or softens a restrictive voting law is really only the first step in making sure that people have the right to vote.””

    So it looks like voter suppression is here to stay, courts be damned. It’s an unfortunate hint that the Trump campaign’s “law and order” campaign theme probably isn’t intended to include things like election law after this voter suppression propels him into the White House and the GOP are completely running the country. It’s not the only unfortunate hint.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 10, 2016, 2:53 pm
  32. Here’s an interesting reason that has nothing to do with Donald Trump’s toxic effects on the Republican ‘brand’ for why the Republican National Committee might be going to extra lengths to distance itself from the Trump campaign as election day approaches: The RNC signed a legal consent decree in 1982 after being found illegally using the kind of “ballot security” methods advocated by Trump during New Jersey’s 1981 gubernatorial race. And that consent decree is schedule to expire in 2017, but won’t expire if the RNC is once again found to be illegally targeting minority voters via “ballot security” antics. As a result, if the RNC wants to engage in “ballot security” schemes in the future – and there’s no reason to assume the RNC won’t want to do exactly that – it had better keep its distance from the Trumpster:

    Talking Points Memo DC

    Why The RNC Wants Nothing To Do With Trump’s Poll Watcher Call To Arms

    By Tierney Sneed
    Published October 21, 2016, 6:00 AM EDT

    Donald Trump’s calls for vigilante poll watchers prompts all sorts of concerns — for voters, for election workers and for other lawmakers on the ballot getting dragged into the mess. But for the Republican National Committee in particular the rhetoric brings up a very delicate but significant issue that has its roots in a 1981 court case that has had lasting implications for its Election Day activities.

    Trump’s comments urging elections monitoring has drawn attention to the consent decree the RNC signed in 1982 that banned the very sort of “ballot security” measures Trump has encouraged from his supporters. If there’s reason to believe the RNC was participating, it could be found in violation of the decree, which could keep the committee under its restrictions for another eight years. That would be a major set back for the RNC, given the decree is set to expire in 2017.

    To get a sense of how serious the RNC is taking the issue, look no further than the alarm bells that went off with a casual comment made by Trump’s campaign manager in the debate spin room Wednesday night in Las Vegas.

    The court decree in question stems from a 1981 lawsuit filed against the RNC by Democrats, for actions related to a gubernatorial race in New Jersey. According to the Dems’ lawsuit, the RNC and its state counterpart engaged in a number of practices in the name of “ballot security” that intimidated, threatened or coerced minority voters. The alleged activities included the hiring of off-duty cops to patrol near polling places in minority communities, as well as a shady mailer campaign the RNC used to cobble together a list to challenge otherwise eligible voters from casting ballots at polling places. The case was settled with the consent decree, imposing a number of limits on what the RNC could do at polling places on Election Day.

    Fast forward to 2016, and the thin tightrope Trump’s rhetoric is making the RNC walk now.

    During MSNBC’s post-debate coverage that spanned into the early hours of the Thursday morning, Washington Post reporter Bob Costa remarked on something Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told him in the spin room about how the campaign was doing to crack down on “voter fraud.”

    “She said that she is actively working with the national committee, the official party, and campaign lawyers to monitor precincts around the country,” Costa said, in a discussion about how Republicans were handling Trump’s rigged election claims.

    While it was easy to see the contemporary ramifications of Conway tying Trump’s rigged election claims to the official party apparatus, Ben Ginsberg — the staid Republican lawyer who was also on the MSNBC panel — jumped in to bring up the decades-old decree.

    “That’s a huge problem for the Republican Party,” Ginsberg said. “The Republican National Committee is under a consent decree that severely limits its election day activities because of some actions back in the ‘80s.”

    “The RNC is still under a consent decree, they are eager to have it come off next year when it expires and this activity, I can promise you is going to cause the Democrats go back into court and extend it,” Ginsberg said.

    The RNC has since denied to TPM any coordination on Trump’s supposed voter fraud prevention effort.

    “The RNC does not work with any campaign at any level on so-called ballot security efforts and will not do so,” Lindsay Walters, a spokeswoman for the RNC, said in a statement to TPM. “We are completely focused on getting out the vote for the Republican ticket.”

    Costa told TPM via email that Conway called him back later to tell him she was mistaken about the RNC’s involvement.

    The RNC has faced a number of legals complaints from Dems claiming violations of the decree since 1982. A 2008 lawsuit filed by Dems resulted in a court modifying the decree, but when the RNC appealed to the Supreme Court to get it lifted in its entirely, the court in 2013 declined to take the case.

    There has been some debate as to whether Trump’s actions already were enough to get the RNC in trouble, if he was interpreted to be an agent of the RNC or acting on its behalf, as Rick Hasen, a professor at the UC-Irvine School of Law, has posited on his Election Law Blog..

    But the RNC as well as a Republican lawyer who is knowledgeable about the consent decree pushed back on the notion that Trump’s action could be imputed to the RNC. They said that the consent decree makes clear that it applies to the RNC specifically and not to any candidate or independent campaign. (The New Jersey Republican State Committee was also explicitly covered in the original decree.)

    Nevertheless, it appears the committee is taking any association very seriously, and making efforts to prevent its staff and members from doing anything that would give the appearance the RNC was involved.

    According the Wall Street Journal, , RNC general counsel John Ryder wrote to committee members Wednesday asking them to avoid engaging in poll watching.

    “You are encouraged not to engage in ‘ballot security’ activities even in your personal, state party or campaign capacity. If you elect to do so, please be aware that the RNC in no way sanctions your activity,” the letter said.

    “There has been some debate as to whether Trump’s actions already were enough to get the RNC in trouble, if he was interpreted to be an agent of the RNC or acting on its behalf, as Rick Hasen, a professor at the UC-Irvine School of Law, has posited on his Election Law Blog.

    It all raises a question for this election: Since the RNC is scared of being associated with Trump’s campaign activities this year because it might make it impossible to overturn its consent decree next year and since Trump has been engaging in all sort of actions seemingly designed to undermine democratic institutions, like dog-whistling violence against his opponent and hinting at a refusal to accept the outcome of the election, aren’t there any new Trump-related consent decrees that the RNC might be flirting with at this point or is the lifting of that 1982 consent decree the only real threat to the GOP here? Is everything Trump doesn’t solely interpreted as the actions of that campaign?

    And if the RNC itself isn’t culpable, how about the state parties since the New Jersey State Republican Committee was also part of the 1982 decree. It seems like there have to be plenty of GOP state organizations involved in Trump-related activities that warrant a consent decree or two. Maybe even some non-Trump-related state-level activities that the GOP would be doing anyway and are obviously planning on doing in the future.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 21, 2016, 3:11 pm
  33. How surprising: A guy who couldn’t even get appointed to a federal judgeship in the 80’s due to his long record of overt racism is Donald Trump’s nominee for Attorney General :

    Talking Points Memo DC

    Why Jeff Sessions As Attorney General Horrifies Voting Rights Advocates

    By Tierney Sneed
    Published November 18, 2016, 4:38 PM EDT

    The announcement that Donald Trump will nominate Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to be his attorney general has produced a panic among civil rights groups.

    The NAACP called his selection “deeply troubling” and said Sessions “supports an old, ugly history where Civil Rights were not regarded as core American values.” The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said Sessions had “no place leading our nation’s enforcement of civil rights and voting rights laws.” The NAACP-Legal Defense Fund said it was “unimaginable that he could be entrusted to serve as the chief law enforcement officer for this nation’s civil rights laws.”

    Of particular concern is Sessions’ history on voting rights, which the Leadership Conference described as a “record of hostility.” Over the course of 30 years, Sessions has shown a skepticism toward the Voting Rights Act, while being quick to inflame concerns over alleged election fraud. With Sessions at the helm of the Department of Justice, its recent efforts to curb discriminatory voting restrictions look to be very much in jeopardy.

    “He has said many things to raise concerns and this is a time that these concerns are going to need to be quelled,” Wendy Weiser, the director of Democracy Program at the Brennan Center, told TPM.

    As a U.S. attorney in Alabama in the mid-1980s, Sessions sought to prosecute African American activists in the state — including Albert Turner, a former aide to Martin Luther King Jr. who was also among those clubbed by police officers in the march for voting rights in Selma — for allegedly committing voter fraud with absentee ballots. The federal investigators hid behind the bushes outside of a post office to monitor the activists as they sent out about 500 absentee ballots they collected from elderly black voters, according to the Nation. The investigators took down the information from the ballots and tracked down 20 voters. The elderly African Americans were bused 200 miles to be interrogated and to deliver testimony in front of a grand jury, according to a Washington Post report from the time. Of the 1.7 million ballots cast in the election in question, the investigation was only able to turn up 14 allegedly tampered ballots, The New Republic reported.

    Sessions brought 29 charges against each of the activists related to fraud and conspiracy, according to the Nation. A jury, in deliberations that lasted only a few hours, acquitted the three activists. Even after, Sessions insisted “there was sufficient evidence for a conviction,” the Washington Post reported at the time. The investigation was also knocked by a panel of judges who objected to how investigators numbered absentee ballots after they were mailed so they could collect the voters’ information, the AP reported in 1986, though Sessions continued to stand by the practice.

    Civil rights groups warned that the probe, despite the acquittals, would have a chilling effect on campaigns to help African Americans vote, according to USA Today.

    The episode came up a year later, when the Senate was considering Sessions’ 1986 nomination by President Ronald Reagan for a federal judgeship. But it was soon eclipsed by allegations that Sessions expressed racist sentiments among his colleagues. Over the course of the hearings related to the controversy, Sessions admitted to calling the NAACP and the National Council of Churches “un-American,” though he denied he had applied the label to the ACLU, as was claimed.

    “I recall saying that civil rights organizations, when they demand more than is legitimate, it hurts their position,” Sessions testified in front of Congress. Sessions was also accused of calling a white attorney involved in major voting rights litigation a “disgrace to his race.”

    “The best I could recall was that I said, well, he is not that popular around town; I have heard him referred to as a disgrace to his race,” Sessions said in congressional testimony.

    During the nomination hearings Sessions also said he believed that the Voting Rights Act was an “an intrusive piece of legislation,” but added that it had been “effective.”

    J. Gerald Hebert, the former DOJ attorney who came forward with some of the claims of Sessions’ racist comments, said in a statement Friday that his nomination as attorney general was “a threat to voting rights for all minorities.”

    The scandal did not stop Sessions from being elected in 1994 as Alabama’s attorney general and then in 1996 to the U.S. Senate, where he occupied its far-right fringe.

    In the Senate, Sessions opposed a failed bill to expand voting rights for convicted felons.

    “I don’t think American policy is going to be better informed if we have a bunch of felons in the process,” Sessions said in 2002, when the legislation was being considered.

    In 2006, he voted in support for the extension of the Voting Rights Act, but not without making a stink about its Section 5, which required Alabama and other localities with a history of racial voting discrimination to get federal approval for election policy changes. After the extension, he signed on to a Republican brief on the newly extended VRA that appeared to be skeptical of the constitutionality of some of its provisions.

    Not surprisingly, he cheered the 2013 Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder, stemming from a lawsuit filed by a county in his home state, that gutted the pre-clearance provision. He called it “good news, I think, for the South.”

    “Shelby County never had a history of denying the vote, certainly not now,” he said, referring to the county that brought the lawsuit against the VRA. “There is racial discrimination in the country, but I don’t think in Shelby County, Alabama, anyone is being denied the right to vote because of the color of their skin. It would be much more likely to have those things occur in Philadelphia, Chicago, or Boston.”

    He also said in 2013 of his vote in favor of the VRA extension in 2006 that, “In retrospect, that was probably too long an extension because there’s just huge areas of the South where there’s no problem.”

    He is a vocal proponent of voter ID laws. It’s worth noting that the Justice Department, which Sessions could soon head, has been involved in a number of lawsuits challenging voter ID laws and other restrictions for being discriminatory, including the lawsuit against Texas’ ID law, which has been appealed to the Supreme Court.

    Additionally, Sessions has long claimed that voter fraud was an urgent problem, despite such cases being incredibly rare. The claim of fraud has been used by Sessions and others to advocate for restrictive laws that critics say are veiled efforts to make it harder for minorities to votes. Sessions was among the Trump supporters backing the then-GOP nominee’s claims that the 2016 election was rigged against him.

    “That’s suggestive that he is going to pursue an agenda that restricts voting rights in the name of voting fraud,” Dale Ho, the director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, told TPM.

    “During the nomination hearings Sessions also said he believed that the Voting Rights Act was an “an intrusive piece of legislation,” but added that it had been “effective.”

    Yep, as Jeff Sessions acknowledge, the Voting Right Act had indeed been effective, which likely why Sessions was an opponent of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act that required localities with a history of racial discrimination get federal approval. You know, the same Section 5 that the Supreme Court shot down in 2013 and that Sessions was excited to see shot down:


    In 2006, he voted in support for the extension of the Voting Rights Act, but not without making a stink about its Section 5, which required Alabama and other localities with a history of racial voting discrimination to get federal approval for election policy changes. After the extension, he signed on to a Republican brief on the newly extended VRA that appeared to be skeptical of the constitutionality of some of its provisions.

    Not surprisingly, he cheered the 2013 Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder, stemming from a lawsuit filed by a county in his home state, that gutted the pre-clearance provision. He called it “good news, I think, for the South.”

    “Shelby County never had a history of denying the vote, certainly not now,” he said, referring to the county that brought the lawsuit against the VRA. “There is racial discrimination in the country, but I don’t think in Shelby County, Alabama, anyone is being denied the right to vote because of the color of their skin. It would be much more likely to have those things occur in Philadelphia, Chicago, or Boston.”

    He also said in 2013 of his vote in favor of the VRA extension in 2006 that, “In retrospect, that was probably too long an extension because there’s just huge areas of the South where there’s no problem.”

    He called it “good news, I think, for the South.””

    That’s Jeff Sessions for you. The next Attorney General. And while it wasn’t actually ‘good’ news for the South, it was certainly ‘good’ for racists intent on restricting minority voting rights. Oh, and, of course, ‘good’ for all the white supremacists who are super excited about Jeff Sessions being the Attorney General:

    The Huffington Post
    White Nationalists Are Ecstatic About Jeff Sessions’ Nomination
    Not a great look for Donald Trump’s attorney general pick.

    Daniel Marans
    11/18/2016 05:55 pm ET | Updated

    Republican Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions’ racially insensitive comments and hardline anti-immigration positions are prompting a host of civil rights groups to condemn President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of him for attorney general.

    But white nationalists are over the moon about Sessions’ selection, apparently seeing him as one of their own.

    Liberal media watchdog Media Matters for America compiled a list of the leading figures on the bigoted “alt-right” who have publicly praised his appointment.

    Sessions’ vocal white nationalist backers include David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, radio host James Edwards, writer Hunter Wallace and video blogger RamzPaul.

    Bannon, Flynn, Sessions — Great! Senate must demand that Sessions as AG stop the massive institutional race discrimination against whites!— David Duke (@DrDavidDuke) November 18, 2016

    Andrew Anglin, editor of the neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer, wrote that Sessions’ nomination, along with the appointment of retired Gen. Mike Flynn as national security adviser and Steve Bannon as Trump’s chief strategist, is “like Christmas.”

    “Of course, I was thinking of Sessions for either Secretary of State or Defense, but I think Trump is making a point by putting an aggressive anti-Black racist in as AG,” Anglin wrote. “It’s a corrective measure, after Obama turned the Justice Department into the Black Panthers.”

    But even Anglin acknowledged that the very features that make Sessions an attractive pick to neo-Nazis might make Senate confirmation challenging.

    “The reason he might face trouble? Because he’s a racist and most of these RINOs (Republican in Name Only) in Congress are filthy cuck traitors to the White race and the GOP,” Anglin wrote.

    “Andrew Anglin, editor of the neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer, wrote that Sessions’ nomination, along with the appointment of retired Gen. Mike Flynn as national security adviser and Steve Bannon as Trump’s chief strategist, is “like Christmas.”

    Yes, for America’s neo-Nazis the Trump presidency is Christmas in November! But don’t anyone dare suggest that Trump is putting together a white nationalist administration. We wouldn’t want to prematurely jump to any conclusions.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 18, 2016, 7:38 pm
  34. One of the many grim questions raised by the prospect of a Trump administration is whether or not Trump’s embrace of Alex Jones and his post-factual worldview would be largely limited to Trump or infect the rest of the GOP, taking the party’s already extremely loose relationship with reality off the deep end entirely. Well, here’s a partial answer to that horribly grim question from RNC spokesman Sean Spicer:

    Talking Points Memo
    Livewire

    RNC Spox Doubles Down On Trump’s Flag Burning, Bogus Illegal Voting Tweets (VIDEO)

    By Kristin Salaky
    Published November 29, 2016, 6:12 PM EDT

    Republican National Committee spokesman Sean Spicer backed up President-elect Donald Trump’s Twitter musings that anyone who burns the American flag should face loss of citizenship or jail time and that millions of people voted illegally in this year’s election.

    Spicer compared Trump’s tweets about flag burning to Hillary Clinton’s introduction of legislation in 2005 to criminalize flag burning during a Tuesday interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. He also argued that a 5-4 Supreme Court decision that protected flag burning as constitutional speech went to show that four justices actually did agree with Trump that the gesture should be illegal.

    “I think the vast majority of Americans agree with him, that burning the flag should be outlawed,” Spicer said. “That 5-4 decision that the justice [Antonin Scalia] was speaking of was something that clearly four justices also believed should be illegal. This is something that’s bipartisan. In 2005 Hillary Clinton introduced the Flag Protection Act that had a one-year imprisonment or $5,000 fine for flag burning.”

    Spicer went on to double down on an unsubstantiated claim by Trump that “millions” of people illegally voted in the election and that he would have won the popular vote if they hadn’t done so.

    The RNC spokesman was jus the latest Trump lackey to cite a flimsy 2014 Washington Post op-ed that claimed 14 percent of noncitizens were registered to vote. The piece, which was based on speculative data, wasrebutted by three separate pieces on the Washington Post site alone and additionally was debunked by peer review. Trump cited it in a stump speech earlier this year, as have several of his surrogates this week.

    “There have been studies that have shown— studies that shown irregularities but not millions of voters,” CNN’s Wolf Blitzer told Spicer.

    “Sure. If you look at the percentage. There was a Washington Post story not too along ago that showed the number could be as high as 14 percent,” Spicer said. “If you extrapolate that out, it’s clearly millions.”

    “Are you saying he won the popular vote? Is that what you’re saying?” Blitzer asked.

    “No. I am saying the way of electoral process was set up it was focused on getting to 270,” Spicer said.

    Blitzer continued to press Spicer as to whether he agreed that people voted illegally in the 2016 election, while Spicer kept bashing the Washington Post for noting Trump’s claim was untrue.

    “You say there are millions of people who voted in the most recent presidential election who voted illegally? Is that what I hear Sean Spicer say as well?” Blitzer asked.

    “What you are hearing me say is these are studies presented in The Washington Post and Pew,” Spicer said.

    “The Washington Post gave him ‘four pinocchios’ for saying that,” Blitzer pointed out. “Said it was totally, totally false.”

    “It’s interesting that The Washington Post gave pinocchios to someone citing a Washington Post study,” Spicer shot back.

    “The RNC spokesman was jus the latest Trump lackey to cite a flimsy 2014 Washington Post op-ed that claimed 14 percent of noncitizens were registered to vote. The piece, which was based on speculative data, wasrebutted by three separate pieces on the Washington Post site alone and additionally was debunked by peer review. Trump cited it in a stump speech earlier this year, as have several of his surrogates this week.”

    So that’s apparently the view of the Republican National Committee: a repeatedly debunked study is not only valid, but quite possibly an explanation for why Trump lost the popular vote by millions votes. Well, at least he cited a debunked study, as opposed to the recent Infowars story pushing the same meme that was based on a GOP hack providing no evidence at all. It could be worse! Barely!

    Of course, if debunked studies are used to implement damaging policies that further the GOP’s endless war on voting rights, it’s hard to see how it’s any better than basing those policies on nothing at all. In some ways that actually would be a worse scenario since there would at least be a debunked study the GOP can cling to for a deceptive justification.

    So with that in mind, guess who also cited that exact same debunked study: Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach, the point man on developing voter suppression laws guy the Trump transition who will likely join the Trump administration:

    Wichita Eagle

    Kobach backs Trump’s unsupported claim of millions illegally voting

    By Bryan Lowry
    November 30, 2016 10:41 AM

    The top election official in Kansas asserted without evidence that millions of noncitizens voted in the presidential election moments after he certified the state’s election results Wednesday.

    Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who made his first public appearance since meeting with President-elect Donald Trump last week, backed Trump’s claims that he would have won the popular vote were discounted.

    “I think the president-elect is absolutely correct when he says the number of illegal votes cast exceeds the popular vote margin between him and Hillary Clinton at this point,” Kobach said immediately after he and other Kansas officials certified the state’s election results.

    Kobach pointed to a widely disputed study released by two Old Dominion University political scientists in 2014, which has been rebutted repeatedly by other election scholars.

    The study analyzed data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study and found that self-reported noncitizens voted at a rate of 11.3 percent. The Old Dominion analysts actually lowered the estimate for the total voting rate by noncitizens to 6.4 percent, but Kobach used the 11.3 percent figure instead.

    “If we apply that number to the current presidential election…you’d have 3.2 million aliens voted in the presidential election and that far exceeds the current popular vote margin between President-elect Trump and Secretary Clinton,” Kobach said.

    Kobach said he had no tangible evidence to support that statement.

    “This is the problem with aliens voting and registering. There’s no way you can look at the voter rolls and say this one’s an alien, this one’s a citizen,” Kobach said. “Once a person gets on a voter roll, you don’t have any way of easily identifying them as aliens so you have to rely on post-election studies.”

    The Cooperative Congressional Election Study, the source of the raw data for the study, has disputed the Old Dominion analysts’ conclusions, calling their study biased and saying in 2014 “that the likely percent of non-citizen voters in recent US elections is 0.”

    Kobach has repeatedly cited the study in court documents, according to Mark Johnson, a Kansas City-based attorney who has represented suspended voters in multiple lawsuits against Kobach.

    The study is based on responses to an online survey. Patrick Miller, a political scientist at the University of Kansas, said the data should be viewed with skepticism.

    “He’s taking that at face value,” Miller said. “Whereas, we know that people often give trash responses in surveys all the time.”

    Kobach also said he had no way to prove that the majority of noncitizens would have voted for Clinton rather than Trump, but said he could make that inference based on the candidate’s policies.

    “You’re right. Can you necessarily conclude that all of them voted for Hillary Clinton? No. But you can probably conclude that a very high percentage voted for Hillary Clinton given the diametric opposite positions of the candidates on the immigration issue,” Kobach said. “So let’s assume 85 percent voted for Clinton.”

    State Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, a frequent critic of Kobach, scoffed at this extrapolation.

    “Does it concern you that the chief election officer of Kansas lives in another universe?” Ward said. “I mean, (he) just makes things up and has no verification or backup, but just continues to say them, thinking that if I say them over and over again they must be true.”

    Kobach has championed a Kansas law that requires voters to provide proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or passport, in order to register to vote. That law has faced numerous legal challenges.

    Dale Ho, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project, said in an e-mail that the study Kobach is citing has been debunked. He noted that even one of its authors has said that it’s not plausible that illegal votes would have tipped the popular vote in Clinton’s favor.

    “Kris Kobach’s assertions about large numbers of noncitizens voting are patently false, and have been rejected repeatedly by federal courts,” said Ho, who represented suspended voters in a case against Kansas’ proof of citizenship law.

    Ho pointed to the recent ruling by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which blocked Kobach from requiring proof of citizenship from voters who register at the DMV. Judge Jerome Holmes, an appointee of President George W. Bush, called Kobach’s argument about thousands of noncitizens potentially on Kansas voter rolls “pure speculation” in his opinion for the court.

    A photograph of Kobach showed that when he met with Trump earlier in November he brought a plan for the Department of Homeland Security that included a reference to voter rolls.

    Kobach, who advised Trump on immigration throughout the campaign, would not say Wednesday whether he was advising the president-elect to pursue a nationwide proof of citizenship requirement.

    Johnson questioned Kobach’s decision to certify the election results if he believes that noncitizens at such a high rate. Kobach did not raise it as a concern to Gov. Sam Brownback before they officially certified the results.

    “If the secretary seriously believed that there was voter fraud in Kansas, why did he certify the election results?” Johnson said.

    Johson noted that since Kobach became the only secretary of state in the nation with the power to prosecute voter fraud last year he has not brought any cases against noncitizens for illegally voting, including for elections that predate the proof of citizenship law.

    “He can’t find them and, believe me, I’ll bet you he’s been looking for them,” Johnson said.

    “The study analyzed data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study and found that self-reported noncitizens voted at a rate of 11.3 percent. The Old Dominion analysts actually lowered the estimate for the total voting rate by noncitizens to 6.4 percent, but Kobach used the 11.3 percent figure instead.

    Wow, so Kobach didn’t just cite a debunked study. He cited the wrong numbers in the study too. And this is the guy who is probably going to be joining the Trump administration. So get ready for some insanely unjustified new voting laws. And when the justifications for those laws are debunked, get ready to hear the exact same justifications. Because that’s apparently how we’re going to roll now!

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 30, 2016, 3:46 pm
  35. Well, that’s one way to defends Jeff Sessions, Trump’s pick for Attorney General, against all the criticisms of his long-record of attacking civil rights groups and policies: declare those criticisms a ‘war on whites’. What a compelling argument:

    CNN

    Rep. Brooks: Dems’ ‘war on whites’ behind some criticism of Sessions

    By Chris Massie, CNN
    Updated 5:25 PM ET, Wed January 11, 2017

    (CNN) Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks said in a radio interview on Tuesday that criticism of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who is Donald Trump’s pick to be attorney general, is part of an ongoing “war on whites” by Democrats.

    “It’s really about political power and racial division and what I’ve referred to on occasion as the ‘war on whites.’ They are trying to motivate the African-American vote to vote-bloc for Democrats by using every ‘Republican is a racist’ tool that they can envision,” the Republican congressman said on “The Morning Show With Toni & Gary” on WBHP 800 Alabama radio. “Even if they have to lie about it.”

    Brooks was responding to a question about criticism of Sessions’ record on civil rights, which has come under renewed scrutiny as he seeks confirmation to head the Justice Department. Sessions was denied a federal judgeship in 1986 in part because of comments he allegedly made about organizations like the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union. Sessions, a Republican, also criticized the 1965 Voting Rights Act as “intrusive” in the 1980s.

    In his confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Sessions called charges of racism “damnably false,” saying that he had prosecuted a voter fraud case in response to “pleas from African-American, incumbent, elected officials.”

    “Well, to get right down to it, it’s all about political power, and the Democrats are not shy about lying in order to achieve their political goals,” he said. “And if they have to besmirch the reputation of a good man, Jeff Sessions, in order to achieve their political goals, they as a group are not hesitant to do so.”

    Brooks previously made headlines in August 2014 by saying that Democrats were “waging a war on whites” to AL.com and to conservative radio host Laura Ingraham.

    “Brooks was responding to a question about criticism of Sessions’ record on civil rights, which has come under renewed scrutiny as he seeks confirmation to head the Justice Department. Sessions was denied a federal judgeship in 1986 in part because of comments he allegedly made about organizations like the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union. Sessions, a Republican, also criticized the 1965 Voting Rights Act as “intrusive” in the 1980s.”

    Huh, so any criticism of Jeff Sessions’s record on civil rights, and in particular voting rights, is all part of a ‘war on whites’. At least according to Rep. Brooks who, one year ago, called President Obama the most racially divisive president since slavery, who clearly feels very victimized by all these minorities asking for things like an end to policies clearly designed to reduce minority representation in government. You know, like the kind of policies Jeff Sessions has spent his whole career advocating for…by advocating against the Voting Rights Act:

    The Nation

    Jeff Sessions Has Spent His Whole Career Opposing Voting Rights
    Imagine what he will do as the most powerful lawyer in the country.

    By Ari Berman
    1/10/2017 9:19 am

    On June 27, 2013, two days after the Supreme Court ruled that states with a long history of voting discrimination no longer needed to approve their voting changes under the Voting Rights Act, the mayor of Pasadena, Texas, proposed changing the structure of City Council elections so that whites could remain in control. With Latinos close to gaining a majority of seats in the racially divided city of 150,000 outside of Houston, Mayor Johnny Isbell proposed switching from eight City Council districts to six districts and two seats elected citywide—which would give white residents, who turn out in higher numbers, a better shot at electing their preferred candidates. The net effect was that one majority-Latino district was eliminated, and Latinos had three fewer seats on the council.

    Isbell proposed the change “because the Justice Department can no longer tell us what to do.” Voters narrowly approved the referendum in 2013, even though 99.6 percent of Latinos opposed it.

    On Friday, a federal district court in Texas found that white officials in Pasadena “intentionally discriminated against Latinos.” The court ordered new elections under the previous districts and, because of the finding of intentional discrimination, required Pasadena to approve all future election changes with the federal government for at least five years. It is the first jurisdiction to be subject to preclearance requirements since the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision.

    In 2013, Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general, cheered the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, calling it “good news…for the South.” He claimed, “If you go to Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, people aren’t being denied the vote because of the color of their skin.”

    In fact, as the decision in Pasadena shows, there is ample evidence of ongoing voting discrimination throughout the South (and beyond). Sessions’s home state of Alabama tried to close 31 DMV offices, many in majority-black counties, after instituting strict photo-ID requirements to vote. “In the 10 counties with the highest proportion of minorities, the state closed driver’s license offices in eight,” wrote Kyle Whitmore of AL.com. The US Department of Transportation found that the closures violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Alabama agreed last month to increase hours as part of the federal settlement.

    Elsewhere, North Carolina passed the country’s worst voter-suppression law in July 2013, which the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit said targeted “African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” Georgia was found to have illegally purged tens of thousands of voters, who were disproportionately people of color, from the rolls. Texas’s voter-ID law was judged to be discriminatory by the very conservative US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. And on it goes.

    Sessions seemed clueless about the details of the challenge to the Voting Rights Act. “Shelby County [Alabama] never had a history of denying the vote, certainly not now,” he said. “There is racial discrimination in the country, but I don’t think in Shelby County, Alabama, anyone is being denied the right to vote because of the color of their skin.” In fact, Shelby County found itself in court after the city of Calera ousted the only black city council member by reducing the percentage of African-Americans in his district from seventy-one to thirty percent—a textbook example of the type of voting discrimination that the Voting Rights Act was designed the stop.

    Last year, Sessions awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to the foot soldiers of the Selma movement, but has refused to support restoring the Voting Rights Act that many of them nearly died to win.

    As Trump’s attorney general, Sessions could be disastrous to voting rights in a variety of ways. He could support a federal voter-ID law and/or a proof of citizenship law for voter registration, which would disenfranchise millions of eligible Americans. He could pressure states to purge their voting rolls in discriminatory and inaccurate ways and force US Attorneys to prosecute bogus cases of voter fraud, which happened during the George W. Bush administration. He could switch sides in cases the Justice Department is arguing under the Voting Rights Act against states like North Carolina and Texas, which are on appeal to the Supreme Court, and question the constitutionality of the remaining parts of the VRA. He could bring reverse discrimination suits on behalf of whites instead of historically disenfranchised communities.

    Sessions has received renewed scrutiny recently for his unsuccessful 1985 prosecutions for voter fraud of three civil-rights activists from Perry County, Alabama, including Albert Turner Jr., a close aide of Martin Luther King Jr. who was brutally beaten by police on Bloody Sunday in Selma. The prosecutions were not an isolated incident but revealed a more disturbing pattern from Sessions, which led to him being rejected for a federal judgeship in 1986.

    Gerry Hebert, a lawyer in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, testified that Sessions had called the NAACP and ACLU “Communist-inspired” and “un-American” organizations that were “trying to force civil rights down the throats of people.” Thomas Figures, who worked under Sessions as the first black prosecutor in Alabama, said that Sessions had called him “boy” and told him “to be careful what I said to white folks.” Sessions said the Voting Rights Act was “an intrusive piece of legislation.”

    “Mr. Sessions is a throwback to a shameful era which I know both black and white Americans thought was in our past,” Ted Kennedy said in 1986. “It is inconceivable to me that a person of this attitude is qualified to be a U.S. attorney, let alone a U.S. Federal judge…. He is, I believe, a disgrace to the Justice Department and he should withdraw his nomination and resign his position.”

    Thirty years later, there’s little evidence to suggest that Sessions has changed his views. He has consistently opposed efforts to enforce the country’s civil-rights laws, to make it easier to vote, or to bring more diverse representation to his home state. He remains, unique among all attorney-general nominees, an advocate for the Old South he grew up in.

    In his Senate questionnaire for attorney general, Sessions lists the Perry County prosecutions as one of the 10 most significant cases he handled. He has never apologized or admitted he did anything wrong.

    In an attempt to repair his reputation, Sessions also lists four civil-rights cases he “personally” worked on, including litigation that successfully dismantled discriminatory election systems in the Alabama Black Belt, including in Selma, leading to the election of the first black elected officials on the county commissions and school boards of places like Dallas and Marengo counties. But lawyers with the Civil Rights Division say Sessions did no work on these cases and they put his name on the briefs simply because he was US Attorney at the time.

    “Those were my cases,” Gerry Hebert says of the litigation in Dallas and Marengo counties. “He played no role in either of them. When I filed the briefs, I put his name on them, but he never saw them. He had no role whatsoever in filing or approving these cases.”

    After stepping down as US Attorney in Mobile, Sessions served as attorney general of Alabama from 1995 to 1997. There, he opposed litigation brought by civil-rights groups and agreed to by his predecessor that would have led to the first black judges being appointed to the Alabama supreme court, court of criminal appeals, and court of civil appeals.

    More recently, Alabama State Senator Hank Sanders and other black political leaders from Alabama met with Sessions to ask him to support African-American judges the Obama administration was planning to nominate for vacancies on the federal districts courts in Montgomery and Birmingham and the court of appeals in Atlanta. “Nothing came out of it and the positions are still not filled,” says Sanders. “There was no movement on his part. The Obama administration didn’t want to nominate somebody that Sessions would just kill.” If Sessions had pledged not to oppose the nominees, Obama would have nominated three black judges to fill crucial vacancies, Sanders says.

    “During the 20 years Jeff Sessions has been in the U.S. Senate, only one black person has been appointed as a federal judge in a state that is 26 percent African American,” Sanders wrote in the Selma Times-Journal.

    Time and time again, Sessions has taken positions that would make it harder to vote, which give a disturbing preview of what he’d do as the nation’s top law-enforcement official.

    Sessions has perpetuated the myth of voter fraud to support new restrictions like voter-ID laws. “We have seen fraud repeatedly and there is a problem if you don’t use an ID when you go to vote, because you can vote for some other name that you know is not available to vote that day,” he told CNN in August, while echoing Trump’s bogus claim that Democrats were “attempting to rig this election.” (There have only been four cases of voter fraud in 2016 out of 135 million votes.)

    “In his Senate questionnaire for attorney general, Sessions lists the Perry County prosecutions as one of the 10 most significant cases he handled. He has never apologized or admitted he did anything wrong.”

    Yep, Senator Sessions cited the case that helped deny him a federal judgeship 30 years ago due to its alarming parallels to the Jim Crow era (and a case he lost) as one of the 10 most significant cases he handled:

    Sessions has received renewed scrutiny recently for his unsuccessful 1985 prosecutions for voter fraud of three civil-rights activists from Perry County, Alabama, including Albert Turner Jr., a close aide of Martin Luther King Jr. who was brutally beaten by police on Bloody Sunday in Selma. The prosecutions were not an isolated incident but revealed a more disturbing pattern from Sessions, which led to him being rejected for a federal judgeship in 1986.

    So, all in all, it should be clear that any criticism of Jeff Sessions’s stellar record on minority rights, especially when it comes to his record of opposing racially-targeted voting rules, is clearly part of a war on whites.

    Either that or Rep. Brooks is waging a war on empirical biographical evidence. It’s one of those two scenarios.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 11, 2017, 7:44 pm
  36. With Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions on track to become the US Attorney General soon, it’s going to be worth keeping in mind going into the 2018 mid-term elections that the full-spectrum war on voting rights Sessions is about to wage basically means that Democrats had better be psychologically prepared to turn stolen elections into a motivating, and not demoralizing, event after another election is stolen from them and redouble their efforts. No matter how many elections are blatantly stolen.

    It’s the kind of psychology that’s clearly critical now. And will remain critical for the foreseeable future:

    The Nation

    Here’s How the 2018 Midterm Elections Could Be Fatally Undermined

    By doubling down on their voter-suppression tactics, Trump and Co. could put the House of Representatives beyond the reach of even an overwhelming Democratic majority.

    By Natalie Reed
    February 6, 2017

    If you’ll permit an understatement, these have been frightening and uncertain times. Every day, it seems, we wake up to find a new addition on the list of doomsday scenarios. Facing a dangerously intemperate president, backed by white nationalists, with vast powers at his disposal and a clear willingness to dispense with all conventions of proper conduct, it’s vital that we maintain a sober understanding of what’s at stake, and how much could go wrong.

    In trying to rally ourselves to prevent these catastrophic possibilities from becoming reality, many of us have found it useful to visualize the opposite: success. Perhaps Senate Republicans will ultimately break away from their own party and vote for impeachment. Maybe a constitutional amendment will be passed providing for some kind of no-confidence vote that would force an early election. Maybe Steve Bannon will be sidelined in a power struggle inside the White House, convinced, somehow, to retire, perhaps to go raise sheep in the countryside.

    Others are training their hopes on the 2018 midterm elections. Given the mobilization of left-leaning Americans since the election and the unpopularity of Trump—likely only to increase—it’s tempting to imagine a Democratic sweep that would reclaim control of the House of Representatives, providing crucial political leverage to push back against Trump and his policies.

    However, in our eagerness for such a scenario, we should take care to not let the ease of imagining it distract us from the potential threats to achieving it. Staking the future of our movement and of the country—not to mention the world—on winning elections requires that we think carefully and seriously about how we ended up here in the first place, with a figure like Trump managing to claim victory despite his massive unpopularity and controversies that should have sunk his candidacy at every turn. Specifically, we should keep in mind the recent history of voter suppression and the degree to which the outcome of the 2016 election wasn’t necessarily determined by voters feelings alienated by the Democrats’ message—nor turned off by the mythical two-headed ogre of “identity politics” and “political correctness”—but rather by Republican strategies to tilt the process itself in their party’s favor. The danger those strategies pose to the Democrats’ chances to recover the House in the 2018 midterm elections must not be underestimated.

    In 2013, the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder effectively gutted the Voter Rights Act, permitting Republicans to employ a variety of voter-suppression methods that have since proved invaluable to their campaigns. These tactics will not only remain a factor working in their favor in 2018; they are very likely to significantly expand under the leadership of a man obsessed with the specter of “massive voter fraud,” desperate to prove himself both legitimate and loved by the people, and backed by a party in near-total control of all branches of government and eager to bend the rules to suit their political interests. The 2018 midterms elections could easily end up being compromised to the point that no realistic degree of popular opposition to incumbent Republicans would be sufficient to overcome them.

    One method we should expect to see employed, and expanded, is the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, more commonly known simply as Crosscheck. This system, designed with the ostensible purpose of combating voter fraud, operates by cross-referencing names on the rolls of a given state against those on the rolls of other states. If the same combination of name and birth-date occurs in two states, those votes are stricken from the rolls. This system has been known to disproportionately impact minority voters by targeting names common to specific demographics, notably Hispanic and black voters, who have traditionally voted Democratic. At present there are alarmingly few restrictions on the application of Crosscheck, and it would not be surprising to see it applied more vigorously in blue-leaning or swing states in 2018.

    Other restrictions are also likely to be expanded. Limiting polling locations in Democratic jurisdictions, curtailing their hours, and putting them in inconvenient locations are also likely to play a role in reducing Democratic turnout. Long lines at out-of-the-way polling places can significantly reduce the number of registered voters who turn up in those jurisdictions, and by reducing hours, the government can create the impression among those who do make it out that they’ve arrived too late to have their votes counted.

    The efficacy of this means of targeted suppression can be compounded by ensuring that polling locations are not convenient to access via public transportation (vital to the poor and disabled), and rolling back laws that require employers to allow time off for voting. That the latter will be employed in 2018 is almost a certainty, given the GOP’s traditional prioritization of employers, businesses, and corporations over workers’ rights. Even if present laws requiring time off remain in place, it is far more difficult for someone barely scraping by on minimum wage to sacrifice their working hours for an indeterminately long wait in a deliberately lengthened line at a polling location operating well beyond its capacity.

    Early voting and mail-in ballots have traditionally been a means of ensuring that voters who might otherwise not have access to polling locations are still able to vote, but we can expect to see further barriers raised here as well. A disturbing trend seen in Ohio in both the 2014 and 2016 elections was to deliberately reduce polling locations for early voting on the days in which black churches were conducting drives to help bring out the vote.

    Given the alt-right’s preference for misinformation campaigns as a political strategy, we will also likely see deliberate attempts to undermine the public’s understanding of where, when, and how to vote, and what will and will not be permitted. Consider the attempts in November to convince voters they could submit their ballots online. This, too, has precedent in modern Western democracies, even as official campaign strategy, such as in the “robo-gate” scandal of Canada’s 2011 federal election. Automated voice messages were sent to potential Liberal voters falsely claiming that polling locations had been changed, which in several instances led voters to the wrong location. Simply maintaining access to reliable information on the basic process of voting will likely prove difficult in future elections.

    Under the pretense of the voter fraud that has already become a favored talking point of the Republican leadership, we may also soon see legislation passed insisting that voters must verify their identity with multiple forms of government-issued ID. This will compound the disproportionate burden such policies place on specific demographics to procure ID or the documents necessary to obtain it. The poor and homeless often have difficulties because of expense or lack of a fixed address. Immigrants will especially face considerable obstacles in producing valid birth certificates or other necessary documents, as will individuals who have moved frequently and groups likely to use more than one name at different points in their lives, such as immigrants, women, and transgender voters. Again, these groups are more likely to vote Democratic, creating a clear incentive for Republican legislators to suppress their votes.

    Even if a voter does produce the required identification, it’s possible that those who are visible minorities may be subject to additional scrutiny by officials, and perhaps even have their identity or documentation treated as illegitimate. This will be particularly true if the gender marker on their ID does not match what the election official perceives them to be, or if their country of origin is considered suspect, or if their name doesn’t seem “appropriate” to their appearance or ethnicity, or if, for whatever reason, election monitors decide they are not the person shown in the photograph.

    A final consideration is that whatever laws do remain to protect the rights of voters are effective only if they are actually enforced. Law-enforcement officers with Customs and Border Protection and the Marshals have already demonstrated a willingness to place the orders of the executive branch above those of the judiciary, even in violation of the law. There are no guarantees that any law-enforcement personnel or officials in the position of overseeing the elections will remain nonpartisan. What if they simply refuse to protect Democratic or minority voters from intimidation or harassment? Examples of such lawlessness have already been seen in the 2016 election, as in Loudoun County, Virginia, where a man wearing a Donald Trump shirt and openly carrying a .357 Magnum approached voters in line—including a woman with her 9-year-old son—asked them whom they were planning to vote for, and handed out Republican sample ballots. When complaints were made to the authorities, they said he was well within his rights and was not engaging in voter intimidation.

    Considered together, these potential means of compromising the fairness of the 2018 election could easily produce an outcome in which the Republican Party is able to maintain control of the House and Senate despite massive, even unprecedented, dissatisfaction with their record in government. If they are successful, even greater obstacles could be installed for the 2020 elections, ensuring a second term for Trump—and perhaps later even a third or fourth term, should they choose to use their consolidated power to push for a constitutional amendment.

    None of this is to say that the situation is hopeless, or that one should consider their vote unimportant or merely symbolic, or that an unfair and unfree midterm election is a foregone conclusion. We in the opposition must remain willing to employ absolutely every tool at our disposal, and the fight is far from lost. But it will be crucial to not fight blindly or under the illusion that the game is being played fairly. Maintaining vigilance, watching for threats to the legitimacy of the electoral process, and fighting against those threats when they appear is every bit as crucial to the continued survival of American democracy as the conventional tools of campaigning and bringing out the vote.

    Considered together, these potential means of compromising the fairness of the 2018 election could easily produce an outcome in which the Republican Party is able to maintain control of the House and Senate despite massive, even unprecedented, dissatisfaction with their record in government. If they are successful, even greater obstacles could be installed for the 2020 elections, ensuring a second term for Trump—and perhaps later even a third or fourth term, should they choose to use their consolidated power to push for a constitutional amendment.”

    Will an open campaign of voter suppression overwhelm the voter backlash that such an open campaign will court? That’s the big bet the GOP has been making and you can’t say it hasn’t paid off so far. Will it pay off indefinitely or will full control of government by an openly white nationalist administration finally trigger the kind of voter reaction that overwhelms the suppression efforts? We’ll see, although even if its the latter scenario we might not see that voter backlash show up in the vote tallies since the GOP just made it much easier to get away with hacking voting machines:

    The Nation

    House Republicans Just Voted to Eliminate the Only Federal Agency That Makes Sure Voting Machines Can’t Be Hacked

    Republicans would make it easier to steal an election by killing the Election Assistance Commission.

    By Ari Berman
    2/8/2017 1:56 pm

    In a little-noticed 6-3 vote today, the House Administration Committee voted along party lines to eliminate the Election Assistance Commission, which helps states run elections and is the only federal agency charged with making sure voting machines can’t be hacked. The EAC was created after the disastrous 2000 election in Florida as part of the Help America Vote Act to rectify problems like butterfly ballots and hanging chads. (Republicans have tried to kill the agency for years.) The Committee also voted to eliminate the public-financing system for presidential elections dating back to the 1970s.

    “It is my firm belief that the EAC has outlived its usefulness and purpose,” said Committee chair Gregg Harper (R-MS), explaining why his bill transfers the EAC’s authority to the Federal Election Commission.

    Thirty-eight pro-democracy groups, including the NAACP and Common Cause, denounced the vote. “The EAC is the only federal agency which has as its central mission the improvement of election administration, and it undertakes essential activities that no other institution is equipped to address,” says the Brennan Center for Justice.

    This move is particularly worrisome given reports that suspected Russian hackers attempted to access voter-registration systems in more than 20 states during the 2016 election. Moreover, the Presidential Commission on Election Administration set up by President Obama in 2014 outlined an “impending crisis” in voting technology and the Brennan Center found that 42 states used voting machines in 2016 that were at least a decade-old and at risk of failing. The EAC was the agency tasked with making sure these voting systems were both modernized and secure.

    It’s particularly ironic that the Trump administration is preparing to launch a massive investigation into nonexistent voter fraud based on the lie that millions voted illegally while House Republicans are shutting down the agency that is supposed to make sure America’s elections are secure. It’s more proof of how the GOP’s real agenda is to make it harder to vote.

    It’s particularly ironic that the Trump administration is preparing to launch a massive investigation into nonexistent voter fraud based on the lie that millions voted illegally while House Republicans are shutting down the agency that is supposed to make sure America’s elections are secure. It’s more proof of how the GOP’s real agenda is to make it harder to vote.”

    Yep, at the same time Trump is assigning Mike Pence to investigate his baseless claim that millions of people voted illegally(exclusively in Blue states), the GOP is gutting the one agency that would actually have the power to stop millions of fraudulently hacked votes.

    And note that Trump’s claims that millions of people voted (against him) illegal didn’t just pop out of his disinformation-addled brain. Nope, that was thanks to the handiwork of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. The same guy who came up with the “Crosscheck” system that knocks (mostly minority) voters off the voting rolls if another voter has their same name and date of birth. And the same system that appears to have knocked more than a million mostly minority voters off the voting rolls in 2016. So it does appear there were millions of improper votes in 2016. Specifically, votes that should have been counted but weren’t, all thanks to the GOP’s agenda that’s about to go on steroids.

    On the plus side, the GOP’s gerrymandering probably won’t get any worse in coming years. Although that’s largely because it’s almost impossible to make it any worse at this point. Almost. We’ll see. Once the federal judiciary gets completely swamped with far-right ideologues it might get worse.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 8, 2017, 4:26 pm
  37. With Donald Trump’s approvals ratings continuing to plummet and number of scandals swirling around the Trump White House compounding seemingly daily, it’s worth noting just how incredibly fortuitous it is for the increasingly unpopular Trump administration that there’s basically no realistic mechanism for him to be impeached given the GOP control of the House of Representatives. But as those plummeting poll numbers also remind us, that GOP-control shield is increasingly vulnerable…due in large part to Trump’s growing unpopularity. The endless attempts to destroy the US health care system will no doubt also contribute to that growing GOP vulnerability, but if there’s one thing that looks likeliest to end the GOP’s control of the House it’s a historically unpopular GOP president who gets more unhinged (and seemingly senile) by the day. So what can Trump and the GOP do about maintaining his House-majority impeach-shield going into the 2018 elections? How about the same thing the GOP has been doing for years: voter suppression. Much, much more voter suppression.

    So how will Trump and the GOP achieve that? Well, one option is to set up an an “election integrity” commission. Make it a bipartisan commission (but with the balance of power tipped towards the GOP) and give it a nice sounding objective, like investigating both claims of voter suppression and voter fraud so the real goal isn’t totally obvious. And then appoint Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach – a man who has perfected extensive experience in the art of fraudulently charging voter fraud in order to suppress the vote – to lead the commission:

    Talking Points Memo
    Muckraker

    Pence, Kobach To Lead Trump’s Bogus ‘Election Integrity’ Commission

    By Tierney Sneed
    Published May 11, 2017 9:59 am

    President Donald Trump has selected a GOP official with a history of proposing restrictive elections policies that have been batted down by the courts to join Vice President Mike Pence in leading a commission that will examine “improper voting, fraudulent voter registrations and fraudulent voting,” as one administration official put it to ABC News.

    Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach will be the vice chair, and Pence the chair, of the panel that’s being called “Presidential Commission on Election Integrity.” Trump is expected to sign the executive order creating the commission on Thursday, according to the ABC News report.

    The commission appears to be the result of Trump’s vows earlier this year to launch an investigation into voter fraud – which has found to be extremely rare in studies – after he claimed without any evidence that “millions” of people vote illegally in the presidential election.

    A White House official said, via a pool report that the commission will go beyond “reviewing alleged voter fraud & suppression.”

    “The Commission will review policies and practices that enhance or undermine the American people’s confidence in the integrity of Federal elections — including improper registrations, improper voting, fraudulent registrations, fraudulent voting, and voting suppression,” the commission said, according to the pool report.

    The committee will be bipartisan, according the ABC News report, and a number of Democratic and Republican officials are being considered for it by Trump administration.

    Kobach is the engineer of a number of laws and proposals that were struck down by the courts, including a proof-of-citizenship requirement for voter registration in Kansas that has been tied up in a multi-year legal battle. Multiple courts have ruled against his efforts to implement the requirement, and at one point, he was threatened to be held in contempt-of-court for allegedly refusing to comply with a court order against it.

    Arizona’s “show me your papers” law was crafted with Kobach’s assistance. While at the Justice Department under President George W. Bush, he also was behind the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, which essentially functioned as a registry for Muslim men entering the country. Kobach floated the idea after Trump was elected that the program may be revived.

    Kobach was a major Trump booster and lobbied for tougher language on building a wall on the Mexican border to be added to the Republican platform. In November, Kobach was photographed with Trump holding a proposal sheet that included a line that said “Draft Amendments to National Voter….,” presumably a reference to the National Voter Registration Act. As part of the litigation over the proof-of-citizenship requirement, a judge ordered he turn over the paper, and Kobach’s appeal of the decision failed just this week.

    Among the other candidates floated to serve on the committee in the ABC News report is Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson. She was involved in a sketchy raid of a voter registration group last fall, that some worried would have a chilling effect on voting while overblowing claims of widespread voter fraud.

    “The commission will also examine the issue of voter suppression, officials said, which could encourage Democrats to sign on to the effort,” the report said.

    “Kobach is the engineer of a number of laws and proposals that were struck down by the courts, including a proof-of-citizenship requirement for voter registration in Kansas that has been tied up in a multi-year legal battle. Multiple courts have ruled against his efforts to implement the requirement, and at one point, he was threatened to be held in contempt-of-court for allegedly refusing to comply with a court order against it.”

    Behold, the GOP’s 2018 reelection strategy! And 2020 reelection strategy. And 2022, etc. At least it certainly looks like that’s the plan. And it could be a pretty effective plan except for one small problem: Kris Kobach might be a pro at whipping up voter fraud fears, but he’s a complete failure when it comes to actually finding it. So what’s he going to do if that’s the case this time around? Hmmm….oh, that’s right, he’ll just fraudulently assert that he found a bunch of fraud anyway:

    Salon

    Kris Kobach’s “voter fraud” meltdown: Someday he’ll have evidence of a problem that doesn’t exist
    The Kansas secretary of state, who inspired Trump’s Great Wall, is exposed on CNN as a vapid voter-fraud troll

    Gary Legum
    Tuesday, Feb 14, 2017 05:00 PM CDT

    As he blatantly lied on a series of Sunday talk shows about the extent to which illegal voting occurs in American elections, White House aide Stephen Miller told George Stephanopoulos to “invite Kris Kobach onto your show, and he can walk you through some of the evidence of voter fraud in greater detail.” On Monday, three separate networks gave Kobach the chance to do just that. It did not go well for him.

    Kobach began his day on “Fox & Friends,” where Brian Kilmeade offered absolutely zero resistance to his easily debunked claims about voter fraud. He then moved over to the Fox Business Network, where Neil Cavuto, surprisingly enough, made it clear he thought Kobach was full of it. “I don’t think you believe it,” Cavuto said. “I think you’re very smart in what you do and I think you find the whole thing too incredible to be believed,” he added, while Kobach helplessly opened and closed his lips like a goldfish nibbling on flakes of food sprinkled in his tank.

    But Kobach met the most resistance on CNN, where anchor Kate Bourdan all but pantsed him on live TV. Bourdan went after Kobach over Miller’s claim that last fall thousands of people had been bused from Massachusetts to New Hampshire for the purpose of throwing that state’s electoral votes to Hillary Clinton and over the grand total of nine cases of voter fraud Kobach found in Kansas after a year and a half of looking. To be clear, that is nine individuals that Kobach apparently found who voted illegally in the Sunflower State. Oh, no! By the end of the segment, viewers were either cheering or incredulous.

    The floundering on voter fraud by Kobach was reminiscent of the way the GOP takes on so many issues. The party is perennially just about to unveil its brilliant Obamacare replacement or its amazing tax reform plan sometime in the near future, just as soon as it gets its ducks in a row. Similarly, regarding the voter fraud he claims occurred in New Hampshire, Kobach swore there would be more solid evidence by the end of this month. When Bourdan pointed out that Kobach had found only nine instances of illegal voting in his state after a year and a half of looking, he claimed these nine cases were just the first in a long, long list of potentials that his office hasn’t quite found time to dig into. Surely if the public will just give him a little more time, he’ll show more voter fraud than people can possibly handle.

    “The floundering on voter fraud by Kobach was reminiscent of the way the GOP takes on so many issues. The party is perennially just about to unveil its brilliant Obamacare replacement or its amazing tax reform plan sometime in the near future, just as soon as it gets its ducks in a row. Similarly, regarding the voter fraud he claims occurred in New Hampshire, Kobach swore there would be more solid evidence by the end of this month. When Bourdan pointed out that Kobach had found only nine instances of illegal voting in his state after a year and a half of looking, he claimed these nine cases were just the first in a long, long list of potentials that his office hasn’t quite found time to dig into. Surely if the public will just give him a little more time, he’ll show more voter fraud than people can possibly handle.

    Yes, the tiny handful of voter fraud cases he’s actually found after years of pursuit are just the tip of a giant hidden iceberg and if the public will just give him a little more time, he’ll show more voter fraud than people can possibly handle! Well, he’s about to get a lot more time. Although presumably not too much time. The clock is ticking…

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 11, 2017, 2:21 pm
  38. Wow, that must of one horribly bigoted law: a federal judge struck down a Texas voter id law, SB 5, declaring it to be such a blatant an intentional act of minority voter suppression that it actually risks getting Texas thrown back into the system of “pre-clearance” that requires the federal government to give prior approval to any voting rule changes. It was the pre-clearance system that the Supreme Court ruled was no long needed back in 2013, immediately giving states like Texas the freedom to pass all sorts of voter suppression laws that the federal government would have previously preemptively block, an opportunity those states immediately pursued with glee. So now states like Texas with a long history of minority voter suppression are free to pass all sorts of new voting restrictions first and have them challenged in the courts later. And that’s what happened in this case: Texas first passed SB 14 in 2011, which was reviewed under “pre-clearance” and found to clearly be a minority voter suppression attempt. So Texas was forced to go back and craft SB 5 to try to address the criticism of SB 14. And apparently SB 5 was still so horrible and obviously targeting minority that Texas is now at risk of getting thrown back on the “pre-clearance” list. So, yeah, that must of one horribly bigoted law:

    Talking Points Memo
    Muckraker

    Federal Judge Blocks The 2.0 Version Of Controversial Texas Voter ID Law

    By Tierney Sneed
    Published August 23, 2017 6:37 pm

    A federal judge Wednesday rejected the changes Texas had made to its voter ID law in response to multiple previous court rulings against it and said the legislature would need to go back to the drawing board if it would like to implement a photo voter ID law.

    U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos also said that the changes Texas sought to make to the voter ID law did not wipe away previous findings that the 2011 law was passed with a discriminatory intent — findings that threaten to put Texas under a scheme that requires federal approval for any changes the state makes to its election policies.

    The revised version of the law, known as SB 5, fell “far short of mitigating the discriminatory provisions” of the original law, SB 14, Gonzales Ramos said in her order.

    “SB 5 is an improvement over SB 14, but it does not eliminate the discrimination in the choice of photo IDs, which disproportionately continues to impose undue burdens on Hispanics and African-Americans,” the decision said.

    The litigation over Texas’ voter ID law has lasted for years. Until recently, the Justice Department fought alongside the challengers in opposing the ID law. This summer, under President Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the DOJ joined the side of Texas this summer in this latest bout of litigation.

    After the very conservative, full 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year ruled against the 2011 law, Texas and the challengers worked out an interim system for the 2016 election in which non-photo ID holders could show another form of ID and sign an affidavit to vote. Texas, with SB 5, sought to codify this affidavit system, known as Declaration of Reasonable Impediment (DRI). Yet the judge pointed out Wednesday that the interim agreement was never meant to be permanent, but rather “a negotiated stop-gap measure addressing a quickly advancing general election.”

    “SB 5 does not meaningfully expand the types of photo IDs that can qualify, even though the Court was clearly critical of Texas having the most restrictive list in the country,” the judge said.

    Additionally, Texas had also made some changes to the interim affidavit system in the bill the legislature passed. The state tightened the categories a non-photo ID holder could claim to justify using the affidavit and beefed up the penalties if someone lied on the affidavit.

    The judge said these changes “appear to be efforts at voter intimidation.”

    “The Court has found that SB 14 was enacted with discriminatory intent—knowingly placing additional burdens on a disproportionate number of Hispanic and African-American voters. The DRI procedure trades one obstacle to voting with another—replacing the lack of qualified photo ID with an overreaching affidavit threatening severe penalties for perjury,” the decision said.

    The judge also knocked Texas for not doing enough to educate voters about its revised voter ID system.

    The judge said Wednesday that instead of trying to draft a remedy plan that would make the photo voter ID law pass legal muster, she was permanently blocking both the original and revised photo ID requirements. She cited both the ongoing discriminatory intent finding and the lack of evidence of in-person voter impersonation fraud in Texas.

    Her decision was not just a major setback for Texas’ efforts to implement its photo voter ID law. It also raised the specter that the state may need to go back under the Voting Rights Act scheme known as pre-clearance. Pre-clearance requires that a state must get either the Justice Department or a federal judge to approve changes to its election policies. Texas was under the pre-clearance scheme until a 2013 Supreme Court decision invalidated the VRA formula that had put it and other states under it.

    However, another provision of the VRA, Section 3, allows for states to be put under pre-clearance if they are found to have passed voting laws with a discriminatory intent.

    The judge’s order Wednesday gave the parties in the case a week to brief her on what next steps should be taken with regards to considering section 3 in the case.


    ———-

    “Federal Judge Blocks The 2.0 Version Of Controversial Texas Voter ID Law” by Tierney Sneed; Talking Points Memo; 08/23/2017

    “The judge said Wednesday that instead of trying to draft a remedy plan that would make the photo voter ID law pass legal muster, she was permanently blocking both the original and revised photo ID requirements. She cited both the ongoing discriminatory intent finding and the lack of evidence of in-person voter impersonation fraud in Texas.”

    Clear discriminatory intent combined with a lack of evidence of in-person impersonation voter fraud. And SB 5 was the revised, milder version of the original SB 14 law. And that’s why Texas just might be the first state thrown back on the “pre-clearance” list:


    Her decision was not just a major setback for Texas’ efforts to implement its photo voter ID law. It also raised the specter that the state may need to go back under the Voting Rights Act scheme known as pre-clearance. Pre-clearance requires that a state must get either the Justice Department or a federal judge to approve changes to its election policies. Texas was under the pre-clearance scheme until a 2013 Supreme Court decision invalidated the VRA formula that had put it and other states under it.

    However, another provision of the VRA, Section 3, allows for states to be put under pre-clearance if they are found to have passed voting laws with a discriminatory intent.

    The law was that bad. At least in the eyes of this federal judge. In the eyes of the Trump administration, on the other hand, the law is just fine!


    The litigation over Texas’ voter ID law has lasted for years. Until recently, the Justice Department fought alongside the challengers in opposing the ID law. This summer, under President Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the DOJ joined the side of Texas this summer in this latest bout of litigation.

    Because of course that happened.

    In other news…

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 23, 2017, 8:54 pm
  39. The US Supreme Court is just heard arguments on a case on the legality of extreme partisan gerrymandering…the kind of gerrymandering that’s been allowing the GOP to win a majority of congressional seats in states where the Democrats actually win the majority of the vote. And in this case it was the kind of gerrymandering that allowed the GOP in Wisconsin to win 60 out of 99 State Assembly seats in 2012 despite getting only 48 percent of the vote.

    Of course, since the Supreme Court is sort of ‘gerrymandered’ itself (metaphorically speaking) this year after the GOP refused to Barack Obama’s supreme court nominee, Merrick Garland, last year and then proceeded to push through the far right Neil Gorsuch, it’s very possible we could see a Supreme Court decision that basically upholds extreme partisan gerrymandering as constitutional. Because that’s what right-wing courts do: make it easier to abuse power.

    And as the following article notes, while the justices appeared to all express their distaste of gerrymandering, the question of whether or not the Supreme Court can intervene appears to revolve around the ability of the justices to develop a manageable standard for determining whether or not an instance of gerrymandering crosses the line of extreme partisanship. And the conservative justices just aren’t sure that manageable standard can be found, with Chief Justice John Roberts expressing concerns that the court will harm its authority and integrity if it intervenes in favor of one party or another.

    So, yes, the Chief Justice is concerned that the Supreme Court will seem overly partisan if it interferes with the extremely partisan gerrymandering (which just happens to be primarily done by the GOP):

    The New York Times

    Justices Split on Voting Maps Warped by Politics

    By ADAM LIPTAK and MICHAEL D. SHEAR
    OCT. 3, 2017

    WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court heard arguments on Tuesday in a case that could reshape American democracy by considering whether extreme partisan gerrymandering — the drawing of voting districts to give lopsided advantages to the party in power — violates the Constitution.

    There was something like consensus that voting maps warped by politics are an unattractive feature of American democracy. But the justices appeared split about whether the court could find a standard for determining when the practice had crossed a constitutional line.

    “Gerrymandering is distasteful,” said Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., “but if we’re going to impose a standard on the courts it’s going to have to be manageable.”

    The court’s more liberal members said the problem represented a crisis for democracy and that the Supreme Court should step in.

    “What’s really behind all of this?” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked. She answered her own question: “The precious right to vote.”

    In extended remarks, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. expressed worry that the court’s authority and legitimacy would be harmed were it to start striking down voting districts in favor of one political party or another.

    “That is going to cause very serious harm to the status and integrity of the decisions of this court,” he said.

    Paul M. Smith, a lawyer for Democratic voters challenging a voting map in Wisconsin, urged the court to act. “You are the only institution in the United States that can solve this problem,” he told the justices.

    The member of the court who probably holds the crucial vote, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, asked questions suggesting that he thought the Supreme Court has a role to play in limiting partisan gerrymandering.

    The Supreme Court has never struck down an election map on the ground that it was drawn to make sure one political party wins an outsize number of seats. The court has, however, left open the possibility that some kinds of political gamesmanship in redistricting may be too extreme.

    The problem, Justice Kennedy wrote in a 2004 concurrence, is that no one has devised “a workable standard” to decide when the political gerrymandering has crossed a constitutional line.

    On Tuesday, lawyers for the state of Wisconsin urged the justices to reject such a challenge to that state’s redistricting map, drawn by the Republican-controlled government, saying that Democratic critics were relying on flimsy and hypothetical social science evidence to prove that the maps led to the unconstitutional advantage of one party over the other.

    Misha Tseytlin, the state’s solicitor general, warned that rejecting Wisconsin’s maps would spark “a redistricting revolution on these social science metrics” and would “shift districting from elected public officials to the courts.”

    But during sharp questioning of the state’s lawyers, several justices hinted at the high stakes for democracy if parties are permitted to use sophisticated technology to devise voting maps that give them a significant, long-term advantage over their rivals.

    Justice Elena Kagan said there is “good evidence” that the maps drawn by the Republicans in Wisconsin were designed to have “a certain kind of an effect, which was to entrench a party in power.”

    Justice Kagan also pressed the state’s lawyers to explain their criticism of the social scientists who have concluded that the maps are overly partisan. She noted that lawmakers use the same technology and social science to draw the maps in the first place.

    “So, too, those same technologies can be used to evaluate what they are doing,” Justice Kagan said.

    The case, Gill v. Whitford, No. 16-1161, started when Republicans gained complete control of Wisconsin’s government in 2010 for the first time in more than 40 years. It was a redistricting year, and lawmakers promptly drew a map for the State Assembly that helped Republicans convert very close statewide vote totals into lopsided legislative majorities.

    In 2012, after the redistricting, Republicans won 48.6 percent of the statewide vote for Assembly candidates but captured 60 of the Assembly’s 99 seats.

    The case is part of a larger debate over politics in redistricting, one that has taken on new urgency with the advent of sophisticated software. Both parties have engaged in partisan gerrymandering, but these days, Republicans have an advantage following a wave of victories in state legislatures that allowed lawmakers to draw election maps favoring their party.

    Some critics, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican and the former governor of California, say districts should be drawn by independent commissions rather than politicians. Prominent Democrats, including former President Barack Obama and his attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., are pushing to undo the redistricting gains Republicans made after the 2010 census when the next census is taken three years from now.

    Last year, a divided three-judge Federal District Court panel ruled that Republicans in Wisconsin had gone too far. The map, Judge Kenneth F. Ripple wrote for the majority, “was designed to make it more difficult for Democrats, compared to Republicans, to translate their votes into seats.”

    The decision was the first from a federal court in more than 30 years to reject a voting map as partisan gerrymandering.

    Wisconsin officials say that the lopsided representation of Republicans in the State Legislature is a product of geography rather than gerrymandering. Democrats have packed themselves into cities, effectively diluting their voting power, while Republicans are more evenly distributed across most states, the brief said.

    Judge Ripple acknowledged that the distribution of the population explains at least some part of the gap.

    “Wisconsin’s political geography, particularly the high concentration of Democratic voters in urban centers like Milwaukee and Madison, affords the Republican Party a natural, but modest, advantage in the districting process,” he wrote.

    But he added that partisan gerrymandering amplified that advantage.

    ———-

    “Justices Split on Voting Maps Warped by Politics” by ADAM LIPTAK and MICHAEL D. SHEAR; The New York Times; 10/03/2017

    “There was something like consensus that voting maps warped by politics are an unattractive feature of American democracy. But the justices appeared split about whether the court could find a standard for determining when the practice had crossed a constitutional line.”

    Yep, the justices all seem to agree that extreme partisan gerrymandering is bad for democracy. They just can’t agree on the exact point where it becomes bad for democracy, and that’s making the conservative justices question whether or not intervening would end up damaging democracy even more. Because intervening might be seen as partisan:


    “Gerrymandering is distasteful,” said Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., “but if we’re going to impose a standard on the courts it’s going to have to be manageable.”

    In extended remarks, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. expressed worry that the court’s authority and legitimacy would be harmed were it to start striking down voting districts in favor of one political party or another.

    “That is going to cause very serious harm to the status and integrity of the decisions of this court,” he said.

    But note that Justice Roberts’s concerns over the court being interpreted as favoring one party aren’t rooted in concerns that it would primarily be the GOP’s gerrymandering that would end up getting over-turned (which is one way it could end up being perceived as partisan). No, the concerns are rooted in fears that the public wouldn’t accept the science that goes into assessing whether or not a district is skewed towards one part or another…the same science that, as Justice Kagan pointed out, Wisconsin’s GOP used to create its extremely gerrymandered districts in the first place:


    On Tuesday, lawyers for the state of Wisconsin urged the justices to reject such a challenge to that state’s redistricting map, drawn by the Republican-controlled government, saying that Democratic critics were relying on flimsy and hypothetical social science evidence to prove that the maps led to the unconstitutional advantage of one party over the other.

    Misha Tseytlin, the state’s solicitor general, warned that rejecting Wisconsin’s maps would spark “a redistricting revolution on these social science metrics” and would “shift districting from elected public officials to the courts.”

    But during sharp questioning of the state’s lawyers, several justices hinted at the high stakes for democracy if parties are permitted to use sophisticated technology to devise voting maps that give them a significant, long-term advantage over their rivals.

    Justice Elena Kagan said there is “good evidence” that the maps drawn by the Republicans in Wisconsin were designed to have “a certain kind of an effect, which was to entrench a party in power.”

    Justice Kagan also pressed the state’s lawyers to explain their criticism of the social scientists who have concluded that the maps are overly partisan. She noted that lawmakers use the same technology and social science to draw the maps in the first place.

    “So, too, those same technologies can be used to evaluate what they are doing,” Justice Kagan said.

    The case, Gill v. Whitford, No. 16-1161, started when Republicans gained complete control of Wisconsin’s government in 2010 for the first time in more than 40 years. It was a redistricting year, and lawmakers promptly drew a map for the State Assembly that helped Republicans convert very close statewide vote totals into lopsided legislative majorities.

    In 2012, after the redistricting, Republicans won 48.6 percent of the statewide vote for Assembly candidates but captured 60 of the Assembly’s 99 seats.

    “Justice Kagan also pressed the state’s lawyers to explain their criticism of the social scientists who have concluded that the maps are overly partisan. She noted that lawmakers use the same technology and social science to draw the maps in the first place.”

    Yep, the crux of the GOP’s argument is that the “social science” used to assess whether or not a district has been unfairly skewed can’t really be trusted…despite the fact that the same science was used by the GOP to gerrymander in the first place. But as John Roberts sees it, if the public at large can’t trust this “social science” that could risk the reputation of the court as impartial. In other words, the primary defense of the GOP’s extreme partisan gerrymandering is the scientific illiteracy, willful ignorance, and extreme gullibility of GOP voters:

    Politico

    Supreme Court eyes partisan gerrymandering

    Kennedy seen as swing vote that could blunt GOP’s map-drawing successes.

    By JOSH GERSTEIN

    10/03/2017 12:40 PM EDT
    Updated 10/03/2017 03:35 PM EDT

    The Supreme Court wrestled Tuesday with a case that has the potential to halt or even reverse an increasingly common phenomenon of American political life: Republicans’ ability to tilt the political playing field in their favor through the tedious task of redrawing district lines.

    The politically explosive high court fight over so-called partisan gerrymandering has the potential to radically reshape the political scene by thrusting courts across the country into the role of vetting district maps for excessive partisan bias.

    Critics of that idea say judges are ill-suited to that complex task, while proponents say the practice of legislators essentially picking their voters has gotten out of control and is contributing to extreme political polarization by virtually eliminating competitive or toss-up districts.

    The arguments Tuesday were tailored almost entirely to an audience of one: Justice Anthony Kennedy. He’s widely believed to be the only Republican-appointed justice who might side with the court’s Democratic appointees to invalidate a redistricting plan Wisconsin adopted for its state assembly in 2011.

    Kennedy was cryptic about how he might rule in the case, but gave no sign that he has abandoned his view that extreme partisan gerrymandering might—at least in theory—violate the Constitution. Moments into the argument, he suggested that extraordinary efforts to pack one particular party into one district or break them up into several others, could violate the right to free-association.

    “Suppose the court…decided that this is a First Amendment issue, not an equal protection issue. Would that change the calculus?” Kennedy asked as the court debated the legality of the Wisconsin plan. A three-judge panel ruled that the GOP-led legislature tilted the table so sharply against Democrats that it ran afoul of the Constitution.

    Kennedy also seemed irked when a lawyer for GOP legislators in Wisconsin would not immediately say whether a state law that explicitly stated a policy to harm either Democrats or Republicans would be illegal.

    “If the state has a law or constitutional amendment that’s saying all legitimate factors must be used in a way to favor party X or party Y, is that lawful?” he asked attorney Erin Murphy, adding later: “I’d like the answer to the question.”

    Murphy eventually conceded that such a law would be unconstitutional, a concession that seemed to open the door to the idea that a redistricting plan that was hopelessly skewed but contained no explicit partisan goal would also be suspect.

    Much of the GOP’s recent success in custom-tailoring election districts has been enabled by developments in technology that allow drawing of district lines to attain a particular partisan composition with near-perfect precision through techniques dubbed “packing” and “cracking.”

    However, the same sort of number-crunching systems can be used to precisely identify the partisan tilt of a proposed map and to correct it to something more balanced—if the courts are so inclined.

    Chief Justice John Roberts, who’s known for a desire to safeguard the high court’s reputation, was unusually blunt about his concern that opening the door to partisan gerrymandering cases would flood the Supreme Court docket with litigation and drag the justices into a political morass. He said voters will look askance at the notion that districts failed to meet a complex formula that assesses wasted votes and a so-called “efficiency gap.”

    “You’re taking these issues away from democracy and you’re throwing them into the courts pursuant to—and it may be simply my educational background, [what] I can only describe as sociological gobbledygook,” the chief justice opined. “The intelligent man on the street is going to say, ‘That’s a bunch of baloney. It must be because the Supreme Court preferred the Democrats over the Republicans.’…That is going to cause very serious harm to the status and integrity of the decisions of this court in the eyes of the country.”

    Both sides in the case warned of a dire future if the court sides with their opponents.

    “Gerrymanders now are not your fathers’ gerrymanders,” warned Paul Smith, the lawyer for Democrats challenging the Wisconsin plan. He said data-crunching is now so sophisticated that there could be virtually no competition in U.S. elections in much of the country after 2020, if the high court doesn’t impose restraints.

    “These are going to be really serious incursions on democracy if this Court doesn’t do something. And this is really the last opportunity before we see this huge festival of new extreme gerrymanders all done along the model of Wisconsin, but probably even more serious.,” Smith declared. “If you don’t do it, it is locked up.”

    Wisconsin Solicitor General Misha Tseytlin argued that the greater danger involved the justices upending the traditional redistricting process with murky, debatable science.

    “Plaintiffs are asking this court to launch a redistricting revolution based on their social-science metrics,” Tseytlin said. “You would have federal courts engaging in battles of the hypothetical experts.”

    Justice Elena Kagan jumped in to disagree, noting that computer models are now capable of highly detailed analysis of districts and various potential maps. “This is not the kind of hypothetical…where you guess and then you guess again,” she said.

    Justice Samuel Alito was deeply skeptical of the courts wading into such analysis. He repeatedly questioned the reliability of the scientific studies and models used to assess the impact of different maps.

    “They rely a lot on polls, don’t they? How scientific have they proven to be?” Alito said, seeming to refer to the outcome of last fall’s presidential race.

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggested the effort to concentrate Democrats’ votes in a few districts was as troubling as efforts to do the same with African-American voters. “Max-Republican…doesn’t it have the same problem of Max-Black?” she asked.

    Ginsburg suggested the partisan line-drawing was dealing a fundamental blow to American democracy.

    “What incentive is there for a voter to exercise their vote?” she asked. “Under this map, the result is preordained….What becomes of the precious right to vote?”

    The court’s newcomer, Justice Neil Gorsuch, said he worried that states would not know what standard they’re supposed to meet without “having every district subject to litigation.” He compared the tests courts were considering to a steak rub.

    “What’s this court supposed to do? A pinch of this and a pinch of that?” he asked.

    ———-

    “Supreme Court eyes partisan gerrymandering” by JOSH GERSTEIN; Politico; 10/03/2017

    “”You’re taking these issues away from democracy and you’re throwing them into the courts pursuant to—and it may be simply my educational background, [what] I can only describe as sociological gobbledygook,” the chief justice opined. “The intelligent man on the street is going to say, ‘That’s a bunch of baloney. It must be because the Supreme Court preferred the Democrats over the Republicans.’…That is going to cause very serious harm to the status and integrity of the decisions of this court in the eyes of the country.””

    The ‘intelligent man on the street’ (who is presumably blind) will inevitably have a reflexive “this is sociological gobbledygook!” response if the Supreme Court declares these extremely gerrymandered districts unconstitutional based on the same “sociological gobbledygook” that was used to gerrymander the districts in the first place. And therefore nothing can be done because that would damage the courts.

    That’s seriously Chief Justice Roberts’s argument. An argument that would have seriously harmed the status and integrity of Chief Justice Roberts the moment he made it if he still had any integrity left.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 3, 2017, 2:52 pm

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