SCOTUS Goose Steps on Voter ID

29voterid Finally, the country will be rescued from its long nightmare struggle with voter fraud! And if certain voters find it harder to get their ballot cast, then so be it.

From the AP:

The Supreme Court has ruled that states can require voters to produce photo identification without violating their constitutional rights. The decision validates Republican-inspired voter ID laws.

The court vote 6-3 to uphold Indiana’s strict photo ID requirement. Democrats and civil rights groups say the law would deter poor, older and minority voters from casting ballots.

As those who have followed this issue will remember, this is not a surprise. As Jeffrey Toobin put it early this year:

As a general matter, in recent years the Court has been reluctant to find what is charged in this case: a violation of the constitutional guarantee of equal protection of the laws. (The notable exception, to belabor the issue, was for a plaintiff named George W. Bush.) In the end, though, it will not be the judiciary that rescues democracy; whatever the obstacles, the problems with the ballot box must be solved at the ballot box.

A little more detail in an update from the AP:

The law “is amply justified by the valid interest in protecting ‘the integrity and reliability of the electoral process,'” Justice John Paul Stevens said in an opinion that was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy.

Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas also agreed with the outcome, but wrote separately.

Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter dissented….

“We cannot conclude that the statute imposes ‘excessively burdensome requirements’ on any class of voters,” Stevens said.

Stevens’ opinion suggests that the outcome could be different in a state where voters could provide evidence that their rights had been impaired.

But in dissent, Souter said Indiana’s voter ID law “threatens to impose nontrivial burdens on the voting rights of tens of thousands of the state’s citizens.”

… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <TPM>

It election fraud, not counting the GOP fraud of rigged voting machines, were a problem in this country, this statute would make sense, but there has been no evidence that it is.  To the contrary, lack of voter participation is an issue.  Since the GOP would not invent a solution for which there is no problem, the problem must be a different one and it is.  Poor, minority and disabled voters vote overwhelming for Democrats, and the GOP wants to disenfranchise as many as possible.  This is a huge step backwards for voting rights.  For disabled people and people without transportation to either report in person to a DMV before voting or to their county election HQ within days after casting a provisional ballot is an extreme hardship.

McCain has promised to appoint Justices like Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas.  Can our nation survive another justice of their ilk?


Ben Franklin’s Worst Nightmare

Our elections are plagued by vote suppression and fraud. Making sure we have a fair election in 2008 is even more important than who wins.

1StopElectionTheft The ground feels a little soft, but we’re going to stand it.

Premise one: Having a fair election — all votes counted, all who are eligible and want to vote allowed to vote — is far, far more important, even in 2008, than who wins.

Premise two: Fair elections are not a given. They never have been, but things are worse now than ever before because of a perfect storm, you might say, of factors that have converged in the new millennium: officialdom’s seduction by unsafe, high-tech voting systems; the seizure of power by a party of ruthless true believers who feel entitled to rule and will do anything to win; a polite, confused opposition party that won’t make a stink about raw injustice; and an arrogantly complacent media embedded in the political and economic status quo.

The result: Benjamin Franklin’s worst nightmare.

“Well, Doctor, what have we got — a Republic or a Monarchy?”

A Republic, if you can keep it.”

As Franklin, who uttered those words in answer to a citizen’s query as he left the final session of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, saw with clarity, we don’t have an easy form of government. Rather, it’s a complex, unstable yoking of disparate forces, many with a blind urge to dominate. Only by keeping them in relative check do we maintain our relative freedom and, most importantly, our right to participate in our macro-destiny: that is, to have a say in, to help determine, the country’s direction.

Without an intense degree of citizen involvement at the structural level — down there amid the gears and cogs of universal enfranchisement — our government will soon default to something far simpler: one that is of, by and for whoever seizes power.

I know, just thinking about this is terrifying. The stakes are too high. We have no context for contemplating the possibility that the United States is anything but “the world’s greatest democracy,” which surely explains why most of the media, including a phalanx of progressive publications that ought to be on hair-trigger alert about vote suppression and manipulation, have ignored or dismissed the glaring danger signals.

These signals include, among much else: obscenely long lines in many African-American and student precincts on Election Day 2004; bogus voter challenges and purges; vote-flipping (“I pressed Kerry and Bush lit up”), weird vote totals (more votes counted than cast, undervote totals that defy common sense) and an array of other “glitches” in precincts that use electronic voting machines; and huge discrepancies between exit poll results and vote totals that, in other parts of the world, would instantly cast doubt on the validity of the election.

It all comes down to the first few words of Dorothy Fadiman’s about-to-be-released documentary, “Stealing America: Vote by Vote,” spoken by investigative journalist Greg Palast: “The nasty little secret of American democracy is that not all the votes get counted.”

It has been my privilege to be part of two new documentaries — Fadiman’s, and David Earnhardt’s “Uncounted: The New Math of American Elections,” which is currently in theaters and available on DVD — that focus on the disquieting irregularities (see above) of the 2004 and subsequent elections.

Both movies, by presenting the issue in Americans’ medium of choice, and by creating a context for the possibility of election fraud that transcends Chicken Little and reminds viewers of our nation’s long history of citizen struggle and vigilance, raise the hope that today’s crisis will resonate with a large segment of the public and lead to widespread anger and awareness … and maybe something that doesn’t go away. A demand for paper ballots, perhaps. A citizens’ movement.

Inserted from <AlterNet>

While I agree in principle that a fair election is more important than who wins is, I also know that the only time someone comes out on top because of election theft, it’s a Republican. If you think that the GOP will not be hard art work, using every dirty criminal trick in the book to win this one, it’s time to wake up!

Cross-posted from Politics Plus

The Campaign Monitor Goes Missing

26McConnell Moneywise, this is an eerily liberating time to be running for president or Congress. Donations are being harvested and spent at a record rate, while the Federal Election Commission — the campaign’s designated referee — has been reduced to a nonentity.

The panel has been unable to meet and function this year because it no longer has enough members to do business. There are four vacancies on the six-member commission, and a political standoff in the Senate centered on a hack Republican nominee is blocking attempts to fill them.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate’s Republican leader, has insisted that the four seats be filled as a single package on one vote, not separate votes on the merits of the individuals. Democrats object to one Republican nominee, Hans von Spakovsky, a notorious partisan who built a record at the Justice Department as an aggressive G.O.P. booster undermining voting rights for minorities and the poor.

Lacking a quorum, the commission has been left powerless to issue advisory opinions for candidates, write new reform regulations, open investigations and file lawsuits against violators. The result is a scofflaw’s paradise. The political landscape’s big-money fast lanes are slick enough without having the only traffic controller gone missing.

What this means on a practical level is that the supposed new breakthrough law called the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act is gathering cobwebs. The commission has been unavailable to write enforcement regulations for a law that could not be timelier. It requires presidential and Congressional candidates to report to the public on their lucrative bundled contributions — the large packages of multiple donations that lobbyists and other favor-seekers amass to secure out-size gratitude from candidates. If the commission ever gets back in business, the elections could be over and severe damage already done to the campaign.

Surely, Senator McConnell — long an outspoken opponent of campaign-finance reform — can’t mean to block a vital new law of the land in order to champion a discredited ward-heeler. [emphasis added]

Inserted from <NY Times>

I agree with everything said here except the conclusion. That is exactly what McConnell is up to. Since the GOP cannot win by the rules, they have intentionally sabotaged the agency responsible for enforcement.

Cross-posted from Politics Plus

A Clean, Fair Fight

5caging If recent history is any guide, this fall’s presidential election will be marred by vote suppression and cynical dirty tricks. Congress still has time to stop some of the worst offenses. The Senate is considering two bills, one to outlaw so-called vote caging and another to rein in duplicitous robo-calls. Congress should pass both bills well before Election Day.

Vote caging is a little-known but pernicious technique. Political operatives mail letters to voters, targeting areas where the opposing party is strong. If a letter is returned as undeliverable, the voter’s name is put on a list to be challenged at the polls. The challengers try to persuade election officials not to let the person vote, or only to let them cast a provisional ballot. Some voters end up disenfranchised. No matter how the challenges turn out, they often create confusion and long lines, reducing turnout in the targeted precincts.

Minority voters have been especially victimized. In an infamous case in Louisiana, a Republican political operative boasted that a vote-caging program “could keep the black vote down considerably.” Vote caging is sometimes defended as a way of removing ineligible voters from the rolls. But there are many reasons letters are returned, including errors in names and addresses, which are common on direct-mail lists.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, has sponsored a good bill that would require operatives to present better evidence when they challenge a voter’s eligibility, such as verifiable proof that a prospective voter has moved or died. The bill would not deter legitimate efforts to keep ineligible people from voting, but it should greatly reduce the use of voter challenges as an Election Day dirty trick.

Political robo-calls are another tactic desperately in need of regulation. In the 2006 election, voters described being harassed by automated telephone calls — which called back as many as eight times after the recipient hung up. In some cases, the recordings began by saying that they included important information about one candidate, although they were really placed by the other side. The caller would then blame the wrong candidate.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, has introduced legislation that would restrict political robo-calls in the run-up to an election, limiting an organization to no more than two such calls to the same phone in a single day. It would also require the call to begin with a clear disclosure of the group that was placing it… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <NY Times>

These two bills address two of the Reich’s favorite tactics. I strongly urge support of both.

Cross-posted from Politics Plus

Diebold Leaks 2008 Election Results Early

Here’s some great humor. Enjoy!

Cross posted from Politics Plus

A Difference in Systems

Tom12-2007 Yesterday, we had some strong differences in opinion in comments to this article about Nader’s decision to run for President. If you are familiar with a parliamentary system, you may have a hard time understanding how this might upset Americans. If you are not familiar with a parliamentary system, you may have a hard time understanding a foreign perspective on this. So in the interest of promoting mutual understanding, I shall endeavor to explain the differences and relate them to the current situation.

In a parliamentary system, the chief executive, usually the Prime Minister, is not elected directly. Voters elect a legislator from their district from among several parties. When the legislature convenes, if one party has a majority of legislators, they can form a government directly, appointing their party leader as Prime Minister. If not, negotiations take place between the parties until they can cut a deal that a majority of legislators will back and form a government behind a PM that may or may not the leader of one of the parties.

Say that voters in an parliamentary nation split between one right wing party, which we’ll call the Reich, and two left wing parties which we’ll call Populist and Progressive. And say the popular vote splits 35%, 34% and 31% respectively. Although the Reich may have won the plurality, 65% of the voters expressed a preference for the left. The legislators elected under such a system should be in approximately the same ratio and one may reasonably assume that the resulting government will be leftist.

In the US, the president is not elected directly either. But the manner of indirect election is completely different. Electors are appointed on a state by state basis in a single member plurality system in which the winner of the plurality of that state is awarded all the electors for the entire state. here are two exceptions, Maine and Nebraska, in which the plurality winner of each electoral district within the state gets the elector for that district. I described our system in ore detail, HERE.

Using the same example as before, with 35% Reich, 34% Populist and 31% Progressive, under the US system the Reich would win the presidency, even though 65% of the voters expressed a preference for the left. Is our system flawed? You bet it is, but until and unless it is changed, we will have two dominant parties and the only role a 3rd party candidate can have is that of spoiler.

The US system is further complicated by differences between the two parties. Organizing Democrats is like herding cats. Democratic voters tend to be highly varied and independent, while Republicans are more “I’ll bend over and say ba-a-a-a-a-a while you bang me in the butt” types. This makes Democrats more vulnerable to defection to 3rd parties. In addition, most states are “safe” for one party or the other. New York and California will go Democratic. Alabama and Mississippi will go Republican. The election will be decided in a few swing states that could go either way.

And that’s what happened in 2000. It can justly be argued that Al Gore won Florida and the GOP state government under Jeb Bush manipulated the vote counting and stole the election, because that’s the truth. However in Florida, Ralph Nader had 96,837 votes, most of whom would have voted for Gore, had Nader not run. Had those voters voted for Gore, the election could not have been close enough tor the GOP to manipulate the vote counting enough to produce a 537 vote win for GW Bush.

Nationwide, Ralph Nader polled less than 1/3 of 1% of the popular vote. Under a parliamentary system, there is no way such an insignificant candidate could tip the entire course of a national election. Under our flawed system it did happen, so it’s only natural for US voters to be highly concerned that it might happen again, and highly irate at the candidate who played the role of spoiler once and is willing to do so again.

In my opinion, a more progressive third party is a worthy goal for the future, but in order to make it work, we must first change the way in which politicians are elected to a more equitable system. That is a long process. It begins by putting progressives who favor such a system in office at the local and state levels and gathering strength until the change can be made on a state by state and finally a national basis. I’m all for starting in December.

But in the meantime, Ralph Nader is a threat to our nation. If he could win, I’d be at the front of the line to support him, but he can’t. The more successful he is, the more likely he is to repeat the debacle of 2000.

Inserted from Politics Plus