Tag Archives: voting rights

The GOP went down to Georgia: A Cautionary Tale

Randolph County, Georgia is working hard to become the poster child for the cynicism of the Republican partisans who will stoop to seemingly ever lower machinations to depress voter turnout.

The county describes itself:

“Created in 1828, Randolph County encompasses 429 square miles in Southwest Georgia and is home to 7,719 residents. Randolph is an agricultural county and ranks as the top wheat and sorghum grower in the state. Peanuts, cotton, soybeans, and corn are also important crops for Randolph.”

This isn’t quite all the story.  The Census Bureau tells us that, yes, as of 2010 there were 7,719 residents, of whom 61.4% are African American, 37.1% of whom are white.  54% of the county’s residents are female.  11.2% of the residents under the age of 65 are classified as disabled.  These numbers are important.  Why?

The board of elections for a rural, southwest county in Georgia that consists of mostly black voters wants to eliminate all but two of the county’s polling locations just months before the midterm elections because they’re not in compliance with disabilities laws.

During a “courtesy” meeting Thursday night, the Randolph County Board of Elections, a county located near the Georgia-Alabama border, informed residents of the possibility that seven of the nine voting locations would be eliminated since the county did not have time to make them wheelchair accessible before the midterms, according to local media reports.

The seven locations they want to close are not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires wheelchair accessibility to all public buildings. As a solution, one board member suggested voters could still apply for an absentee ballot by mail.  [Newsweek]

How interesting!  Just at the point at which an African American woman is running for the governorship of Georgia against a white male … the county decides (between the primary and mid-term general election) that it’s time to enforce the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act.   The ACLU response is informative:

“If a government building is not ADA compliant, the solution is to make them ADA compliant. If you cut your hand, you don’t chop off your arm, you heal the wound,” he said. “They have had decades to fix these issues and have had elections in these polling places. The better question is why haven’t these issues been fixed? And why, instead of fixing them, are you shutting them down?” (emphasis added)

Why should we not consider the perfectly obvious: It’s a blatant attempt to suppress African American voting

“The closing of three-quarters of the polling places in the county would have a staggering effect on access to vote, according to the ACLU, as it would mean an additional 10-mile journey to the two remaining polling places. “If you don’t have a car and you want to vote in-person, you have to walk three-and-a-half hours,” Young said. One of the polls up for closure is Cuthbert Middle School, where nearly 97 percent of voters are black.” [Slate] (emphasis added)

So, if those non-ADA compliant polling stations were acceptable in previous elections, then why are they now to be closed for the general election in November?  I think we have the explanation right here:

Because of its history of racist voting laws, Randolph County was once required to seek federal permission before altering its election procedures. But after the Supreme Court gutted this oversight in 2013, the county was freed to crack down on the franchise. It is no coincidence that its election board chose this moment to shutter most of its polls: In November, the popular Democrat Stacey Abrams will compete for the governorship against Republican Brian Kemp, the current Georgia secretary of state. Kemp, who has devoted his time in office to a ruthless campaign of voter suppression, called upon Randolph County to abandon the plan when it spurred widespread outrage. That being said, the key figure in the Randolph County controversy is a Kemp ally who was handpicked by the secretary of state to close polls throughout Georgia. [Slate]

Kemp needs to suppress African American and female voting.  What Kemp doesn’t need is more publicity about this outrageous vote suppression initiative. However, he’s getting it.  From Slate, from Newsweek, from the Washington Post, from the Huffington Post,  from the New York Daily News.   Four days ago the county was trying to explain its rationale, yesterday there were soft signals of a possible walk-back.  However, the decision won’t be made until August 24th.   Four days more until we see if the “handpicked” Kemp ally is successful in fulfilling his role as facilitator for his white male gubernatorial candidate.

This is why we: (1) Pay attention to what has happened to the Voting Rights Act; (2) Pay attention to the candidates to be Secretary of State; (3) Pay attention to what is happening in small places with small populations, because once these vote suppression precedents are established the GOP will come back for second helpings. (4) Pay attention to local elections and local boards and commissions.  This is why we stay vigilant. Why we use social media and all the communication resources at hand. Why we remember that if vote suppression strategies and tactics will depress African American turnout, they will suppress turnout for women, for young voters, for elderly voters, for voters of Hispanic heritage, for any voter unlikely to support the Trumpian tendency toward autocracy.

These upcoming mid-term elections aren’t important — they are ESSENTIAL.  Register, check your registration, help other people register, help other people check their registration, then VOTE LIKE YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE DEPENDS ON IT.  The devil isn’t on the loose just down in Georgia.

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A Wish List For 2018

There are several things I would like to see in the coming year.  The following, a not so modest list of them:

  1. I’d like to see the commercial media, print and broadcast, dismantle its long nurtured cottage industry employed in Clinton Bashing.  This has been an on-going activity for the last two and a half decades at least, and I’m finding it tiresome.  I am sure the chattering classes find it amusing to resurrect and inject their old talking points; and there’s a certain comfort in returning to old themes, much like one’s favorite blanket on the bed or pillow on the couch.  However, the plethora of Clinton columns a year past the last election, only indicates to me that Secretary Clinton is living rent free in several editorial heads.  Perhaps, it seems as though they couldn’t live with her, and now they can’t live without her.
  2. It would be pleasing to wake up some fine morning to discover a news broadcast in which the various travel and singular expenditures of the present administration are explored in some detail.  I recall an old bit of wisdom from the sheriff’s department about people who get caught criminal littering: One could be an accident, Two is an indication of trouble, and Three times and it’s deliberate.  Thus we’ve had a Health and Human Services secretary resign, which should have been a message to others — but, we now know the Secretary of the Treasury indulged in excessively expensive travel, followed by a Secretary of the Interior doing likewise. Were this not enough, we have a director of the EPA indulging in what gives every appearance of being truly excessive “security” expenditures.  What does he have to hide?
  3. A little patience is required for my third item: A thorough and accurate report from the Special Counsel.  Perhaps Trump’s opponents are hoping for too much, and his followers are hoping for an exoneration which is not to be.  Whether the President* himself was entangled in a web of deception and conspiracy is relevant but not, I think, the core of the matter.  The important point is that a hostile government, the Russians, sought to interfere, did interfere, and continues to interfere in our democratic institutions and practices.  The more important point is what we, as a nation, intend to do about it. This leads to my 4th wish.
  4. I wish for personal, professional, and tangential issues to be separated from the essential process of addressing Russian interference.  This will take more than beseeching private Internet corporations to “do their duty.”  Further, it will take more than a narrow focus on whether or not that interference had an appreciable effect on the 2016 election.  We need to know what the Russians did, how they did it, and what we can do to prevent “it” in future election cycles.  We need state and local election officials who are aware of the nature of Russian (and other) attempts at interference, who have the resources both in terms of funding and expertise to prevent meddling.  We need federal officials who will take this threat seriously and who will engage with state and local officials to be of assistance in these efforts. What we don’t need is a sham commission rehashing old conspiracy theories about “illegals” voting and fraudulent voting myths. What we do need is a task force with components from the Department of Justice, Homeland Security, and the Intelligence Community to take foreign interjections seriously, investigate them thoroughly, and to make thoughtful, rational, suggestions for protecting our most basic freedom — the right to vote.
  5. We need the improvement and enaction of the Voting Rights Act.  Nothing is so central to our Republic, nothing so necessary to the health of our Democracy.
  6. We need a rational statement of what constitutes citizenship, and it’s not the legal fiction including a corporation.  The decision in Citizens United is a major problem for our system of government.  No, my friends, corporations are not people.  They may have property rights, and rights pertaining to their organization and operations, but they are not people — as in We The People.
  7. Wouldn’t it be fine to end 2018 with a new attitude toward rules and regulations. Corporate propaganda has generalized anything commercial interests don’t like into “burdensome regulations.”  However, there are some burdens we should bear with a sense of civic pride.  No, we do not wish our rivers to be polluted and our forests unnecessarily despoiled for profit. Nor do we want our elders placed in care to be ignored, mocked, and mistreated.  Nor do we want to eat contaminated food, or drink contaminated liquids. Nor do we want employers to allow, perhaps even encourage, unsafe working conditions.  Too often the generalizations have been presented to us as ‘fact,’ without a challenge from public quarters asserting the rationale for the rules in the first place.  Those challenges deserve more publicity than they are currently receiving.
  8. Although it’s an election year, wouldn’t it be beneficial if we were to receive more information about POLICY than POLITICS?  The failure to emphasize what a candidate is offering and to focus instead on poll numbers and other electoral data means that politicians are allowed to speak in broad, and often meaningless, generalities.  In this circumstance a politician becomes little more than a human megaphone, his or her popularity based on the cheaper expedient of polling than on a serious consideration of what is on offer.   Granted there have always been demagogues among us — but we really don’t have to encourage them.

And so ends this little list.  We can only hope.

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Filed under media, Politics, Voting

Go To The Telephones

If you are reading this post and you haven’t yet made a phone call to Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) urging him to oppose the motion to proceed on the health insurance bill — whatever health insurance bill — in the US Senate, please take a break and go call.  There is nothing in this post that’s more important than what is going on in the Senate this morning for 1/6th of the US economy, for 1.75 million veterans who rely on Medicaid, and for the Nevada state budget which needs the support of Medicaid reimbursements… and on and on.  It’s time for All Hands On Deck.  This Zombie bill won’t be dead until it’s dead, and reports of its demise are, as Twain really said, “premature.”

Other thoughts of the day —

What the president said to the Boy Scouts probably wasn’t the End of Democracy, but it was highly inappropriate.  Highly inappropriate. In fact, it was a perfectly visible (and audible) impersonation of that guy at the end of the bar who, if given even the most tangential cue, will regale his audience with How He Caught The Winning Touchdown Pass In The Big Game Against Big Rival High back in ’75.  This is the kind of tale that doesn’t even capture the attention of the entire bar crowd, most of whom have moved away from the braggart with a yawn and eye-rolls.  Our braggart in chief misses the point that all he’s managed to accomplish is to further diminish himself with the audience, an audience increasingly aware of his insecurities and ever less willing to tolerate yet another display of them.  It’s also a blatant admission that there’s been nothing else about which to celebrate in our braggart’s life.

The president’s tendency to personalize anything and everything deflects from what ought to be the focus of our investigations into Russian assaults on our electoral system.  Perhaps in his eyes it’s an attempt to de-legitimize his election, but the reality is that the Russians did ‘attack’ us in a cyber-warfare assault, and we need to find out what happened and where we might be vulnerable to future incursions.  How do we cope with ‘weaponized’ data and information?  How do we better secure our voting rolls?  How do we best secure our voting machines and systems?  To get answers we need to look ahead, retrospectives being of some use only in revivals on Broadway and in art museums.

The Election Integrity Commission of zealous, die-hard, vote suppression advocates won’t give us answers to any of these questions — focused as it obviously is on purging voter rolls.  It won’t help us deal with the problem of gerrymandered districts.  It won’t assist in plans to secure our election infrastructure.  It’s just one more panel enlisted in the battle to convince the dwindling bar audience that the score in that last Big Game should have been 6 points higher because the referee should have allowed a score on a play during which the right tackle was clearly offside.

And, now it’s time to get back to the important business at hand — calling our Senator to urge a ‘no’ vote on the motion to proceed into insurance market chaos.

 

 

 

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Assault On America

Even if this is only partially true we need to pay attention:

“We are creeping ever closer to actual evidence that there was Russian ratfcking of the vote totals in the last election. Not long ago, people wouldn’t even suggest that out loud. We were made vulnerable to something like this because of the interference by the Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore, by the curious goings-on in Ohio in 2004, by a relentless campaign to convince the country of an imaginary epidemic of voter fraud, and by a decade of voter suppression by any means necessary. The Russians wanted to undermine the confidence Americans had in their elections? We made it pretty damn easy to do that.”

Perhaps we might approach the problem by classifying our voting system as a matter of infrastructure. Critical infrastructure.  Such as designation came only after the 2016 election. We might have saved ourselves some distress if we’d done this a bit sooner.

We’d not tolerate a foreign adversary attacking 39 dams, or 39 bridges, or 39 tunnels, or 39 points on our electrical grid — but there is now evidence that the Russians hacked into various points of our electoral system in 39 states:

“Russia’s cyberattack on the U.S. electoral system before Donald Trump’s election was far more widespread than has been publicly revealed, including incursions into voter databases and software systems in almost twice as many states as previously reported.”

One of the things that might have saved us is the decentralized voting systems in the 50 states.  While that might make us feel better, being honest requires acknowledging that there are only 50 states, not an overwhelming number for a small army of dedicated “patriotic Russians” who just happened to be interested in our elections.

There are several layers to this attack, all of which deserve far more attention than we are currently bestowing on the subject.

(1) Disinformation is part of the Kremlin Play Book.  The trolls, bots, propagandists, and other associates made their appearance known in 2016, [pdf Senator Whitehouse] and we ought not conclude that this is the full extent of the Russian interference in the last general election.  The Russians appear to be making use of the distrust of the media engendered, and perhaps inflamed, by right wing messaging that disparages mainstream media outlets.  This distrust can be easily weaponized on both ends of the political spectrum.

We’ve moved past the era in which disinformation was primarily disseminated via chain e-mails from Uncle Fred and friends, in an age of instantaneous social media there’s a greater need to provide news “consumers” with information not only about the veracity of the “news” but the origin as well.  There are some pieces of useful advice, for example “How to Recognize a Bot,” “How to Spot Social Media Bots,” and “The Fake Factor,” (identifying bogus Facebook accounts.)  Institutional responses are helpful, but we can amplify the response to attacks by being personally informed about how to spot the phonies.

(2) Adequately funding voting systems at the state level.  Inadequate funding breeds more problems — the lowest software bidder may not always be promoting the most secure product, the lowest bid for voting machines may not be the safest machines.  What states should be looking for is the BEST product, which may not always be the cheapest.   The funding should also include audits.  Voting officials should conduct regular, and thorough, audits of their systems — registration, data transfers, and compilations.  We should have Zero Tolerance for any attempts to manipulate any and  all voting data.

(3) Focus.  Too often the voting security discussion centers on cries of alarm about voter impersonation — an extremely rare event — and places too little emphasis on vote suppression and vote tampering.  Nothing serves the Russian purposes better than having us questioning our voter registration, data collection, and voting processes.  Tangential discussions which dismiss attention to these foreign threats as the function of unsatisfactory election results aren’t helpful.

Consider what is possible if a foreign adversary were to tap into the possibilities of the CrossCheck program.  What chaos could be caused by changing selected addresses, something as simple as altering a house or apartment number? Or, changing the middle initial of a registered voter? Or, changing a name from George to Jorge?  We need to attend to the problems arising from these kinds of manipulations.

Consider what might result from a direct hack into voter registration files.  Again, with the same kinds of alterations mentioned above.  We need to secure our voting data with the same attention we apply toward securing our physical infrastructure and national security apparatus.

Consider what might happen were a foreign power able to breach our vote tallying systems?  Unthinkable?  Probably not. In short, our voting infrastructure should be carefully audited at every single level.   At no point should we smugly assume that our decentralization and current systems make us impermeable to foreign assault.

Estote Semper Parati

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Filed under Politics, Vote Suppression, Voting

My List

Monday morning the need for accountability becomes paramount.  There are some issues which require continuous investigation and reporting, my list:

  • The efforts of the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election. Investigations have been launched, some ongoing since last summer.  Efforts to curtail or stall these investigations could easily be characterized as evidence substantiating the charges.
  • The efforts of Tom Price as a cabinet member to implement the elements of his Empowering Patients First Act, which would send the health insurance system back to the days of junk insurance and perhaps worse should the corporations be allowed to bypass state consumer protection systems.
  • The unholy alliance of Pruitt, Perry, et.al. to deconstruct environmental protection in favor of protecting the interests of exploiters and polluters.
  • The efforts to suppress voting and civil rights.
  • The privatization of public education, and coordinated efforts to use public funds to support religious efforts.
  • The tendency to demonize members of minority/ethnic communities.

That should keep journalists busy for a while?

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Getting From the Swampy No to a Functional Yes

SwampWith all due respect to my fellow liberals and progressives — and with this introduction you know the criticism is about to pour forth — enough ink and pixels have given their all in the effort to analyze, explain, or otherwise explicate the ‘problems with the Republican Party’ specifically those who’ve been elected to the House of Representatives.  Enough. It doesn’t matter all that much.

It doesn’t really matter, for example if one adopts the “Neoconfederate” model [Salon] or the “two foundings” explanation [Salon], and we can argue if the ‘two foundings’ in question were the Continental Congress and the Federal System, or the Early Federal Period and the U.S. Civil War.  It’s interesting, it’s academic, and as amusing and thought provoking as the argument is it’s not very useful at the moment.

It doesn’t matter too much if the origins of the present dysfunction are religious, social, racial, psychological, pathological, psychiatric,  or a combination of all the above. What matters is that something is very fundamentally wrong with the way the people’s business in conducted in the Congress of the United States.

Getting To No

As of January 6, 2013 there were 48 members of the Tea Party Caucus, all Republicans.  Of the 435 voting members of the House, 234 are Republican, 199 are Democrats. Two independents caucus with the Democrats.  218 votes are needed to pass legislation. If all the members directly affiliated with the Tea Party Caucus refuse to join their other GOP caucus members, the GOP leadership can control only 186 votes.

In short, the ultra-conservatives in the House of Representatives do not have anywhere near the number of votes necessary to enact the agenda of their choosing, but they have more than enough votes to prevent the leadership from enacting legislation cobbled together with Democratic support.

This is the perfect recipe for NO. No action. No real pragmatic politics. No major legislation. No long term solutions.  The high wire act in the 113th Congress is more conducive to (1) short term stop gap measures to alleviate large problems, (2) interim short term budget appropriations and resource allocations, and (3) periodic breakdowns.

Little wonder then the Absolutely Do Nothing Congress has passed only 34 “ceremonial” bills and “108” substantive bills so far. [WaPo] However, if governmental gridlock is the desired result then the 113th is doing splendidly.

Getting Nothing Done

One of the problems with polarized politics is that hyperbole replaces reasoned discussion, and all too often things become A CRISIS!  There are a couple of ways a crisis can occur. First, and most obviously, there is a situation, unforeseen, which arises from a natural or man-made disaster or catastrophe.  Floods, tornadoes, an attack, an unpredictable infrastructure failure might all qualify as a crisis.

The second crisis category is manufactured.  There appear to be two forms of manufacturing of late. One manifestation is the “political crisis” in which a problem of long standing has been ignored or left unresolved for enough time to create an overwhelming backlog — the Veterans’ Administration issues in regard to wait time for medical services is a classic, as is the number of refugee children who have arrived unattended from Central America — a number that’s been increasing since October 2013.

The other form is more ephemeral and depends upon the Crisis, or Scandal du Jour.  For example, the Benghazi attack in 2012 has generated 25,000 pages of documents submitted in 13 hearings. That the documents have done nothing but reinforce the initial reporting, and that the hearings have generated nothing but easy copy and headlines, is immaterial.  The Congress is ‘dealing with the crisis…’

Meanwhile

While Congress fritters and frets its way to the end of the 113th session there are some issues which may fall into the first manufactured category — the backlog swamp.

Infrastructure: Residents of Los Angeles were recently reminded that 92 year old water pipes cannot be expected to last forever, and when they fail they have no regard for sacred public spaces — like Pauley Pavilion. Over 170 school buildings and 165 bridges in New York were constructed over a century ago. The average age of the 6,800 water lines in New York is 69 years, and 2/3rds of them are susceptible to internal corrosion and failure. [FutNy]  One out of every nine bridges in this country falls in the structurally deficient category, and the average age of a U.S. bridge is 42 years.  [2013RC] We have a early 20th century power grid which is supposed to keep us going in the 21st century. Failure to address aviation needs is costing the U.S. economy valuable revenue as a result of congestion and delays.  [2013rc]

Civil Rights:  The Civil Rights Act, and the provisions safeguarding voting in America are overdue for review. Voter intimidation, suppression, and curtailment are no longer the sole province of the old Confederacy.  We continue to put this issue on the back burner at our peril as a democracy.

Public Health and Safety: Heart disease and cancer continue to be the main causes of death in this country, but Alzheimer’s is climbing up the tables.  An aging population will require more health care services in a wider variety of settings than our current system can address.  We kill 34,677 of us every year in traffic accidents, but we continue to defer highway improvements because of budget constraints.

We kill off 26,631 individuals annually in firearm accidents, another 19,766 in firearm related suicides, and yet another 11,101 in firearm homicides. [CDC]  Still we wrangle about requiring universal background checks and how we might prevent straw purchases.  We can’t even seem to agree that stalkers and spousal abusers shouldn’t have immediate access to firearms.

Whether it’s Alzheimer’s or assault rifles, we’re still operating with entirely too many Medically Under-served Areas, there are 297 such reports for Nevada, and a search of neighboring California turns up 2,065 records. [HRSA]

Immigration: We have a mess going in this department.  It’s hard to ignore the fundamentally racist rantings of the Deport’em Now crowd, who never seem to have much to say about the northern border.  However, we will need to tune them out, or at least down,  if we are going to attract the best and brightest scientific and technical minds we’ll need for a 21st century economy.  We’ll need to figure out how to invite in those who have joined our Armed Forces, willing to die for this country, only to discover later there are voices demanding that they mustn’t  live here. Something rational needs to be done to meet the needs of children who came here as toddlers and have known no other country, and those who have one native born or naturalized parent and another who is not.  Comprehensive immigration policy reform would help. So would adequately funding the judicial, social, and educational components of our immigration policy — security is the easy part — it’s the larger, more complicated portions of the problem we’re delaying.

Might we add more to this list? — items which if we let them progress on their own long enough we’ll find ourselves in a “crisis” situation — climate change, income disparity and inequality, educational funding and curriculum development, and the regulation of capital markets to improve stability.

Our Bottom Line

One of the more egregious practices of failing businesses is the Run To Ruin mentality.  Got an aging delivery truck? Never mind, just keep depreciating it without putting any funds in replacement and capital improvement accounts, and when the thing finally gives up the ghost go out and get another loan to cover the cost.  Delaying serious proposals for maintaining our national safety, health, economy, and infrastructure is tantamount to adopting the Run to Ruin model on a national scale.

Another highly questionable business practice which will lead directly to bankruptcy court is the Disposable Asset Theory of Management  wherein all facets of an enterprise are ultimately disposable, including personnel.  Low wages and paltry benefits yielding high employee turnover? No problem, just hire more and cheaper labor. With 3 job seekers for every position available there will always be somebody.  Eventually those training and retraining expenses will add up, predictably levels of service will decline… and those adherents of the DAT management style should be looking for a buyer sooner rather than later.  Deferring the issues of hiring and retaining well trained and competent public employees is, again, like trying to run the country on the cheap (DAT) and then expressing surprise when “things don’t get done.”

By far one of the most predictable ways to go out of business is to ignore the changing circumstances and economic atmosphere around a firm.  Ever so redundantly speaking — Rule Number One: If you have an increasing share of a declining market you are in very real trouble. Think Kodak.

Let’s be optimistic and believe that eventually we will move from dependence on fossil fuels and toward renewable energy sources.  In old fashioned retail terms this means fossil fuels will be a declining market.  So, WHY are we subsidizing an industrial sector which we know to be on the way out?  Again, if we take a short-term defensive approach to energy policy we’ll be violating Old Rule Number One in ways that will not be helpful in the future — or we can wait for the Crisis in which the oil sector sputters out and takes a chunk of the economy with it.

Avoiding the Run to Ruin, Disposable Asset Theory, and the Ostrich Stance mistakes means we are going to have to stop lurching from crisis to crisis, and start doing some serious public policy planning.  We need to stop talking about running government like a business, and start doing precisely that — running it as a long term, asset rich, enterprise with public service as its core.

Instead of the Doctrine Of No, how about functioning based on the belief that Harry Truman was right: “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

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Bits, Pieces, and Highly Recommended Reading

Jig Saw PuzzleThere’s some good writing in the blogosphere that deserves a second or third look.

##The GOP Vision For America Depends On False Christian Doctrine” from Vegas Jessie is a good place to start.  Seasonal, and an overview of the distortions required to transform a religion of communal compassion into an argument for individual selfishness.

## However, there’s hope.  Pope Francis announced his appointments to the Council of Bishops — omitting at least one notable Culture Warrior.  [See also] “Notably, Francis did not confirm Cardinal Raymond Burke, president of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s highest court, as a member of the Congregation for Bishops. Generally seen as occupying a prominent place on the church’s conservative wing, Burke had been named to the Congregation for Bishops by Benedict XVI in 2009.” [NCR] At some point the Church may have to come to grips with the observation that only 9% of the faithful are aligned with the standard definition of “approved sex,” and only 12% of the regular church-goers are thus inclined. [TRD]

There’s an interesting piece on the difference between what Christianity IS and what some believers would like it to be here.

## On the other hand there’s less hope to be garnered from the infamous Affluenza Defense.  “A North Texas teen from an affluent family was sentenced to probation this week after he killed four pedestrians when he lost control of his speeding pickup truck while driving drunk, a punishment that outraged the victims’ families and left prosecutors disappointed.” [HuffPo] And one rational reaction: “But, the practice of using a client’s background in arguments to make him or her less responsible or culpable for a crime is the core of good defense work, said Filler, a former criminal defense attorney. “The real truth is that our criminal justice system is suffering from ‘affluenza’ because affluent people can afford better attorneys and better get better outcomes,” Filler said.” [USAT]

## What’s Really Needed To Protect Voting Rights?  Answer here.  And, North Carolina offers a classic example of why voting rights protections are still necessary. [Nation]  And, then there’s the $150,000 spent by an Iowa Republican to fine Voter Fraud — and found …. next to nothing.

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The Suppression Six: Voting ID laws in the 2011 NV Legislature

A rogue’s gallery of the members of the Nevada Legislature who sponsored vote suppressing voter identification bills in the 2011 session.

None of these ALEC inspired bills passed.  Interesting… they all seem to have been sponsored by white Republicans…

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Filed under 2012 election, Nevada politics, Politics, Vote Suppression, Voting

Then and Now: Voter Intimidation

Compare to 2012:

“True the Vote’s founder, Catherine Engelbrecht, has said “we see again with this administration . . . it’s just stunning the assault on our elections that we’re watching gain steam with every passing day, so we found ourselves to be unwittingly on the front lines of an issue that I think will be the inflection point for this election.”

A reporter attending True the Vote’s Colorado State Summit described how one speaker told the crowd that “they should enjoy bullying liberals because they were doing God’s work. ‘Your opposition are cartoon characters. They are. They are fun to beat up. They are fun to humiliate,’ he intoned. ‘You are on the side of the angels. And these people are just frauds, charlatans and liars.’”  [Demos]

Inflection point? More like over the line back to the bad old days of voter intimidation and harassment.  Fun to beat up?  One could wonder if anyone was “having fun” during the following tragedies?

May 7, 1955 · Belzoni, Mississippi
Rev. George Lee, one of the first black people registered to vote in Humphreys County, used his pulpit and his printing press to urge others to vote. White officials offered Lee protection on the condition he end his voter registration efforts, but Lee refused and was murdered.

August 13, 1955 · Brookhaven, Mississippi
Lamar Smith was shot dead on the courthouse lawn by a white man in broad daylight while dozens of people watched. The killer was never indicted because no one would admit they saw a white man shoot a black man. Smith had organized blacks to vote in a recent election.

September 25, 1961 · Liberty, Mississippi
Herbert Lee, who worked with civil rights leader Bob Moses to help register black voters, was killed by a state legislator who claimed self-defense and was never arrested. Louis Allen, a black man who witnessed the murder, was later also killed.

June 12, 1963 · Jackson, Mississippi
Medgar Evers, who directed NAACP operations in Mississippi, was leading a campaign for integration in Jackson when he was shot and killed by a sniper at his home.

September 15, 1963 · Birmingham, Alabama
Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley were getting ready for church services when a bomb exploded at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, killing all four of the school-age girls. The church had been a center for civil rights meetings and marches.

January 10, 1966 · Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Vernon Ferdinand Dahmer, a wealthy businessman, offered to pay poll taxes for those who couldn’t afford the fee required to vote. The night after a radio station broadcasted Dahmer’s offer, his home was firebombed. Dahmer died later from severe burns.

April 4, 1968 · Memphis, Tennessee
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist minister, was a major architect of the Civil Rights Movement. He led and inspired major non-violent desegregation campaigns, including those in Montgomery and Birmingham. He won the Nobel peace prize. He was assassinated as he prepared to lead a demonstration in Memphis.
Sadly, there are many more listed here.

Some people don’t want to take their country back, they really want to take it backwards.

 

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Filed under 2012 election, Politics, racism

A Vote Supressed Is An Election Stolen

What makes this country truly exceptional, more exceptional than all the jingoistic, flag waving, bombastic rhetoric in any stump speech, is very simple. Americans have the RIGHT to vote.  Voting isn’t a privilege earned, it is a right protected.  There is no other way to maintain a republic than to protect voting rights.

There is nothing less “American” than seeking to suppress the votes of others.  We no longer tolerate abuses like the nefarious Poll Taxes of recent memory. We no longer tolerate night riders “warning off” individuals who might want to exercise their voting rights.  We no longer tolerate the fraudulent “literacy tests” for voting in which African Americans were asked exceedingly complicated questions on fine points of Constitutional law and failed for misspelling a word or misapplying punctuation.   The night riders, poll taxes, and literacy tests might be part of the recent past, but there are now new ways to accomplish the same insidious ends.

The List Purge Fraud

Florida leads the nation in this vestige of racism and elitism.  “Oh, they said, “We must purge our voter rolls of individuals who might not be eligible to vote in our elections, lest the votes of ‘real voters’ be diminished.”   Really?

The Orlando Sentinel reported that of 37,000,000 votes cast there were only 178 allegations of voting fraud. [link]  Do the math. The percentage of questionable votes?  0.0005%.   That’s precious little diminishment using anyone’s calculator.

Further, what’s  alleged and what’s prosecutable are two different things:

“David Iglesias, the Republican U.S. attorney for New Mexico who was fired by the Bush administration, said that he looked at over 100 claims of alleged voter fraud but found not a single prosecutable case. “We cannot prosecute on rumor and innuendo,” Iglesias told the Albuquerque Journal (3/15/07). (His refusal to prosecute cases that he felt were bogus was a central feature in his firing, as it was in the cases of nearly half of the 12 U.S. attorneys ousted by the administration—Washington Post, 5/14/07.) Iglesias’ findings are consistent with national data. Federal records “show that only 24 people were convicted or pleaded guilty to illegal voting between 2002 and 2005” (Project Vote, 3/5/07).   [Bybee]

The Bush Administration’s study should have been the end of the fraudulent allegations of “fraud:”

“You are more likely to be struck by lightning than to find a prosecutable case of voter fraud. An extensive analysis of data from all fifty states by the U.S. Justice Department under President Bush found that incidents of voter fraud are exceedingly rare and would not be solved by state photo ID. It is a solution without a problem.”  [TAProj]

The Problem is that Republicans believe that they aren’t getting elected because of “voter fraud.”  It has become an article of faith.  It has become a clarion call for outrage and action, all predicated upon the simple fears of gullible people.   Study after study has found that the newest incarnation of the Poll Tax-Literacy Test voting suppression tactics — the voter ID laws — primarily prevent members of ethnic minorities and the elderly from voting.

And the GOP response: “Better to deny a few women in black the right to vote than to let hundreds of illegals swarm the voting booths and assert their “rights” in America.  You liberals need an attitude adjustment.” [TFL]

There it is, the article of faith, faith that “illegals” will “swarm” into voting booths.  Note that the commenter doesn’t say that this has happened, there’s far too much proof to the contrary.  The commenter fears this “will” happen. It is a blind, irrational, unsubstantiated fear, but for the average xenophobic bigot it is part of their self constructed ‘reality.’

Members of ethnic minority communities have long been the targets of vote suppression, but why target the elderly?   Although it has been argued that the elderly are more likely to support popular programs like Social Security and Medicare and are therefore a target of vote suppression activities, they may also be unintended victims.   Blithe promises to “get everyone an ID” are hollow when the offices at which the identification cards can be obtained are far from an elderly non-driver’s home, or are not open when an elderly person could get transportation.  The promises are even more ludicrous when the forms of identification necessary are impossible or expensive for elderly persons to obtain.

Those who still might remain unconvinced that after elderly nuns being denied their voting rights, and an 86 year old World War II veteran was denied his vote,  a former four term member of Congress was denied voting, and an elderly widow in Kansas couldn’t get a voting ID, there isn’t a calculated effort to deliberately restrict voting for partisan advantage, then why not take the word of those doing the suppressing?

There’s Jim Greer, former head of the Florida Republican Party:

“Greer talked about how he was invited into many discussions as the head of the GOP in Florida, so he knows where some particularly rotten bodies are buried. There were discussions that early voting was going against Republicans, and so they should shorten it to prevent African American churches from organizing to bring out the vote for early voting. Greer had even given sworn deposition that there were discussions on suppression, but never once in his 3 1/2 years as GOP Chair of Florida had he seen a meeting on voter fraud; he went so far as to call it a “marketing tool of radical Republicans” in state government.” [HuffPo]

There’s Rep. Mike Turzai in Pennsylvania:

In June, Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai listed off a number of legislative accomplishments. “Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania: Done,” Turzai said. [DemN] [YouTube]

What To Do?

Stay Informed.  ALEC and its Republican allies rushed voter identification bills through state legislatures in preparation for the 2012 elections.  However, grass roots organization defeated some onerous measures in New Hampshire and Maine [YDA] and nothing so diminishes the possibility of passing vote suppression bills like a bit of daylight.

Be Prepared.  Know what the voting laws are in your state, and be prepared to vote.  Bookmark Project Vote for updated information.   If you are already registered to vote check your registration status with local election officials.   In the immortal words of the flight attendant: Put your own oxygen mask on first (check on your own voting status) and then be prepared to help others around you.

Be Aware: Of what constitutes voter intimidation.   Of what constitutes voter caging.  Of what is involved in No Match No Vote schemes.

Be Helpful. Check with elderly voters to see if they need assistance gathering the documentation necessary to vote, or who might need transportation to a registration office or polling station.   Check on disabled people you know who may have difficulty registering, or might need assistance getting to polling stations.  Find out what a disabled person who can no long write well enough for a signature match should do in your election district.  Check with young people you know who need information about voting, especially if it is their first time.

We are, indeed, in danger of having elections stolen in this country. However, the danger doesn’t come from imaginary waves of hypothetical swarming aliens all seeking to desecrate our polling stations with fraudulent votes.  The danger comes from the bigoted, the fearful, and the ignorant who have drunk the Kool-Aid and accept the right wing talking points as gospel, and who seek to influence elections by insuring that people unlike themselves are denied the RIGHT to vote.

*Previous –  post on this subject here, and here.

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Filed under 2012 election, conservatism, Republicans, von Spakovsky, Vote Suppression, Voting