Nel's New Day

October 18, 2014

Supreme Court Decision on Texas Voting Rewards GOP Candidates

About 600,000 Texans won’t be voting in Texas on November 4, thanks to today’s Supreme Court ruling. At least five nine justices voted to permit the voter photo ID law to be in effect on that day. A federal judge had struck down the law last week, but the 5th Circuit Court put the lower ruling on hold, leaving the law in effect. After an appeal, the highest court ruled, without comment and indication of how justices voted, to agree with the circuit court. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented, saying they would have left the district court decision in place allowing people to vote.

Ginsburg wrote:

“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.”

In her 143-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos called the law an “unconstitutional burden on the right to vote.” She found the law a deliberate discrimination against the state’s minority voters and described the requirement an equivalent to a poll tax. Ginsburg said that a full trial in district court found that the law was “enacted with a racially discriminatory purpose and would yield a prohibited discriminatory result.”

Ramos also wrote:

“Based on the testimony and numerous statistical analyses provided at trial, this Court finds that approximately 608,470 registered voters in Texas, representing approximately 4.5% of all registered voters, lack qualified SB 14 ID and of these, 534,512 voters do not qualify for a disability exemption.”

The rationale from the majority of the Supreme Court for leaving the law is that it would inconvenience those running the election because it is so close to Election Day. According to the current majority of the Supreme Court, it’s better to stop a minor inconvenience than allow over one-half million people to vote.

Regarding the majority opinion, Ginsburg wrote:

“There is little risk that the District Court’s injunction will in fact disrupt Texas’ electoral process. Texas need only reinstate the voter identification procedures it employed for ten years [from 2003 to 2013] and in five federal general elections.”

Ginsburg echoed Ramos’ findings:

“The potential magnitude of racially discriminatory voter disenfranchisement counseled hesitation before disturbing the District Court’s findings and final judgment. Bill 14 may prevent more than 600,000 registered Texas voters (about 4.5% of all registered voters) from voting in person for lack of compliant identification. A sharply disproportionate percentage of those voters are African-American or Hispanic.”

She added that “racial discrimination in elections in Texas is no mere historical artifact. To the contrary, Texas has been found in violation of the Voting Rights Act in every redistricting cycle from and after 1970.”

Texas officials tried to justify their actions by claiming that all eligible voters are able to get a photo ID. Ginsburg, however, pointed out that any cost of getting the mandated ID, even $2, is an unconstitutional barrier to voting. She wrote in her dissent:

“For some voters, the imposition is not small. A voter whose birth certificate lists her maiden name or misstates her date of birth may be charged $37 for the amended certificate she needs to obtain a qualifying ID. Texas voters born in other States may be required to pay substantially more than that.”

Over two-thirds of eligible voters may have to travel three hours or more round-trip to the nearest government office where they can get photo IDs and need a certified birth certificate costing $22, according to Ginsburg. Although the state offers one for $2 or $3 that is used only for election purposes, it has not publicized this option on election or birth certificate websites.

Ginsburg pointedly added:

“Racial discrimination in elections in Texas is no mere historical artifact. To the contrary, Texas has been found in violation of the Voting Rights Act in every redistricting cycle from and after 1970.”

Attorney General for Texas, Greg Abbott, has vigorously fought for the photo ID law that keeps minorities, largely assumed to be Democrats from voting in this year’s election. Abbott is also the GOP candidate for governor.

This was the first time in over 30 years that the Court has allowed enforcement of a law restricting voters’ rights after a federal court ruled it to be unconstitutional because it intentionally discriminated against minorities.

A new study by two University of Delaware professors and a Pennsylvania high school student found that white people are more likely to support photo IDs laws after being shown a picture of a black voter than when they see a picture of a white voter. Black and Hispanic respondents were about equal in their support or opposition to a photo ID law no matter what person was in the picture. This research matches studies showing that whites are more likely to support harsh criminal justice policies if they see pictures of or hear statistics about black prisoners. In 2012, the Brennan Center for Justice found that blacks and Hispanics are less likely to have photo IDs than a cross-section of people in the United States.

None of the courts ruling on photo ID this month has addressed the issue on a constitutional basis. That will happen after this year’s federal election. The question is whether courts will permit the laws if there is no basis for them. With cases of voter fraud being one in every 14.6 million people in the U.S., there is no reason for such draconian laws. The question is whether legislatures can pass laws to cover problems that don’t exist. If the Wisconsin legislature says witches are a problem, shall Wisconsin courts be permitted to conduct witch trials?” asked Judge Richard Posner, who wrote the dissent in the 5-5 decision for the 7th Circuit Court. After a three-judge panel held that the Wisconsin photo IDs for voting could go into effect, Posner asked for the entire court to hear the case. The court ruled 5-5, meaning that the panel’s decision, which the Supreme Court later overturned, stayed in effect.

Posner also pointed that the Supreme Court had once ruled in favor of photo ID for voters because they supposedly increased voters’ confidence in elections. Studies, including a Harvard Law Review study, refutes the idea that photo ID laws promote public confidence. It revealed that “perceptions of voter-impersonation fraud are unrelated to the strictness of a state’s voter ID.” When Commonwealth Judge Bernard L. McGinley struck down Pennsylvania’s photo ID law, he determined that “implementation of the voter ID law in a manner that disenfranchises qualified electors will undermine the integrity of elections.” In short, these oppressive laws erode confidence in the voting system.

Voting laws across the nation vary greatly. Ohio’s constitution prohibits “idiots” from voting. Casting your ballot in Alabama can’t take longer than five minutes. Texas will let you vote with a gun license but not a student ID. Some people in Arizona can vote for federal candidates but not state ones if they lack the appropriate ID. Thirty-three states have restrictions on voting with new ones in 22 of these. Almost half the country will have a much harder time in trying to carry out their constitutional right in 17 days than four years ago.

Four years ago, when the Tea Party took over the House, it was seen as a mandate from the people. This year, any conservative votes can be seen as the control of GOP legislators and GOP-leaning judges. And the control of the white people.

October 16, 2014

How Outrageous Can GOP Politicians Get? Part II, or It All Hit the Fan

The Arkansas Supreme Court unanimously overturned the state’s voter suppression law when it confirmed the decision of an appeals court. The decision may be final because the reversal related only to a violation of the state constitution in exceeding its voter qualifications.  The state requires only U.S. citizenship, state residency, an age of 18 or more, and being duly registered. The decision between incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor and his GOP challenger, which is very close right now, may be impacted by this decision.

Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR), incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor’s opponent, has supported Rep. Doug Hunter’s (R-CA) falsehoods about ISIS infiltration across the southern border, and found himself on the losing end of a Washington Post fact-check. Cotton even mis-quoted his sources to make his statement. All he wanted to do was frighten people, but the publicity he received wasn’t particularly positive.

Cotton also thinks that “many people were happy” before Obamacare when they couldn’t get health insurance because of pre-existing conditions. Pryor, however, talked about having cancer and being in a high-risk pool. “It’s like throwing sick people to the wolves.” In the states that used high-risk pools, they were extremely expensive and highly limited in offerings. In Arkansas, for example, people in these pools had to pay as much as $20,000 and wait six months for care.

fanThe strangest occurrence of the fall campaign—thus far!—occurred last night in Florida. GOP Gov. Rick Snyder almost refused to debate opponent Charlie Crist because he had a fan under his podium. Snyder waited over six minutes to come out example: “Are we really going to debate about a fan? Or are we going to talk about education and the environment and the future of our state? I mean, really.” Crist uses at least one fan and sometimes two in all his speeches.

Snyder may learn that his childishness resulted in more publicity about “Fangate” than about his desirability as a candidate. Asked about trending early into the debate, Naples Daily News executive editor Manny Garcia reported, Well, the fan.”  In this debate, the … really hit the fan.

When someone asked Snyder why he objected to the fan, Scott said he delayed going out on the state because “we feared [Crist] wasn’t going to show up. So why come out until he’s ready?” He must not have noticed Crist behind the podium and talking for over six minutes.


Ed Gillespie, GOP candidate for U.S. senator from Virginia, wants women to think that the Affordable Care Act stands in the way of their getting birth control. The law provides for free contraception to all women from their insurance unless a business declares itself too religious to allow this, but Gillespie thinks that over-the-counter birth control will solve all their problems. He’s not addressing the fact that insurance will not pay for OTR medications; women who don’t need a prescription will not only get good health care for this oral medication but will also be required to pay whatever the pharmaceutical companies think they can get for the product.

Thom Tillis, the GOP candidate for U.S. senator from North Carolina, tried to wipe out his opponent, incumbent Kay Hagan, by stating that she had  missed over half the hearings on the Foreign Affairs Committee. Hagan patiently remained silent during his harangue and then replied when he had finished, “Let me clarify something … I am not on the Foreign Affairs Committee. I serve on the Armed Services Committee.”

Texas’ attorney general and GOP gubernatorial candidate, Greg Abbott, thinks that same-sex marriage will encourage heterosexuals to have children out of wedlock. His brief reads:

“First, Texas’s marriage laws are rationally related to the State’s interest in encouraging couples to produce new offspring, which are needed to ensure economic growth and the survival of the human race. Second, Texas’s marriage laws are rationally related to the State’s interest in reducing unplanned out-of-wedlock births. By channeling procreative heterosexual intercourse into marriage, Texas’s marriage laws reduce unplanned out-of-wedlock births and the costs that those births impose on society.”

His brief also indicates that he doesn’t need “evidence” in his opinion.

“The State has no obligation to produce evidence to sustain ‘the rationality of a statutory classication’ and may rely on ‘rational speculation’ unsupported by evidence or empirical data.”

The GOP talks about wooing women, particularly single women, but Jeff Bell, the GOP opponent to New Jersey’s Sen. Cory Booker doesn’t quite understand the process. At 20 points behind Booker, Bell declares that he’s losing because of single women, but they would vote for him if they had a man. In an interview, he also portrayed the women as moochers.

“I’ve done a lot of thinking about this and looked at a lot of different polls, I think it has more to do with the rise in single women. Single mothers particularly are automatically Democratic because of the benefits. They need benefits to survive, and so that kind of weds them to the Democratic Party. But single women who have never married and don’t have children are also that way. If you take married women, they aren’t that different from married men. So it’s really a problem with the decline in marriage rates. The Democrats do benefit from that.”

Bell’s opposes college affordability, equal pay, minimum wage increase, and access to women’s health care. His statements match GOP candidate TV ads that show Democrats as ugly wedding dresses or an abusive boyfriend.

Gov.Scott Walker (R-WI) also opposes the minimum wage because he thinks it doesn’t serve a purpose. His administration has determined that $7.25 is a living wage because a state statute requires that the minimum wage amount to a living wage. According to Walker’s Department of Workforce Development, people can live on this pittance because they can receive public assistance. A living wage in Wisconsin’s capital city is more than $21 an hour for a single parent, and the federal wage would be over $10 if it had kept up with inflation. The hourly wage would be more than $20 if it had kept up with gains in workers’ productivity

South Carolina’s GOP governor, Nikki Haley, supports the Confederate flag so strongly that she objects to its removal—unless corporate CEOs think it’s a good idea. When her opponent, Vincent Sheheen, said that the racist flag should be taken down and put into a museum, Haley implied that it was still flying because CEOs hadn’t told her to do so. She claims that the state is no longer racist because she, and Indian-American, was elected governor. And to prove that the state isn’t racist, she appointed a black to the U.S. Senate. Next, Justice Anthony Scalia will claim that there should be no separation of corporation and state because it isn’t in the U.S. Constitution. Of course, there were no corporations in existence when that document was written.

The GOP is known for opposing immigration, but Carlos Curbelo, the GOP opponent for Florida’s Rep. Joe Garcia, is a paid lobbyist to protect fugitive wealthy brothers Roberto and William Isaías who were convicted in Ecuador for embezzling over $660 million from federal banks. Curbelo avoided disclosure laws by listing his lobbying firm under his wife’s name and calls his protection of the brothers a “PR project.” In introducing the brothers to influential legislators such as House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI), Curbelo said, “They were just sharing information.” Thus far, he has kept the brothers from being extradited to Ecuador for trial.

As one of many conservatives opposed to marriage equality, Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) claims her opposition is because the U.S. was “founded on” marriage between a man and a woman. Civil unions are okay for Ellmers, sort of that old “separate but equal.”

It’s been peaceful in Congress with everyone gone for months. Now, however, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is leading a group of GOP senators including Sens. John McCain (AZ), Rand Paul (KY), and Ted Cruz (TX) in writing House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to stop any spending legislation for a program that could be part of the Affordable Care Act. Their objection is a balancing of risks across insurance companies, an idea that Republicans developed in passing Medicare Part D for medications. The result could be a government shutdown after the election. New spending legislation must be passed by December 11, and Boehner has refused to comment.

Meanwhile, six U.S. senator races and 10 gubernatorial races are tied, just 19 days before Election Day.


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