Archive for the ‘Election’ Category
Jonathan Chait has an interesting article:
During the Obama era, the Republican Party has made the modern revival of the poll tax a point of party dogma. Direct poll taxes have been illegal for 50 years, but the GOP has discovered a workaround. They have passed laws requiring photo identification, forcing prospective voters who lack them, who are disproportionately Democratic and nonwhite, to undergo the extra time and inconvenience of acquiring them. They have likewise fought to reduce early voting hours on nights and weekends, thereby making it harder for wage workers and single parents, who have less flexibility at work and in their child care, to cast a ballot.
The effect of all these policies is identical to a poll tax. (Indeed, a study found that the cost they impose is considerably greater than existing poll taxes at the time they were banned.) It imposes burdens of money and time upon prospective voters, which are more easily borne by the rich and middle-class, thereby weeding out less motivated voters. Voting restrictions are usually enacted by Republican-controlled states with close political balances, where the small reduction in turnout it produces among Democratic-leaning constituencies is potentially decisive in a close race.
The simple logic of supply and demand suggests that if you raise the cost of a good, the demand for it will fall. Requiring voters to spend time and money obtaining new papers and cards as a condition of voting will axiomatically lead to fewer of them voting.
It is precisely because the effect is so obvious that conservatives must labor so strenuously to deny it. National Revieweditor Rich Lowry, writing in Politico, scoffs at arguments against the Republican poll tax agenda. Lowry offers three arguments for voter identification laws. The first is that we can’t prove that they reduce voting (“its effect can’t reliably be detected by the tools of social science”). . .
Interesting point raised by Lowry: if you cannot measure it, it does not exist (and, I suppose, the more precise the measurement, the more surely it exists?).
Indeed, some Republicans have openly admitted that the idea is to keep African-Americans and Hispanics from voting because those groups tend to vote Democratic. So, naturally enough, the GOP finds it is thus appropriate to put as many obstacles in their path as possible, because their belief seems to be that winning justifies just about anything.
At any rate, it’s working, and this Supreme Court, after gutting the Voting Rights Act, is quite evidently going to make it worse.
The GOP is not interested in governing, it’s often been remarked, but the GOP is very interested in controlling who is allowed to vote. We’ve seen this approach in many other countries, most of them more disreputable than the US. Brad Friedman comments on Salon.com:
This is not unexpected, though its still disturbing to those concerned about voting rights — and the possibility that more than half a million legally registered voters in Texas may not be allowed to vote in this November’s election.
A three judge panel on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has, for now, blocked the U.S. District Court’s ruling last week in Texas, issued after a full trial on the merits of the law, which had struck down state Republicans’ polling place Photo ID voting restriction after finding it deliberately discriminatory and a violation of the U.S. Constitution and federal Voting Rights Act.
Following Tuesday’s order by the 5th Circuit [PDF] reversing the lower court ruling, for now, the plaintiffs challenging the state statute said, almost immediately, that they plan to file an emergency appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court to put the law back on hold before the November elections.
Voting rights proponents worry that, if the Court holds true to its recent rulings in voting rights cases in NC, in OH and, most recently, in WI, they are likely to allow Texas’ discriminatory law to stay in place this November, pending a full hearing on the merits at a later date.
There is, however, some important differences in the Texas case than in those other three, which we’ll explain in a moment.
Texas had appealed the initial 147-page ruling [PDF] by U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonazles Ramos, issued last week, which found that the Texas Photo ID voting statue, SB 14, “creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose.” She also determined that the state requirement that voters produce one of a few very specific types of state-issued Photo ID when voting at the polling place amounted to an “unconstitutional poll tax”, since all such ID requires at least some payment by voters…
On Tuesday, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals panel (two Republican appointees and one Democratic appointee) issued their order to stay the lower court’s ruling, effectively putting the law back into effect for the November election. Early voting in Texas begins on October 20th.
“Essentially, all the marbles of this 5th Circuit order come down to ‘it’s too close to the election to stop the law from going into effect, because pollworkers will be confused,”explains election law expert Justin Levitt of the NYU Brennan Center for Justice.
“It’s important to recognize that the court of appeals did not disturb the district court’s findings that some individuals do not have and will not likely be able to timely get the documents in question,” he adds. The issue is largely, for now, that, given the last minute ruling by the District Court striking down the law, pollworkers may be confused about what the voting requirements actually now are. Some may ask voters for the new restrictive set of Photo ID under the new laws, “preventing some individuals without the narrow set of ID from voting anything other than a provisional ballot,” says Levitt, while others may not.
Yes, it’s actually as absurd as it sounds.
“So instead, the court makes it legal for all pollworkers to demand the more restricted set (preventing all individuals without the right ID from voting a valid ballot at all),” he continued. “Or, translated even further: if we let the district court’s order stand, some people without the right ID will be able to vote, and some won’t. And if we stay the district court, all people without the right ID won’t be able to vote. And in elections, ‘all’ is better than ‘some.’”
Levitt derides the ruling as “foolish consistency“. “It’s one thing to stop last-minute changes when the impact is less dire for those affected, another to stop last-minute changes when the change is new and unfamiliar, and still another to stop last-minute changes when the reason for the change isn’t clear.” . . .
According to Gov. Sam Brownback, the finding is that if it all goes wrong, you’ve just not done it enough. Heather Digby Parton has a terrific column in Salon:
Some years back, Salon’s Thomas Frank wrote a highly regarded book called “What’s the Matter with Kansas” in which he pondered why people who have so much to gain from the various government policies to redistribute wealth and provide some security in an insecure world would vote against their own self-interest and elect people who promised to reverse all the policies and programs that provided those things. Basically Frank observed that the Republicans were able to get people to vote for them on social issues, implement conservative economic policies and blame the “liberal elites” when they failed. He famously described it like this:
Out here the gravity of discontent pulls in only one direction: to the right, to the right, further to the right. Strip today’s Kansans of their job security, and they head out to become registered Republicans. Push them off their land, and next thing you know they’re protesting in front of abortion clinics. Squander their life savings on manicures for the CEO, and there’s a good chance they’ll join the John Birch Society. But ask them about the remedies their ancestors proposed (unions, antitrust, public ownership), and you might as well be referring to the days when knighthood was in flower.
As Frank wrote here in Salon just a couple of weeks ago, in 2014 the chickens all came home to roost — and they settled right on the big comfortable lap of Governor Sam Brownback, the firebreathing Christian conservative and far right economic zealot. Brownback was the perfect realization of Frank’s thesis, a hard edged social conservative who, after an aborted presidential run in 2008, swept into office on the 2010 GOP tsunami and immediately announced he was going to do God’s work by turning Kansas into a giant GOP petrie dish:
Appearing on Morning Joe on MSNBC in New York, Brownback was interviewed about the recent tax cuts he signed into law that will reduce individual rates and eliminate income taxes for the owners of 191,000 businesses. “On taxes, you need to get your overall rates down, and you need to get your social manipulation out of it, in my estimation, to create growth. We’ll see how it works. We’ll have a real live experiment,” Brownback said, “you’ll get a chance to see how this impacts a particular experimental area, and I think Kansas is going to do well,” he said.
How’d that work out for him? As Frank explained in his recent update on Kansas, he blew up the lab:
It is as though Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay had been transplanted to Topeka and given a free hand to sculpt the state however they chose. You’ve got runaway incompetence in the state administration; heavy-handed partisanship, with conservative Republicans crushing moderate Republicans after the familiar pattern; corporate money—Koch Industries is based in Wichita—sloshing around like a vast underground aquifer. You’ve got privatization, deregulation, and an enthusiastic race to the bottom. (Gotta be more business-friendly than those people in Missouri!) You’ve got tax cuts so severe they’ve brought on fiscal catastrophe and thrown the state’s school system into crisis. You’ve got bullying by state legislators against organizations that criticize Brownback’s healthcare plans, and hints of pay-to-play corruption just under the surface. And, of course you’ve got credit downgrades as all this becomes known to the outside world.
But never let it be said that Brownback is throwing in the towel. You see, conservatism can never fail, it can only be failed. And in this case it’s been failed miserably by other Republicans and, needless to say, Democrats. He went back to his roots this week and spoke to John Brody at the Christian Broadcast network and explained what was really going on. (It’s possible he was speaking in tongues at least half the time since it made no sense at all):
I think they (the mainstream media) want what’s happening in this state to fail that they’re shopping for a factual setting to back that up because it’s working…I think the left is just so desperate. They want this model to fail so bad that they can’t wait for it to and they just want to get me electorally before we get on through this and prove that this is working.
The fact that the entire state is falling apart at the seams is no indictment of his policies. It’s an indictment of the left. And the media. If they’d stop wanting it to fail it wouldn’t fail. Or something. Brownback’s in serious trouble and may lose the seat he won four years ago by 30 points. On the other hand, the Governor does have a secret weapon. Kris Kobach, the Secretary of State and hardcore conservative I wrote about a while back may get the job done by employing the best electoral strategy they have going for them: vote suppression. Just today the GAO released a study showing that where these Republicans have managed to pass these onerous Voter ID laws, they’ve managed to suppress the Democratic vote substantially and Kansas was one of the most successful:
Age. In Kansas, the turnout effect among registrants who were 18 years old in 2008 was 7.1 percentage points larger in size than the turnout effect among registrants between the ages of 44 and 53. ….Race or ethnicity. We estimate that turnout was reduced among African-American registrants by 3.7 percentage points more than among Whites in Kansas. ….Length of registration. In Kansas, the reduction in turnout for people registered to vote within 1 year prior to Election Day 2008 was 5.2 percentage points larger in size than for people registered to vote for 20 years or longer prior to Election Day 2008. . .
Continue reading. It just gets more amazing.
Trigger warning: This article describes dangerous levels of irony. A woman running for Attorney General of Arkansas on the GOP ticket turns out to be registered to vote in at least 3 states—and has voted there. Since her voter registration in Virginia precludes her voting in Arkansas, she also cannot run for Attorney General in Arkansas, where candidates for state office must be able to vote in state elections.
Oddly, the GOP is outraged—not that the woman committed voter fraud (she’s a Republican, and Republicans in general are okay with things that outrage them if done by Democrats), but that she is being removed as a valid candidate.
The GOP has taken “Win at any cost” way, way beyond any decent limit.