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‘Born and raised’ Texans forced to prove identities under new voter ID law

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Some GOP officials have openly admitted that the purpose of Voter ID laws is to keep Democratic-leaning groups (the poor, the elderly, African-Americans, Latinos) from voting. Pure and simple—well, not so pure and simple as the way Georgia is handling it, simply not processing the voter registrations from areas they don’t want to be voting. That’s really pure and simple, and it also exposes what is afoot.

The Guardian has an excellent article written by Ed Pilkingon of Austin TX:

Eric Kennie is a Texan. He is as Texan as the yucca plants growing outside his house. So Texan that he has never, in his 45 years, travelled outside the state. In fact, he has never even left his native city of Austin. “No sir, not one day. I was born and raised here, only place I know is Austin.”

You might think that more than qualifies Kennie as a citizen of the Lone Star state, entitling him to its most basic rights such as the ability to vote. Not so, according to the state of Texas and its Republican political leadership. On 4 November, when America goes to the polls in the midterm elections, for the first time in his adult life Eric Kennie will not be allowed to participate.

Ever since he turned 18 he has made a point of voting in general elections, having been brought up by his African American parents to think that it is important, part of what he calls “doing the right thing”. He remembers the excitement of voting for Barack Obama in 2008 to help elect the country’s first black president, his grandmother crying tears of joy on election night. “My grandfather and uncle, they used to tell me all the time there will be a black president. I never believed it, never in a million years.”

He voted again for Obama in 2012, and turned out for the 2010 midterm elections in between. But this year is different. Kennie is one of an estimated 600,000 Texans who, though registered to vote, will be unable to do so because they cannot meet photo-identification requirements set out in the state’s new voter-ID law, SB14 .

The law, which has been deemed by the courts to be the strictest of its kind in the US, forces any would-be voter to produce photographic proof of identity at polling stations. It was justified by Governor Rick Perry and the Republican chiefs in the state legislature as a means of combatting electoral fraud in a state where in the past 10 years some 20m votes have been cast, yet only two cases of voter impersonation have been prosecuted to conviction.

Earlier this month a federal district judge, Nelva Gonzales Ramos, struck down the law, slamming it as a cynical ploy on the part of Republicans to fend off the growing strength of the minority electorate in Texas by “suppressing the overwhelmingly Democratic votes of African Americans and Latinos”. She linked SB14 to a long history of racial discrimination in state elections spanning back generations, and declared the new law to be an unconstitutional poll tax.

But last week, in the early hours of 18 October, when most Texans were sleeping, the US supreme court snuck out a one-line judgment that allowed the voter ID restrictions to be applied this election cycle. Without any explanation, a majority of the justices effectively threw Eric Kennie and many thousands of others like him – particularly black, Hispanic and low-income Texans – into a state of democratic limbo.“This is the first time the courts have allowed a law that actually keeps people from voting to go into effect, even though a judge found it was passed for the purpose of making it harder for minorities to vote,” said Wendy Weiser, head of the democracy programme at the Brennan Centre for Justice.

Before SB14 came into effect, Kennie was able to vote by simply showing a voter registration card posted to his home address. Under the vastly more stringent demands of the new law, he must take with him to the polling station one of six forms of identification bearing his photograph. The problem is, he doesn’t have any of the six and there’s no way he’s going to be able to acquire one any time soon. . . .

Continue reading.

It’s depressing how much SCOTUS has become politicized. It started with the gift of the presidency to George W. Bush—well, it started earlier, but that made it crystal clear. And then we had Citizens United (allowing corporations to spend as much money as they want in elections). Then they gutted the Voting Rights Act. Then they uphold this Voter ID law.

It is quite apparent what is happening: the GOP is making a determined, all-out effort to stop free elections, in which all citizens can vote. The GOP is in effect trying to change our system of government, and the first step is to prevent free elections. All three of the SCOTUS decisions listed are to curtail free elections.

This country is locked in a struggle of which most citizens seem unaware.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 October 2014 at 12:19 pm

Posted in Election, GOP, Government, Law

BREAKING: Court Refuses To Intervene In Case of 40,000 Missing Voters In Georgia

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It looks like the Georgia courts are also determined that the 40,000 black voters not get to vote. The lawsuit is “premature”? Does the court think that we should wait until election day? after the election?

Alice Ollstein reports at ThinkProgress:

ATLANTA, GEORGIA—On Tuesday, Judge Christopher Brasher of the Fulton County Superior Court denied a petition from civil rights advocates to force Georgia’s Secretary of State to process an estimated 40,000 voter registrations that have gone missing from the public database.

Though early voting is well underway in the state, Judge Brasher called the lawsuit “premature,” and said it was based on “merely set out suspicions and fears that the [state officials] will fail to carry out their mandatory duties.”

Angela Aldridge, an organizer with the group 9 to 5 Atlanta Working Women who has been working to register voters for several months, told ThinkProgress she was “furious” when she learned of the outcome: “That impedes people’s rights,” she said. “People need information before they go out to vote and they don’t even know if they’re registered or not. They were discouraged, upset, kind of frazzled, not really knowing what was going on. What can you even say to people who want to vote but possibly can’t? They might get disengaged and say, ‘Why vote? It doesn’t matter.’ It’s really disheartening.”

The New Georgia Project, who spearheaded the voter registration drive and brought the lawsuit against the state, vowed Tuesday to “continue to pursue all legal avenues available.” But with the election mere days away, there may be little remedy for the tens of thousands of people who submitted all necessary documents, but have still not received a registration card. Four of those impacted voters were present at the court hearing, but were denied the opportunity to testify.

Dr. Francys Johnson, President of the Georgia NAACP, who represented the 40 thousand voters in the court, called the ruling “outrageous.”

“All in all – a republican appointed judge has backed the republican Secretary of State to deny the right to vote to a largely African American and Latino population,” Johnson wrote in a press release. . .

Continue reading.

The racism and determination to keep African-Americans from voting in several states in the South has become quite overt, just as the Voter ID laws are quite overtly aimed at keeping people from the polls: in-person voter fraud has nothing whatsoever to do with it.

Later in the article:

“When we started registering people this spring, people were saying, ‘You know, I registered six months ago, but I haven’t gotten anything yet!’ We thought that was strange,” she said. So we sat down with our list of registrations and checked, and about 20 to 20 percent were not showing up. We truly don’t know where things stand with them.”

Burrofsky said the people she registered in Dunwoody, Georgia, a more affluent and conservative community, did show up in the system, while those in more diverse and low-income communities in DeKalb County mysteriously disappeared.

“It just hadn’t occurred to me that this would be a tactic that the Secretary of State could use. I was very naive, I guess. I feel absolutely sick that this election is being stolen,” she said.

With the races for the state’s governor’s mansion and Senate seat too close to call, the missing voters could not only sway the political control of the state, but the political control of Congress’ upper chamber. Aldridge, who has spent several months registering voters in Fulton and Cobb County, told ThinkProgress that it is imperative to increase participation in marginalized communities so that elected officials better represent the constituents.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 October 2014 at 2:45 pm

Posted in Election, GOP, Government

Court’s Mistake Helps Draw Back the Curtain on Dark Money

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Sara Azfal writes in ProPublica:

When it comes to politics, the actions of social welfare nonprofits are usually hard to track. And unlike political action committees, these “dark money” groups can channel money to influence elections without naming their donors.

But as ProPublica’s Theo Meyer explains in this week’s podcast, an accidentally released court filing revealed how a mining company known as the Cline Group used dark money groups to help pass a law that would speed up Wisconsin’s mining permit process.

Meyer describes the release as a “fluke” — a federal court in Chicago mistakenly posted the legal document online for a few hours — that provided a rare look behind the scenes: In 2011 and 2012, the mining company had secretly given $700,000 to a conservative nonprofit that worked to pass the bill.

“For once we actually know something about how the money was spent and where it came from,” says ProPublica Editor-in-Chief Stephen Engelberg.

Meyer agrees. “This is really just one of a handful of instances in which donors to groups like this have become public,” Meyer explains. “And unless you have subpoena power and can get bank records from these groups, it’s really impossible to see who is funding the effort.” . . .

Here’s the podcast. And here are some related stories:

Written by LeisureGuy

27 October 2014 at 6:32 pm

Posted in Business, Congress, Election, GOP, Law

Kansas Governor Is Forcing Disabled People Off Medicaid

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Sam Brownback’s experiment—running Kansas strictly on modern conservative principles—is not working out so well for the public. This latest development is tragic, but I get the sense that Gov. Brownback really doesn’t care about the disabled. Carl Gibson reports at ThinkProgress:

The conservative experiment in Gov. Sam Brownback’s Kansas has led to more suffering across the board — not just for the state’s economy, but for people with disabilities who are losing life-sustaining services.

At the time of his inauguration, Brownback was touted by fellow Republicans as a model example of what conservative governance nationwide could look like. While he promised to rejuvenate the state’s economy by slashing the state’s top income tax rate by 26 percent, his fiscal policy has instead blown an $800 million hole in the state budget, downgraded the state’s bond rating, and slowed job growth to a much lower rate than the national average. Brownback, once thought to be a strong contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, now has just a 48 percent chance at being elected to a second term, and his tax cuts are the central issue of the campaign. These tax cuts have been devastating for Kansas’ disabled population.

Since Brownback’s inauguration, 1,414 Kansans with disabilities have been forced off of the Medicaid physical disability (PD) waiver. In January of 2013, Brownback became the first governor to fully privatize Medicaid services, claiming he would save the state $1 billion in 5 years without having to cut services, eligibility, or provider payments. Now, under Brownback’s “KanCare,” PD waiver cases are handled by for-profit, out-of-state, Fortune 500, publicly-traded managed care services. Kansas has contracts with three managed care profiteers — United Healthcare, Sunflower State Health Plan (owned by Centene Corporation), and AmeriGroup. Amerigroup and Centene each gave $2,000, Kansas’ maximum allowed contribution, to Brownback’s re-election campaign.

“They wanted to cut my full-time care hours by 76 percent, which all three of my doctors said was totally unrealistic,” said Finn Bullers, a disability rights advocate who suffers from muscular dystrophy, uses a wheelchair, has type 1 insulin-dependent diabetes, and requires a ventilator in his throat to breathe. “Essentially, they wanted three out of every four hours to go away.”

“Often, these are not optional services,” said Rocky Nichols, executive director of the Kansas Disability Rights Center. “These are life-sustaining services like properly caring for and cleaning out feeding tubes, colostomy bags, and other devices so people don’t die, transferring the person with a mobility impairment from the chair so they can toilet, assisting with the critical and life-sustaining activities of daily living that most of us take for granted. These are basic human needs, not optional wants.”

But Brownback’s claims of savings without risking patient eligibility is mere sleight of hand when taking a closer look at the numbers. When Kansas experienced a $217 million revenue shortfall in April of 2014, Brownback actually broke a promise made to the federal government as to how many people with disabilities would be served. When applying to launch the KanCare program, the Brownback administration originally promised the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services it would accommodate7,874 people on the PD waiver, according to numbers from the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services. After the first revenue shortfall, Brownback changed that number to 5900 – nearly a 25 percent cut in services amounting to $26 million.

Just before Brownback’s inauguration, Kansas served 6,752 people on the PD waiver. More than 2,000 people with disabilities were added just in the last decade as a result of more advanced healthcare and disabled people living longer lives. However, the gradual uptick in new enrollees stopped abruptly once Brownback took over. According to this chart, over 1,400 disabled Kansans were dropped from the waiver between 2010 and 2014, with a sharp decline in 2014, coinciding directly with the revenue shortfalls resulting from the recent tax cuts.

“It is mind-boggling to think that in 2004, just ten years ago, there were 4,527 people on the waiver… It grew to 6,752, and it’s been in a death spiral ever since then,” Nichols said. “That cannot be an accident. There is just no way you can have, year after year, for four years in a row, those types of reductions in the number of people served.”

According to one state elected official, the sudden drop-offs could easily be traced back to . . .

Continue reading.

American government seems to be for sale these days. See next post.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 October 2014 at 1:01 pm

Ideology and Investment

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Paul Krugman discusses why the US no longer invests in its own future:

America used to be a country that built for the future. Sometimes the government built directly: Public projects, from the Erie Canal to the Interstate Highway System, provided the backbone for economic growth. Sometimes it provided incentives to the private sector, like land grants to spur railroad construction. Either way, there was broad support for spending that would make us richer.

But nowadays we simply won’t invest, even when the need is obvious and the timing couldn’t be better. And don’t tell me that the problem is “political dysfunction” or some other weasel phrase that diffuses the blame. Our inability to invest doesn’t reflect something wrong with “Washington”; it reflects the destructive ideology that has taken over the Republican Party.

Some background: More than seven years have passed since the housing bubble burst, and ever since, America has been awash in savings — or more accurately, desired savings — with nowhere to go. Borrowing to buy homes has recovered a bit, but remains low. Corporations are earning huge profits, but are reluctant to invest in the face of weak consumer demand, so they’re accumulating cash or buying back their own stock. Banks are holding almost $2.7 trillion in excess reserves — funds they could lend out, but choose instead to leave idle.

And the mismatch between desired saving and the willingness to invest has kept the economy depressed. Remember, your spending is my income and my spending is your income, so if everyone tries to spend less at the same time, everyone’s income falls.

There’s an obvious policy response to this situation: public investment. We have huge infrastructure needs, especially in water and transportation, and the federal government can borrow incredibly cheaply — in fact, interest rates on inflation-protected bonds have been negative much of the time (they’re currently just 0.4 percent). So borrowing to build roads, repair sewers and more seems like a no-brainer. But what has actually happened is the reverse. After briefly rising after the Obama stimulus went into effect,public construction spending has plunged. Why?

In a direct sense, much of the fall in public investment reflects the fiscal troubles of state and local governments, which account for the great bulk of public investment.

These governments generally must, by law, balance their budgets, but they saw revenues plunge and some expenses rise in a depressed economy. So they delayed or canceled a lot of construction to save cash.

Yet this didn’t have to happen. The federal government could easily have provided aid to the states to help them spend — in fact, the stimulus bill included such aid, which was one main reason public investment briefly increased. But once the G.O.P. took control of the House, any chance of more money for infrastructure vanished. Once in a while Republicans would talk about wanting to spend more, but they blocked every Obama administration initiative.

And it’s all about ideology, an overwhelming hostility to government spending of any kind. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 October 2014 at 8:37 pm

This is how the GOP has to win elections: The Georgia chapter

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Alice Ollstein writes at ThinkProgress:

ATLANTA, GEORGIA—A court could decide any day now whether tens of thousands of Georgia voters can cast a ballot this November, a choice that could sway the outcome of the state’s neck-and-neck races for Governor and Senator.

Earlier this year, organizers fanned out across nearly every one of Georgia’s 159 counties and registered nearly 90 thousand people who have never voted in their lives, most of them people of color, many of them under 25 years old. But when the groups checked back in late August, comparing their registration database to the state’s public one, they noticed about 50,000 of the registrations had vanished, nearly all of them belonging to people of color in the Democratic-leaning regions around Atlanta, Savannah and Columbus.

Georgia’s state minority leader Stacy Abrams (D), whose group The New Georgia Project led the massive registration drive in March and April, told ThinkProgress what happened next was “deeply disturbing.”

“We asked the Secretary of State to meet with us. We wanted to understand if we were doing something wrong, or if there was another database we didn’t have access to. But he refused to meet with us,” she said.

Joined by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Georgia NAACP, the organizers asked twice more for a meeting about the missing registrations. When early voting began across the state and they still had not heard from the Secretary of State, the New Georgia Project took them to court. In arguments on Friday, Francys Johnson, president of the Georgia NAACP, asked Fulton County Superior Court Judge Christopher Brasher to compel the state to process every valid registration.

“In 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, we were only able to know there were problems when it was too late, when people started showing up to the polls and they were not on the voter rolls, and folks were already disenfranchised,” Johnson explained to ThinkProgress over the phone. “We must catch that disenfranchisement before it takes place.”

Lawyers for Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp and three counties who are also the target of the suit countered that . . .

Continue reading.

Doesn’t it strike you that this is particularly blatant? And doesn’t SCOTUS look very much as though it was in on the deal: gutting the Voting Rights Act not only weakened it, it sent a clear message to those who believe it is okay to win elections by keeping people from voting—and apparently there are many such people in the GOP, looking at all the Voter ID nonsense.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 October 2014 at 2:09 pm

Posted in Election, GOP, Government, Law

How conservatives justify poll taxes

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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”). . .

Continue reading.

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?).

Written by LeisureGuy

25 October 2014 at 1:37 pm

Posted in Election, GOP, Government

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