Showing posts with label voting rights. Show all posts
Showing posts with label voting rights. Show all posts

Nov 3, 2014

Wisconsin Says Thank You to Attorney General Eric Holder on Election Day

Feds Fighting Back Republican Voter Obstruction Effort

The Republican Party of Wisconsin, led by Scott Walker, has long worked to block black and brown people living in Milwaukee (among others) from voting.

The U.S. Dept of Justice announced yesterday federal monitors are being dispatched to Milwaukee voting locations, along with 27 other jurisdictions across the county.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced the move to protect voting rights yesterday. (U.S. DoJ and BuzzFlash)

Holder, in the statement Monday, said, "Over the last few months, leaders from the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division have received information from a wide variety of citizens and groups. Based upon our independent and non-partisan consideration and expertise, we have dispatched federal monitors to polling places around the country — just as we do during every election season."

Now, more than ever in Wisconsin's history, we need the Voting Rights section of the Civil Rights division of the U.S. Dept of Justice to protect our sacred right to vote.

No Voter ID Needed, Just Vote

Update: The U.S. Dept of Justice will monitor Milwaukee, Wisconsin voting locations, along with 27 other jurisdictions across the county, Attorney General Eric Holder announced today. (U.S. DoJ and BuzzFlash)

Holder, in a statement Monday, said of the effort, "Over the last few months, leaders from the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division have received information from a wide variety of citizens and groups. Based upon our independent and non-partisan consideration and expertise, we have dispatched federal monitors to polling places around the country — just as we do during every election season."
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Republican efforts to block black and brown people living in Milwaukee from voting are a key element of Scott Walker's reelection campaign.

NO VOTER ID NEEDED to VOTE

Despite the worst efforts of Republicans to obstruct voters, no voter ID is needed this Election Day in Wisconsin.

If you are not registered to vote, you can register at the polls on Election Day.

Many voters still lack accurate knowledge that NO VOTER ID IS NEEDED to VOTE.

Skipped over in coverage in the late October Marquette University Law School poll (Question 44) is the fact that 29 percent of respondents believed erroneously there is no U.S. Supreme Court order preventing the GOP's voter ID law from going into effect on Election Day. Another 14 percent did not know.

No voter ID is needed to vote in Wisconsin.

Registering to vote

You do need to be registered to vote. To register at the polls on Election Day, bring proof of who you are, and where you live (proof of residence). Folks who need to register are those who have not voted in four years or have moved since the last election. Check if you are registered online.

If registration lines are too long, call the municipal clerk and demand more registration stations be set up. Long registration lines show the election clerk screwed up. Election clerks are public servants, with salary and benefits paid with public dollars. Remember that.

There is a voter bulletin board at election sites with phone numbers of municipal, state and federal officials.

"During major statewide elections, 10 – 15 percent of Wisconsin electors register to vote or update their voter registration on Election Day," notes the Wisconsin Governmental Accountability Board (GAB).

Republican criminal interference with voter

If you see Republicans interfering with a voter, call all municipal, state and federal officials and watchdog agencies like the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin and inform you see a crime in progress.

Interfering with the process to vote is a criminal offense. Scott Walker is coming off a bad week and Republicans will try to stop voters from voting if they feel they can get away with it without being charged with a criminal offense.

So, advise jotting down the contact information on voter bulletin boards at election sites with the phone numbers of municipal, state and federal officials to protect voting rights.

If everyone who voted in 2012 votes on November 4, Scott Walker is a diminishing stain in Wisconsin history.

No one will ever confuse Wisconsin election bureaucrats with voting rights activists. Each voter needs to police Republicans.

As Joel Bleifuss writes today: "The results of the 2014 midterms—whether the Republicans take control of the Senate and whether GOP governors like Wisconsin’s Scott Walker win re-election—will tell us if Jim Crow is alive and well and helping the Right win its stealth war against democracy."

Thank you, Joel, and long live Wisconsin.

Aug 12, 2014

Election Day in Wisconsin and Police Intimidation

Election Day (primary) in Wisconsin witnessed a City of Fitchburg Police squad make a traffic stop on King James Way, outside of the polling place at Fire Station #2.

The squad proceeded to park some 100 yards away from the front door of the election polling site on King James Way for about an hour to the voiced approval of the A.M. shift Republican Chief Election Inspector, a gentleman named Dale.

What's problematic is that the King James Way ward is heavily African-American, and any car or pedestrian attempting to gain entry to the polling place from King James Way would have to encounter a police squad outside this polling place.

I don't why a police officer chose to site his squad outside a polling place on Election Day morning, likely innocent with no intent or mischievous motive.

But the reactions by a City of Fitchburg chief election inspector, to a Dane County official to a Wisconsin GAB official contacted speak volumes: They had no Earthly idea why an armed and sustained police presence outside a polling site presents any problem or concern to any community of interest.

One need not wonder why Dane County bureaucrats are derided as provincial.

"Wisconsin allows police to be in a voting place during voting hours. However law enforcement officers cannot coerce or intimidate voters, or access voter lists or individual ballots. Report any intimidating police presence immediately," advises the civil rights action think tank, the Advancement Project.

In Wisconsin, as in other states, the Republican Party war against the wrong kind of person casting a vote continues.

Today, a light turnout in an unusually timed August Partisan Primary Day [typically the Wisconsin Partisan Primary Day is in September], makes the practical effect of the armed police and a conspicuously sited squad car negligible.

However, in November as the African-American vote turns out, Republicans are pulling out all dirty tricks to obstruct as many voters as possible.

Only a white Republican could not understand why police present a threat by their very presence to the African-American community used to harassment while driving, walking, or shopping.

Let's not include voting on this list in November.

A friendly stop for a chat by a police officer is always welcome on Election Day, but a prolonged presence is an ingredient in intimidation, and should be guarded against, exposed, and challenged.

May 15, 2014

Civil Rights Org Calls for Voting Rights Bill

Civil rights activists held a press conference by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights this morning, calling for a Committee hearing, debate, markup and passing of the Voting Rights Act Amendment (VRAA), HR 3899.

The VRAA is meant to repair the damage wrought by the five Republicans on the U.S. Supreme Court in Shelby v. Holder.

No voting rights activist likes the bill. They pretend to like to the bill.

No speaker today dared mention the anti-voting rights provisions in the Voting Rights Act Amendment.

HR 3899, among other provisions, contains language that would protect states' photo voter ID laws, a clause inserted by its chief sponsor Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-White People) who refers to his home state's (Wisconsin) photo voter ID law as "common sense."

Wisconsin's voter ID law was struck down last month by a federal judge who found that up to 300,000 voters lacked voter ID; Latinos and African Americans would are unfairly burdened by the law and prevented from voting, that voter fraud does not exist in Wisconsin and that the law is in violation of the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution.

This is Sensenbrenner's conception of a "common sense" law.

Sensenbrenner was caught on camera in February saying, "I hope the president vetoes the bill. If the president vetoes—well, let me rephrase that – if the president vetoes this bill (VRAA), he will lose an awful lot of the African-American support that he has." (Roth, TRMS)

So we have the so-called fix to the VRA protecting state voter obstruction laws that the VRA was originally enacted in 1965 to stop, and the co-author of the bill, Sensenbrenner, who is a demonstrated phony voting rights advocate.

Progressive congressional supporters say they can amend the bill though they are afraid to publically express their opposition to the anti-voting provisions in the bill because this would offend Republicans who would then not allow the bill to be debated, amended or would vote against it, while Republicans continue their work against voting rights.

If this legislative strategy does not appear to make any sense, this is because the strategy is dumb, dumb, dumb.

May 2, 2014

Wisconsin AG Van Hollen Vows to Seek Stay of Decision Halting Voter ID

Update: Worth noting is that state voter ID laws meant to obstruct voters (in a sick irony) would be specifically protected by H.R. 3899, the Voting Rights Act Amendment (VRAA), introduced by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-White People). The Voting Rights Act was first enacted in 1965 to "enforce the fifteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and for other purposes."

The Fifteenth Amendment reads in part, the "right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."

Progressive Democrats, such as Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) are hoping against hope that Speaker John Boehner will suddenly become amiable to amendments to take out the language of the VRAA that makes HR 3899 a steaming pile of very toxic and fetid waste. See this bizarre March 27, 2014 letter by House Democrats that in part reads "some of us believe the bill should be enacted in its current form, and some of us prefer to see it amended" in an appeal to John Boehner. This is the same John Boehner who said during the 2012 campaign that he hopes Latinos and Blacks do not show up and vote. (Reeve, August 27, 2012; Yahoo News) at a Christian Science Monitor luncheon.

Meanwhile, Sensenbrenner was caught on camera in February saying, "I hope the president vetoes the bill. If the president vetoes—well, let me rephrase that – if the president vetoes this bill, he will lose an awful lot of the African-American support that he has." (Roth. TRMS)

Anybody really doubt where Republicans like Sensenbrenner and Boehner stand on voting rights?

What if this anti-voter VRAA actually passes Congress? Did House Democrats consider this scenario?

Dumb, dumb, dumb.
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Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has learned a lot from Scott Walker in service to the Republican Party while ripping off the Wisconsin people.

Make up statements and don't back them up with facts.

For some three years during Walker's tenure Van Hollen has been using the attorney general's office in service to the Republican Party, and Van Hollen typically throws out fact-free lines for reporters' consumption.

Now, Van Hollen's office says Federal Judge Lynn Adelman's decision barring enforcement of Act 23 is "flawed," and the Wisconsin DoJ with Walker's blessing will seek a stay, vacating the permanent injunction. (Hall, Wisconsin State Journal)

What's flawed about the Adelman's decision? Van Hollen won't say.

But Van Hollen and Walker, with Rep. James Sensenbrenner's help, keep up their GOP-crafted-law-is-common sense and "constitutional" lines of malarkey.

Writes Adelman:
The evidence at trial established that virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin. The defendants could not point to a single instance of known voter impersonation occurring in Wisconsin at any time in the recent past. ...

Some have suggested that voter fraud might be more widespread than the low number of prosecutions indicates because the laws that prohibit voter fraud are under enforced. However, the defendants do not suggest that there is any underenforcement of such laws in Wisconsin. And the evidence at trial indicates that such laws are vigorously enforced (citations omitted by me).
What do Walker and Van Hollen and the Republicans say to this? Nothing.

Local conservative, William R. Wineke, has something to say today, Republicans should listen. Writes Wineke at Channel 3000 (WISC TV):
Ever since Republicans took control of state governments around the country in 2010, they have thrown conservative principles out the window.

They keep passing laws to limit abortions and keep trying to pass laws that would outlaw some forms of birth control and force women who become pregnant from rapes or incest to bear their rapists’ children.

They use the power of state governments to interfere with the rights of local governments. Want to pass a minimum wage law for Milwaukee? Let’s strip the right of municipalities to do that.

But the voting rights thing is the big one. We all know why our state wants voter ID It’s because the governor and legislators who gained power through the ballot box want to make sure no one can take that power away from them through the ballot box.

That may be good politics, but it sure isn’t conservative.
No, it's not. Stopping Americans from voting is unAmerican.

Trying to stop Americans from voting is typical Van Hollen, and is a Republican mission. Recall Van Hollen's corrupt use of office in 2008, for example.

Van Hollen tried to use the Help America Vote Act to suppress Democratically leaning voters to stave off a landslide defeat for the McCain-Palin ticket of which he served as co-chair, an effort thrown out of court never to see light again.

In 2008, WisPolitics uncovered an audio recording revealing Van Hollen promising action on alleged "voter fraud" during an address at the Republican National Convention held in St. Paul, Minnesota, after multiple conversations with Reince Priebus, then Wisconsin GOP party chairman.

The fact that there is no voter fraud is of no concern in GOP land.

Said Wisconsin candidate for attorney general, Ismael Ozanne in April about Van Hollen's 2008 scheme: "The ethical concern is serving as campaign chair and then taking official actions as attorney general that are intended to benefit the campaign in question, and not reflecting the law and the best interests of the people of Wisconsin.  If AG Van Hollen thought it was necessary in his official capacity to participate in legal action involving the campaign, he should have either stepped down from any role in the campaign or recused himself from the legal action."

Van Hollen, Walker and the Republicans should spend their time trying to help Americans vote, not attempting to prevent Americans from voting.

Apr 25, 2014

Proposed Fix to Voting Rights Act Is Worse than Court-gutted Corpse

James Sensenbrenner exposed as phony
on voting rights by James O'Keefe
. See
three-minute, 19-second mark.
Update: Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison), a co-sponsor is hoping against hope that Speaker John Boehner will suddenly become amiable to amendments to take out the language of the Voting Rights Act Amendment that makes HR 3899 a steaming pile of very toxic and fetid waste. See this bizarre March 27, 2014 letter by House Democrats including Pocan that in part reads "some of us believe the bill should be enacted in its current form, and some of us prefer to see it amended" in an appeal to John Boehner. This is the same John Boehner who said during the 2012 campaign that he hopes Latinos and Blacks do not show up and vote. (Reeve, August 27, 2012; Yahoo News) at a Christian Science Monitor luncheon.
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Five Republicans Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year in a case that became instantly infamous: Shelby County v. Holder.

The five-four majority gutted sections four and five of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), destroying one method of the VRA's protecting people's right to vote against hostile state efforts to obstruct and deprive the vote.

As Justice Ginsberg writes in dissent: The majority decided the Voting Rights Act had worked so well the "conditions" (Roberts) of racism are a remnant of long-ago: "Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet."

John Roberts has for years declared racism is over.

Sensenbrenner has been in negotiations with major civil rights groups and champions of civil rights for months, finally releasing his draft of the Voting Rights Act Amendment, Section Four formula, H. R. 3899 in January, cosponsored by Rep Conyers.

HR 3899 actually enshrines and protects voter obstruction laws such as Wisconsin and Texas' Photo Voter ID laws.

Thankfully, the official statement (January 2014) of the NAACP's Lorraine C. Miller, Interim President and CEO, pissed on HR 3899: "The NAACP appreciates that the U.S. Congress has made a bipartisan effort to update the Voting Rights Act, however we have serious concerns about the ability of some provisions in this bill to protect ALL voters from discrimination at the polls."

As the nation's oldest and largest grassroots civil rights organization we have the responsibility to ensure that any proposed legislation is in the best interest of our members, our community and our country. Participation in our democracy should be unfettered and all votes should be properly counted. From the exceptions for voter ID laws to decreased preclearance coverage to increased reliance on costly litigation, there are essential revisions and amendments to this bill that must take place to ensure ALL voters have fair and equitable access to the ballot box."

Sensenbrenner has called Wisconsin's Voter ID law, Act 23, "common sense," and decried the DoJ effort to challenge Texas under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

Sensenbrenner's proposed law's new Section Four formula also protects states with its "five strikes" formula that would allow a state five different Court-determined acts of voting rights discrimination before placing the state under preclearance.

In so many words, Sensenbrenner—with the aid of Rep. Conyers and others who should know better (but apparently do not)—drafted a law that actually codifies voting right violations as fine under the Voting Rights Act as long as the a given state confines obstruction laws to four or less in a 15-year time span.

Sensenbrenner is a voting rights phony, a fake, and liberal writers from Ari Berman to Rick Hasan to Steve Benen have been aiding Sensenbrenner in this enterprise since Shelby last June.

In February in Wisconsin Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-White People) decided his fake support for voting rights perpetuated by a friendly media would take too much a toll on his racist buddies in the GOP.

Sensenbrenner was caught on camera saying, "I hope the president vetoes the bill. If the president vetoes—well, let me rephrase that – if the president vetoes this bill, he will lose an awful lot of the African-American support that he has." (Roth. TRMS) See O'Keefe's video below:

In Wisconsin, we don't call this guy Senselessbrenner for nothing.

And here we don't say: Don't trust Sensenbrenner on voting rights for nothing.

Sensenbrenner is exposed as an utter phony on voting rights (not that more evidence was needed), calculating and disingenuous on the video below (O'Keefe's reading of the Act though mostly factually incorrect is also on his own video) :


So, we cannot trust Sensenbrenner.

Sensenbrenner's Voting Rights Act Amendment legislation is worse than the status quo post-Shelby, aka now, so why are progressives in Congress, major civil rights organizations and progressive writers still behind the Voting Rights Act Amendments and still lauding Sensenbrenner?

For no good reason. Maybe they think they Obama can sign this obscene piece of legislation, call it what Sensenbrenner calls it, and declare victory to Black and Brown folks targeted by the GOP, hoping ethic minorities are as dumb as Sensenbrenner thinks they are.

Anyone advocating support for Sensenbrenner's Voting Rights Act Amendment legislation is taking a position that is untenable.

There is a real Voting Rights initiative: The Pocan-Ellison Right to Vote Amendment to the Constitution "to provide all Americans the affirmative right to vote and empower Congress to protect this right," which of course Sensenbrenner and his Party will not get behind.

What are Democrats and civil rights champions thinking?

They hope against hope that Republicans will change course and get behind voting rights legislation after years of obstructing the vote?

I have an inquiry into these matters into Rep. Mark Pocan's (D-Madison) office, and will include the response in an update.

Apr 10, 2014

New Voting Rights Amendment Act Is Worse Than Nothing

Updated-Rick Hasen wants progressives to get agitated for the Voting Rights Amendment Act (VRAA).
(W)here are the public demonstrations to pass this desperately needed fix? Outside the minority community, which is pushing hard for the VRAA, where is the agitation? The voting rights issue seems to have fallen off the radar screen, even though the Roberts court's reasoning in the Shelby County case is just as indefensible as its reasoning in Citizens United and McCutcheon in the campaign finance arena.
Here's why the lack of political action for the Voting Rights Amendment Act (VRAA).

The VRAA sucks.

The VRAA actually enshrines one of the major state voter obstruction laws that Republicans use to obstruct minority voters, among other voters: Voter ID statutes. Moreoever, passage of the VRAA would torpedo many of the legal federal challenges to the GOP voter ID laws.

Nice way to mark 50th anniversary celebration of the Civil Rights Act. Maybe we'll have better luck next year with the 50th anniversary celebration of the Voting Rights Act.

Anniversaries and sentiment are needed, but the Republican Party is forever busy with new schemes, a phenomenon that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was intended to address.

"About one month after the Shelby decision, Republicans in North Carolina pushed through a package of extreme voting restrictions, including ending same-day registration, shortening early voting by a week, requiring photo ID, and ending a program that encourages high schoolers to sign up to vote when they turn 18," writes Dana Liebelson.

The Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 reads: Section 3(c) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. 1973a(c)) is amended by striking ‘‘violations of the fourteenth or fifteenth amendment’’ and inserting ‘‘violations of the 14th or 15th Amendment; violations of this Act (other than a violation of section 2(a) which is based on the imposition of a requirement that an individual provide a photo identification as a condition of receiving a ballot for voting in an election for Federal, State, or local office) ... ."

Hasen wants people to hit the streets for this crap?

 Derick T. Dingle writes, "Legal scholars found the voter ID provision as a gaping hole in the law (HR 3899), avoiding one of the major voter suppression issues of the day."

Hasen writes, "It's about time for Congress to pass some new laws protecting voting rights, and it's high time – right now – for us to dare the supreme court to strike even more of them down."

Maybe if we double-dare the U.S. Supreme Court it will back down from ever disenfranchising Americans again because the five GOP justices really care what the American people think, and they cherish civil rights.

Jan 18, 2014

Voter ID Laws Are GOP Weapons Protected in the Voting Rights Act Amendment

Stop voting and quit trying to pass your
selves off as real Americans, says GOP.
Get the message.
Update: North Carolina NAACP Blasts VRA Amendment - "A preliminary examination of the proposed provisions of this legislation convinces us that it falls woefully short of what is needed to protect all people from race-based efforts to curtail the voting potential of people of color."

From Talking Points Memo comes a link to a study on GOP Voter Obstruction that, to borrow from the late Stephen Jay Gould, establishes the fact of Repulbican Party voter obstruction "so overwhelmingly supported by the evidence that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent."

Notes Tova Andrea Wang:
Important new empirical research published in December in the journal Perspectives on Politics by Keith G. Bentele and Erin E. Obrien at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, however, shines a bright light on just how crass this effort has been and how clear the motives of the Republican state lawmakers have been in proposing and passing laws that would deny eligible citizens the right to vote.

See Jim Crow 2.0? Why States Consider and Adopt Restrictive Voter Access Policies by
Keith G. Bentelea and Erin E. O'Briena.

This suggests that the new Voting Rights Act Amendment ought not protect states' restrictive voter ID laws, as the proposed Amendment does now, sneaked into the act by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-White People).

Rational policy making from Washington is rare, fraudulent action by Sensenbrenner is common.

Abstract - from Bentelea and O'Briena:
Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in state legislation likely to reduce access for some voters, including photo identification and proof of citizenship requirements, registration restrictions, absentee ballot voting restrictions, and reductions in early voting. Political operatives often ascribe malicious motives when their opponents either endorse or oppose such legislation. In an effort to bring empirical clarity and epistemological standards to what has been a deeply-charged, partisan, and frequently anecdotal debate, we use multiple specialized regression approaches to examine factors associated with both the proposal and adoption of restrictive voter access legislation from 2006–2011. Our results indicate that proposal and passage are highly partisan, strategic, and racialized affairs. These findings are consistent with a scenario in which the targeted demobilization of minority voters and African Americans is a central driver of recent legislative developments. We discuss the implications of these results for current partisan and legal debates regarding voter restrictions and our understanding of the conditions incentivizing modern suppression efforts. Further, we situate these policies within developments in social welfare and criminal justice policy that collectively reduce electoral access among the socially marginalized.
After the GOP retook the Wisconsin legislature in 2010, one of the Party’s first bills introduced in 2011 is the photo ID bill that would "mean folks without driver’s licenses – disproportionately poor, minority, or elderly, would not be able to vote." (Neil Heinen, WISC TV)

Wisconsin is not alone, and voter obstruction laws have only increased since Wisconsin's voter obstruction operative, Reince Priebus, took over as the RNC National Chair in 2011.

Jan 17, 2014

Voting Rights Amendment Act Should Be Renamed the Voter ID Obstruction Protection Act

Update II:The exemption for voter ID laws was written to win the support of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and other Republicans. The legislation strengthens Section 3 of the VRA, which has been described as the Act’s “secret weapon.” Under Section 3, jurisdictions not covered by Section 4 could be 'bailed-in' to federal supervision, but plaintiffs had to show evidence of intentional voting discrimination, which is very difficult to do in court. Under the new Section 3 proposal, any violation of the VRA or federal voting rights law – whether intentional or not – can be grounds for a bail-in, which will make it far easier to cover new states. One major caveat, again, is that court objections to voter ID laws cannot be used as grounds for “bail-in”under Section 3.) - Sharon McClosky in The Progressive Pulse.

The legislation strengthens Section 3 of the VRA, which has been described as the Act’s “secret weapon.” Under Section 3, jurisdictions not covered by Section 4 could be “bailed-in” to federal supervision, but plaintiffs had to show evidence of intentional voting discrimination, which is very difficult to do in court. Under the new Section 3 proposal, any violation of the VRA or federal voting rights law – whether intentional or not – can be grounds for a bail-in, which will make it far easier to cover new states. (One major caveat, again, is that court objections to voter ID laws cannot be used as grounds for “bail-in” under Section 3.)
This exemption for voter ID laws was written to win the support of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and other Republicans. - See more at: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2014/01/16/bipartisan-proposal-to-amend-the-voting-rights-act/#sthash.FYh5tURQ.dpuf
This exemption for voter ID laws was written to win the support of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and other Republicans. - See more at: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2014/01/16/bipartisan-proposal-to-amend-the-voting-rights-act/#sthash.FYh5tURQ.dpuf

Update: That the idiot caucus in the GOP hates the bill is no cause for support for this codification of the GOP's voter ID obstruction project, a project that has yielded results.

The return of the Voting Rights Act? Try the championing of state Voter ID laws, the go-to voter obstructionist tool of the Republican party.
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Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014: Section 3(c) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. 1973a(c)) is amended by striking ‘‘violations of the fourteenth or fifteenth amendment’’ and inserting ‘‘violations of the 14th or 15th Amendment; violations of this Act (other than a violation of section 2(a) which is based on the imposition of a requirement that an individual provide a photo identification as a condition of receiving a ballot for voting in an election for Federal, State, or local office) ... ."

The Voting Rights Amendment Act (H.R.3899) should be renamed the Voter ID Obstruction Protection Act, which is why Rep. Sensenbrenner when he introduced the bill January 15, he made sure to note the legislation includes "provisions that continue to permit states to enact reasonable photo identification laws" in an act that would pit Sections of the Act against in each other.

From Sensenbrenner's website:
Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014
Section by Section Description of VRA Draft Legislation
Section 2.
Violations Triggering Authority Of Court To Retain Jurisdiction
--
Provides that a court can “bail-in” a State or political subdivision based on a discriminatory result by amending Section 3(c) of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) to include violations of Section 2 of the VRA and violations of any Federal voting rights law that prohibits voting discrimination against racial and language minorities.It carves out from the new standard Section 2(a) cases that are based on a photo identification on requirement
Well, at least Sensenbrenner did not say "common sense" measures to obstruct voters this time, a tiresome phrase used by Scott Walker too often for my taste.

H.R.3899 is a terrible bill.

This is because HR 3899 crafts language of the section 4 formula of the Voting Rights
Act (VRA) narrowly, specifying as Ari Berman points out that only states "with five violations of federal law to their voting changes over the past fifteen years will have to submit future election changes for federal approval."

Resurrecting Section 5 with an extraordinarily weak formula in Section Four is tantamount to getting raped five times before getting treatment, support and help from law enforcement, a terrible joke of the VRA, though the D.C. commetariat quietly applauds this bipartisan exercise in codifying state photo voter ID laws.

Should this bill be passed, one of Wisconsin's two federal consolidated challenges to the GOP-crafted Wisconsin Act 23, the photo voter id law is imperiled if the Voting Rights Amendment Act (H.R.3899) (2014) were to become law. The trial is now under submission to Judge William M. Conley, Western District of Wisconsin.

Maybe the Wisconsin case will make past the five GOP justices on the U.S. supreme court when it gets there.

Judge William M. Conley, who heard Frank v. Walker, (Case 11cv1128) and
League of United Latin American Citizens of Wisconsin v. Deininger (Case 2:12-cv-00185) in Wisconsin in a consolidated trial in November 2013 is taking the cases under submission (research, consideration and an intellectual enterprise to arrive at an order and opinion) that will involve a massive judicial undertaking.
 
In the Wisconsin League case, which is the first case to use Section 2 since Shelby County v. Holder, civil rights plaintiffs argues "The evidence conclusively demonstrates that the burdens of Act 23 fall disproportionately on voters of color. Two different expert studies introduced at trial, using two different sound methodologies, confirm Act 23’s substantial racially disproportionate impacts. As plaintiffs’ expert Leland Beatty concluded, 'Wisconsin minority voters are at a substantial disadvantage under Wisconsin’s voter ID law, and ... the effect of that law imprints an unavoidable disparate impact on minority election participation.'"

Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act in the League case may not find relief from the new Voting Rights Amendment Act (H.R.3899) which in the words of Sensenbrenner, "includes strong, nationwide anti-discrimination protections and continues to permit states to enact reasonable voter-ID laws."
  
Rep. John Conyers (D-Michican) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermount) demonstrate again why politicians fail to understand that when 100,000s of citizens are obstructed from voting, and their new legislation does nothing to prevent this, they may have been living the high life a bit too long.

"Our sole focus throughout this entire process was to ensure that no American would be denied his or her constitutional right to vote because of discrimination on the basis of race or color," Patirck Leahy said in a statement, cited by Steve Benen and many others across the nation, all of whom ignore the plain language of HR 3899 enshrining state Photo Voter ID laws: "other than a violation of section 2(a) which is based on the imposition of a requirement that an individual provide a photo identification as a condition of receiving a ballot for voting in an election for Federal, State, or local office."

As Derick T. Dingle writes, "Legal scholars found the voter ID provision as a gaping hole in the law (HR 3899), avoiding one of the major voter suppression issues of the day."

On the up side, the League challenge is an "as-applied" challenge as opposed to the "facial" challenge in the Crawford vs. Marion County Board of Elections, as noted by Earnest A. Canning in the Brad Blog.

The problem is Section 2 is not much help to the Wisconsin case if the Voting Rights Amendment Act (H.R.3899) permits state photo voter ID laws, the favorite voter obstruction tool of the Republicans, as the case winds its way through a hostile GOP-heavy, federal judiciary.

The other federal Wisconsin challenge to the GOP voter obstruction Act makes Constitutional Equal Protection, Twenty-Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment arguments, irrespective of the Voting Rights Act.

Under Scott Walker, "Wisconsin has long been recognized as the Selma of the North and this case illustrates just why the Midwestern state bears this harrowing distinction,” said James Eichner, Managing Director for Programs, Advancement Project. “Wisconsin’s discriminatory voter ID law is virtually indistinguishable from Jim Crow laws of earlier eras which required poll taxes, property requirements, literacy tests and other contrived, racist measures designed to prevent African Americans from voting."

Walker is getting some company from Democratic congressmen. 

Oppose Voting Rights Amendment Act; It's a Sham

Update: Don't worry Republicans, state voter obstruction laws are safe.

Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014: Section 3(c) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. 1973a(c)) is amended by striking ‘‘violations of the fourteenth or fifteenth amendment’’ and inserting ‘‘violations of the 14th or 15th Amendment; violations of this Act (other than a violation of section 2(a) which is based on the imposition of a requirement that an individual provide a photo identification as a condition of receiving a ballot for voting in an election for Federal, State, or local office) ... ."
Translated, GOP state photo voter ID laws have been carved out as an exception by the Republicans, and just because the GOP obstructs voters there is no reason for this be considered a violation of the new and fetid VRA.

The Voting Rights Amendment Act, H.R.3899, is a con unprecedented in the modern fight for the right to vote.

The bill would allow for state GOP-crafted voter obstruction laws to pass muster under the Act, language which drew the NAACP's guarded statement that the "NAACP appreciates that the U.S. Congress has made a bipartisan effort to update the Voting Rights Act, however we have serious concerns about the ability of some provisions in this bill to protect ALL voters from discrimination at the polls."

This bill should be opposed, and a real act with teeth that codifies that voting is a federal fundamental right should be passed.

Such as an act exists; it's call the Pocan-Ellison Right to Vote Amendment. Republicans hate it because it protects the right to vote against GOP efforts to obstruct it.

Ari Berman writes: "Voting rights supporters will argue, justifiably, that the new Section 4 formula does not apply to enough states and wrongly treats voter ID laws differently than other discriminatory voting changes. Despite these flaws, the legislation represents a significant improvement over the disastrous post-Shelby status quo, which has seen states like North Carolina and Texas rush to pass or implement blatantly discriminatory voting restrictions after being freed from federal oversight." 

Berman's argument is that state voter obstruction laws are still legal, voter obstruction will occur, and we should still welcome this sham.

Talk about lowering the bar.

Call your congressional representative and register your opposition today. Our congressman here in southcentral Wisconsin, Mark Pocan, can be reached at Rep. Pocan.

Other representatives can be reached through the House of Representatives home page.

In the face of the Republican War on Voting, do some Democrats really believe the GOP has surrendered and suddenly morphed into voting rights champions?

Don't Trust James Sensenbrenner on Voting Right Act

James Sensenbrenner - Protector of
Republican Voter Obstruction
Update: Pennsylvania Judge Strikes Down GOP's New Voter ID Law, the injunction and opinion is at Applewhite et al v. Pennsylvania.

American democracy—Freedom and the right to vote, the light of the world

No kids, in America the Republican Party is hostile to these rights. For the GOP voting is a privilege reserved for those who vote the correct way, and the GOP continues its assault against the fundamental right of our democracy.

Now, the Republican Party is trying to codify and enshrine its state-level voter obstruction project that it says is perfectly in keeping with its 'fix' to the Voting Rights Act.

The national press is maintaining the pretension that Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-White People) cares about fixing the Voting Rights Act eviscerated by Sensenbrenner's GOP colleagues on the U.S. Supreme Court last year in Shelby County v. Holder.

Several liberal writers think it's the only shot at getting a weak repair to the Voting Rights Act through Congress. This effort is a crock.

The Republican voter obstruction project has as one of its primary tools: GOP-crafted state voter ID laws enacted with unanimous GOP support and unanimous opposition from civil rights groups and the Democratic Party.

Voter ID laws make it more difficult to vote for disaffected veterans, minorities, colleges students and other demographics not aware of their duty to vote Republican.

Such state voter obstruction laws are the policy rationale behind the Voting Rights Act (1965) and its reauthorizations.

But Sensenbrenner loves voter obstruction, Voter ID laws, slashing early voting, gerrymandering, and other GOP tricks to keep people from voting.

Steve Benen, writing for MSNBC, is one of the writers who likes to pretend Sensenbrenner is a champion of voting rights, while noting this new 'fix' of the Voting Rights Act is a bill that Sensenbrenner acclaims "includes strong, nationwide anti-discrimination protections and continues to permit states to enact reasonable voter-ID laws. Therefore, it prevents racial-discrimination and gives states the ability to address voter fraud."

That there is virtually no in-person voter fraud is, in the minds of Benen and Sensenbrenner, of no consequence.

As for Voter ID laws, what's "reasonable" in Sensenbrenner's mind? Texas and Wisconsin's restrictive Voter ID laws are.

Here's what Sensenbrenner had to say about Texas in August last year: "

There are of course serious efforts to protect voting: The Pocan-Ellison Right to Vote Amendment.

Sensenbrenner supporting this mega voting rights guarantee, and going against his Party's voter obstruction project is as likely as Sarah Palin winning a Nobel Prize in physics.

We noted here last November that in 2005-06, Sensenbrenner was chair of the House Judiciary Committee so he likes to preen that he was the champion of the renewal of the various sections of the Voting Rights Act that passed 390-33 in the House and 98-0 in the Senate and, history should remember, was signed into law by President George W. Bush. What guts.

In fact, Bush did one hell of a job of conjuring LBJ in the White House, and as noted by Gary May and Joseph Morgan Kousser cajoled Congress into passing a 25-year reauthorization in the Republican-controlled Congress.

Writes May:
(D)uring his second term Bush found it necessary to court black voters. The president's slow response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, which hurt blacks disproportionally and revealed again the presence of widespread poverty in the South, damaged Bush's standing. In an attempt to recoup his political fortunes as congressional elections approached in 2006, Bush turned to the black community. On a trip to Memphis visited the Loraine Motel and stood on the balcony where Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968. He also agreed to address the NAACP's annual convention, which he had ignored for six years. There Bush was received coolly but won a standing ovation when he expressed his support for the Voting Rights Act, urging congress to enact it then, one year before it was due to expire. This was not simply rhetoric. Behind the scenes Bush's staff encouraged Republicans, who now controlled both houses of Congress, to extend the Act. And this time the Republican congressional leadership in both the House and Senate were receptive to such appeals because if you weren't a southerner, there was no political payoff for attacking the now-iconic Voting Right Act. (pp 273-274)
So, House Judiciary Committee Sensenbrenner was going to defy Bush and Rove on the Voting Rights Act reauthorization of 2006? Right.

And Sensenbrenner is now going to declare war on the GOP's war on voting? Right.

Dec 13, 2013

Wisconsin 2014 Election Dates Geared to GOP as GOP Wages War on Voting

Big government is pretty big when it obstructs your right to even vote

College students will get an extra wrench thrown in the 2014 election as Scott Walker looks for that extra advantage that will get Walker the majority of the general election vote.

Add up all the GOP voter suppression efforts, and the GOP hopes this equals a victory in a close race.

Election dates in 2014 are being circulated now by municipal election clerks around the state.

The Fall Election Primary is being held August 12, instead of the traditional September, as most college students will not be moved in on August 12 for the Fall Semester, and therefore cannot register and vote, which will suppress the total college vote in the November 4 general elections. This is courtesy of the GOP which passed a law in 2011 moving the Fall primary date.

Every little bit of voter obstruction helps.

The GOP also passed legislation in 2011 that makes residency requirements 28 days, instead of 10 days.

This year the GOP wants to attack early voting, and force cities, towns and villages to stop all early voting on weekends and nights in an effort to obstruct voter registration and voting drives in Wisconsin cities.

The 2014 election dates are:

February 18 - Spring Election Primary

April 1 - Spring General Election

August 12 - Fall Election Primary

November 4 - Fall General Election

And the crown jewel of the GOP voter obstruction, Photo Voter ID, remains enjoined as violative of the Wisconsin Constitution, and faces a potentially landmark challenge in federal court as well.

Dec 1, 2013

Book Review: Richard Posner's Path Not Taken

Richard Posner's Reflections on Judging
(Harvard University Press. 2013)
Richard Posner's book Reflections on Judging (Harvard University Press. 2013) is an apologist account of his years on the bench.

The scholar turned judge wants to think that he has been a thoughtful and prudent jurist but on major occasions that he had the opportunity to be on the right side of history, he balked.

The depersonalization, the dehumanization, of the citizens by the court has been furthered under his judgeship. And he doesn't even seem to realize it on reflection.

Richard Posner is one of some 187 federal appellate judges.

He was appointed to the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit by Ronald Reagan in 1981 and still serves today.

Appointed along with John Shabaz (District Court, Western District of Wisconsin) and a host of ideological nominees to the federal judiciary by Reagan, Posner's assumption to the bench came during the first fruit bore by the Federalist Society, GOP Party hacks like Shabaz, and the U.S. Department of Justice that became a breeding ground for those seeing the judiciary as a means to power ... period, right-wing judicial activists. Witness Chief Justice John Roberts.

Posner skated around Reagan's fronting for the hard right, maybe out of loyalty.

The difference between Shabaz, a genuine misanthropist, and Posner is the difference between open contempt and indifference toward fellow citizens.

Richard A. Posner takes judicial policy making seriously, but reading Reflections on Judging, while aware of Posner's intellect is an exercise in disgust.

There are less thoughtful approaches to American jurisprudence in our society today; there are malicious approaches evolving in unpredictable ways, yielding results threatening the foundation of America, the expansive liberties of her citizens.

Posner seems unmindful as a judge, and amicable and generous as an author.

Posner attempts to explain to the lay reader some elements of appellate jurisprudence, what makes opinion writing a useful enterprise, and deserves praise for the result. I mean how many citizens concern themselves with what the judiciary does, at least since the grassroots movement against Robert Bork in 1987.

In reading Posner one wonders if he is unaware of the injury jurisprudence can inflict unto the human beings constituting the citizenry of the U.S.

It's easy to understand why Posner cites Robert H. Jackson and Louis Brandeis as jurists and intellectuals in history whom he admires. Less easy to explain why Posner never acted with the same thoughtful manner. Reflections is no help here.

But Posner was never a civil libertarian; he essentially did nothing for social justice in life and as an academic, so it's no surprise in reading Reflections that Posner labored over his work as a judge, mindful that that the law serves entities in this country—human beings—while reaching results that are both appalling and illogical.

Posner advocates the approach of  "legal realism" in judging both at the appellate and trial level.

In Reflections on Judging, Posner explains why "legal formalism," "originalism," "textual originalism," and other given names for fallacious approaches to judging, as epitomized by Justice Antonin Scalia, are "gotcha jurisprudence," (p. 182) and not dispassionate, penetrating examinations of the law.

Posner explains in the same paragraph in Reflections.

Justice Scalia is one of the most politically conservative Supreme Court Justices of the modern era—anyone doubting this should read his vitriolic partial dissent in Arizona v. United States—and he is the intellectual leader of the conservative Justices on the current Supreme Court. Yet he claims that his judicial votes are generated by an objective interpretive methodology (the only objective methodology, he claims) and that because it is objective, ideology, including his own fervent ideology, plays no role. Obviously statutory text itself is not inherently liberal or conservative. But textualism is conservative. A legislature is thwarted when a judge refuses to apply its handiwork to an unforeseen situation that is encompassed by the statute's aim but does not make a smooth fit with its text. Ignoring the limitations of foresight, and also that statute is a collective product that may leave many questions of interpretation to be answered by the courts because the enacting legislators didn't agree on the answers, the textual originalist demands that the legislature think through myriad hypothetical scenarios and provide for all of them explicitly rather than rely on courts to be sensible. Textual originalism is 'gotcha' jurisprudence. (p.182)

The jurisprudence of Scalia—dressed up as a quasi-scientific methodology—poses as an epistemological search in which appellate judges committed to originalism occupy an elevated perch, in Scalia's view, and to Posner's scorn.

Scalia poses, regaling in his perception capable of ascertaining the statute, where others refuse to see this dedication.

But Scalia and his statist, superstitious moralism often neglect the American citizen whom Scalia does not take seriously.

Reading Posner's Reflections, sure it's easy to think of Robert Jackson (pp 257-258) and other jurists' concern for the litigant in cases involving civil liberties, the citizen endowed with expansive rights against the state.

In Posner's Seventh Circuit as an example, we have brilliant jurists like Jackson, Diane Wood, Frank Easterbrook and of course Posner.

And the Seventh Circuit has also seen the worst of jurisprudence—for example, Wisconsin's late Judge John Shabaz who terrorized and abused criminal defendants and attorneys during his reign from 1981 to 2009.

In the Robert W. Kastenmeier U.S. Courthouse, federal magistrates often preceded Shabaz' arrival and would presumptively offer a manner of judicial succor, explaining to the courtroom in effect that Judge Shabaz would often bully attorneys and litigants for any or no reason.

Anyone sentient saw in Shabaz' willful, mean-spirited actions a fundamental misunderstanding of what a courtroom is supposed to represent in America, the rule of law as a shield against the cruel tyranny of the power of the state, of the judiciary.

Local Madison, Wisconsin, journalists wrote occasionally about Shabaz' misanthropy in astonishment, as many citizens who had become aware or experienced Shabaz waited and hoped for his retirement or death. This judge was a human repudiation of Article III of the Constitution.

Shabaz is worth mentioning here, not because his opinions were often overturned by the Seventh Circuit [though they were, especially in civil rights cases], rather because Shabaz' aspirations and personal manner are in direct opposition to Posner's.

We are led to believe that Posner is concerned with people, whom the law and the courts ought to serve.


I don't know if Posner knew about this situation in Madison, Wisconsin; I do believe he would have been appalled, but Posner deserves no praise for remaining blind.

Posner's legal realism leads to some consideration of what people are as citizens of the United States, as human beings.

That's a pretty low bar for a judge.

What this country has endowed its citizens with, rights, are the foundation supported by constant affirmation of citizens' humanity. How society lawfully treats human beings, what social scientific evidence demonstrate, and the thought experiments often heard at oral arguments are what could have made Posner a brilliant judge, had he chosen to go that way.

When Posner is not conversant about many topics, it bothers him, or so it is implied in Reflections. Still, Reflections, as edifying a book as it is, reads more like an aspiration of what Posner could have been as jurist, as against his record.

Consider one critical case on which we know Posner has erred badly, to which he admits failure of imagination and empathy, inhumanity, of ability to ascertain.

"I plead guilty to having written the majority opinion (affirmed by the Supreme Court) upholding Indiana's requirement that prospective voters prove their identity with a photo id—a law now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than fraud prevention." (pp. 8485) [Crawford v. Marion County Elections Board (2008) was later disavowed by its author, Justice Stevens, after his retirement.]
 
The repercussions for protecting voter rights of Americans against the Republican and Tea Party in Crawford are stunning, but Posner offers only a weak rumination about how difficult gathering information can be in the modern world for federal litigation. 

This is not only a cop-out on Posner's part but clearly shows how weak he is on standing up for a citizen's rights in the face of the so-called justice system. The scholar sees so much as impenetrable. 

Posner asserts the complexity brought by advances in technological fields means that subject matter experts often have difficulty making a judge understand the salient issues. Posner, in other journals, has explained that he can't just give up and go home. He has to rule on what is before him.

Judges are, or should be, selected on the basis of their ability to sort through complex issues, so for Posner to argue that an issue before the court is too complex for him to understand is an abdication of the function of the court. Judges have an obligation to study an issue until they understand it. Surely a man of Posner's intellect can accomplish this. Judges have every expert at their disposal, analytical resources, clerks, libraries. Even in this position of privilege, Posner I swear comes across as whining.

Consider human empathy.

Without empathy, an element both Scalia and Posner find irrelevant, the rule of law dissolves as a protector and extension of the citizenry. So, we can understand Crawford in the context as a lack of empathy, as the civil rights movement reminded America voting is part of humanity.

A local Alabama or Mississippi judge hearing a case on a civil rights violation in 1963 could not render an opinion, the racist state power structures made this impossible. The same held true with most of the south, though federal appellate judges as John Minor Wisdom somehow managed to see through the suffocating cloak of racism during this period.

Consider a more contemporary case, Atwater V. Lago Vista (2001), in which a mother and her two young children, three- and five-years old, were pulled over, verbally abused, and arrested in front of gathering witnesses who all confirmed the same story: Young children became traumatized and cried, as their mother was arrested by a vicious police officer for a traffic violation.

"The question is whether the Fourth Amendment forbids a warrantless arrest for a minor criminal offense, such as a misdemeanor seatbelt violation punishable only by a fine. We hold that it does not."
 —The Court 5-4

As for empathy. Justice Souter for the Court: "The arrest and booking were inconvenient and embarrassing to Atwater, but not so extraordinary as to violate the Fourth Amendment."

Inconvenient and embarrassing.

Justice O’Connor, with whom Justice Stevens, Justice Ginsburg, and Justice Breyer join, dissented:

The Fourth Amendment guarantees the right to be free from 'unreasonable searches and seizures.' The Court recognizes that the arrest of Gail Atwater was a 'pointless indignity' that served no discernible state interest, ... and yet holds that her arrest was constitutionally permissible. Because the Court’s position is inconsistent with the explicit guarantee of the Fourth Amendment, I dissent. ... The Court neglects the Fourth Amendment’s express command in the name of administrative ease. In so doing, it cloaks the pointless indignity that Gail Atwater suffered with the mantle of reasonableness. 
Posner would agree with Souter in this embarrassing case.

People really don't matter all that much, and we just cannot know so much about people under the law.

Posner is no Jackson or Brandeis; he could be but he simply does not allow himself to rise to the occasion.

Keeping his eye on the the prize, human beings with liberties guaranteed throughout the Constitution, makes the non-essential fall away.

I recommend Reflections as thoughtful admissions of failure.

Nov 11, 2013

93-year-old Testifies Against Wisconsin Voter ID Law at Trial

Carrie Healey reports that a 93-year-old woman, Lorene Hutchins, testified today at the trial challenging the GOP-passed Wisconsin photo voter ID law, Act 23.

Reports Healey:
"I feel there is a strategy to keep minorities and older people from voting,' the 93-year-old said, according to court transcripts. "Most of us who migrated to Northern states do not have birth certificates, a prerequisite for obtaining the photo ID required to vote. I’ve been voting since the 1940′s when I voted for Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It would be devastating to lose the right to vote now, after all these years.'

Hutchins was born at home in Mississippi because hospitals at that time did not accept black patients, and she did not receive a birth certificate.

Katherine Clark, Hutchins’ daughter, spent over $2,000 and several years to obtain birth certificates for both herself and her mother.
Hutchins testified in the case, League of United Latin American Citizens of Wisconsin v. Deininger (Case 2:12-cv-00185), one of two cases in the consolidated voting rights trial.

The League case is the first trial in the country post-Shelby County v. Holder using Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Act (Section 4) last summer, as noted by The Advancement Project.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said he sees "no barriers" to voting; but $2,000 might not seem like a lot of money for Walker whose own salary, healthcare and pension have been funded by taxpayers since 1993.

Writes Healey: "Having watched her family brave angry mobs while trying to vote in Mississippi in the 1920′s, Ms. Hutchins now faces a more subtle, yet no less harmful, barrier to the ballot box," said Advancement Project Staff Attorney Leigh Chapman.

The potentially landmark voting rights trial in Milwaukee is expected to last about another week.

Oct 19, 2013

New Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau Propaganda on Suffrage

Update: A reader notes the discovery of phantom "additional qualifications" for voters in the Wisconsin Constitutions is consistent with GOP voter obstruction efforts in Kansas and Arizona where as the Washington Post notes:

NOTHING FRIGHTENS today’s Republican Party quite like the voters. Before the 2012 elections, GOP lawmakers in statehouses across the country tightened voter identification laws with one goal in common: to suppress turnout on Election Day among likely Democratic voters, especially minorities and the poor. It didn’t work.

Now, harking back to the days of Jim Crow, they are at it again. In Arizona and Kansas, GOP officials are moving to adopt a two-tiered voting system, the effect of which would be to disenfranchise thousands of voters. The ploy relies on requiring birth certificates, passports and other documents that establish proof of citizenship in order to register to vote in state and local elections. Such documents are not necessary to register for federal elections.

"Additional qualifications" to vote are not in the Wisconsin Constitution, but just the same are derived from the text, say the GOP and Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau in a new theory intended to disenfranchise African-Americans, college students, the poor, the elderly and homeless, disaffected veterans.

The Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau's (LRB) Bruce Hoesly, Revising Attorney/Code Editor, is spouting new Republican propaganda again.

Not content to parrot the disingenuous Republican line in its use of the declining-in-judicial-currency Crawford v. Marion County Election Board (2008) decision, the LRB has launched more partisan spin in its new page on Wisconsin's Constitutional voting rights webpage, Suffrage.

The Republican Party propaganda states as settled law, the interpretation of a Wisconsin appellate court panel in May 2013 rejecting a facial challenge to the Wisconsin Photo Voter ID law, Act 23.

Wisconsin citizens' right to vote in jeopardy by the GOP's Act 23 face a law that:
  • Remains enjoined
  • Is under appeal to the Wisconsin Supreme Court
  • Is under challenge in two federal cases set for trial for November 4, 2013
The pro-voter and anti-voter advocates, the contending parties, will not even present intermediate appellate constitutional interpretations as settled law in Wisconsin Voter ID cases, but the GOP line is good enough for the LRB.

The LRB adopts GOP-friendly constitutional positions, though its reference in its new Suffrage annotation is anything but settled.

The annotation reads from a 1856 case:
Cothren, State ex rel. Knowlton v. Williams, 5 Wis. 308, contains a general rule for election law cases addressing constitutionality under a facial 'additional qualifications' challenge: whether the challenged requirement or procedure allows election officials 'to ascertain whether the person offering to vote possessed the qualifications required.' The legislature may impose such requirements or procedures because the legislature has a legitimate interest in preserving the integrity of elections. The general rule is made especially clear in the Cothren court's statement that the legislature may demand 'such proof' from potential voters 'as it deems requisite' for this purpose. League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Education Network, Inc. v. Walker, 2013 WI App 77, ___ Wis. 2d ___, ___ N.W.2d ___, 12-0584.
To translate, the LRB is asserting that the government has the authority to enact laws that are additional constitutional qualifications that are not listed in Section 2 of ARTICLE III - SUFFRAGE of the Wisconsin Constitution.

The LRB is ignoring that the League case is under appeal in state and federal court, is enjoined; and anyway, Cothren, State ex rel. Knowlton v. Williams reads in part: "an act of the legislature which deprives a person of the right to vote, although he [sic] has every qualification which the constitution makes necessary, cannot be sustained."

Surly, 100,000s of qualified, registered voters not being able to present GOP-crafted IDs demonstrates an undue burden, just as GOP intends.

The GOP did not attempt to present a wide array of acceptable IDs that almost every citizen has (as some states do) when they narrowly crafted the range of IDs in 2011 to defeat the specter of in-person voter fraud, though the legislature cannot point to one case of in-person voter fraud out of millions of votes cast.

The Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) is not intended as a Republican Party propaganda outlet. But this is the new Wisconsin, agencies serve the Party and favored citizens should have an easier time when voting than non-favored.

The LRB page states, it is a "nonpartisan, professional, and confidential bill drafting, legal publishing, research and library services to the legislature and the public."

Reads a brief LRB history:

Since its establishment as the first professional, nonpartisan drafting and research services agency for a state legislature, the LRB has been committed to maintaining high standards of quality and to providing thorough and expeditious drafting and reference services for the Wisconsin State Legislature.

Each chief has seen the bureau through the changes that are inevitable with the passage of time. However, each has also maintained continuity with the past, holding fast to the traditions of quality, efficiency, and nonpartisanship that were established with the agency more than 100 years ago.

Not anymore.

Incidentally, Wisconsin appellate Justices Lundsten, Higginbotham, and Blanchard in the League opinion that Hoesly presents as settled law do not relate the text of Act 23 to the 100,000s of Wisconsin citizens like 86-year-old Ruthell Frank who would report to the polls as Frank has for over 60 years in Brokaw, Wisconsin and now be told she is not qualified to vote under Act 23, because she does not have the additional qualification of a driver's license or other GOP-prescribed ID.

Under this reasoning if the GOP legislature and GOP Governor pass a law that says photo IDs are now too easy to forge, in the interests of preserving the integrity of elections, a law stating a third party in your voting district has to attest to your identity and residence would survive a facial Wisconsin Constitutional challenge, though the hypothetical law would not be an amendment to Section 2 of ARTICLE III - SUFFRAGE of the Wisconsin Constitution.

The League opinion notes the following in a footnote as well:

In the same vein, given the League’s limited arguments in this case, we make note of, but see no reason to discuss further, the United States Supreme Court’s split opinion addressing a facial challenge, under the federal constitution, to an Indiana law requiring photo identification to vote.  See Crawford v. Marion Cnty. Election Bd., 553 U.S. 181, 187, 189, 200 (2008).  Crawford involved allegations that the Indiana law “substantially burdens the right to vote in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment [of the U.S. Constitution]; that it is neither a necessary nor appropriate method of avoiding election fraud; and that it will arbitrarily disenfranchise qualified voters who do not possess the required identification and will place an unjustified burden on those who cannot readily obtain such identification.”  Id. at 187.  A plurality of the Court concluded that the evidence in the record was insufficient “to support a facial attack on the validity of the entire statute.”  See id. at 189.
Hey, you note that Crawford was argued alleging a federal constitutional violation, not a Wisconsin constitutional violation, so what again is its relevancy?

Ask around. Justices Lundsten, Higginbotham, and Blanchard blew this opinion in its hard-right decision (apparently written by a GOP law clerk) that is political and one in which the justices apparently self-consciously take the GOP line in an effort to write an opinion that the four GOP Wisconsin Supreme Court justices can use, if they have no sense of shame.

Thankfully, federal court may now offer protection for Wisconsin voters from the GOP voter obstruction project, and perhaps Frank v. Walker, (Case 11cv1128), and Jones et al v. Deininger et al (Case 2:12-cv-00185) will become landmark federal voting rights cases.

Texas Obstucts Women from Voting; Effort Similar to Wisc AG's Failed Suit

Civil rights violations are our business: GOP
Update: Barbara Arnwine and Eleanor Smeal explain the GOP's war on women voting: "The assault on voting rights is a naked attempt to suppress the votes of minorities, students, the elderly, and the poor. But don’t be fooled. This War on Voting is an essential part of the War on Women."

In 2008 Wisconsin's Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen tried to push through the courts a new constitutional requirement to vote: An exact match of a voter's name on the databases of various government bureaucracies.

Ridiculous.

The GOP voter obstruction effort failed miserably, though Van Hollen later showed no shame in trying to stop our sacred right to vote, efforts for which Van Hollen will be well-compensated in the private sector at a cushy GOP firm, (Van Hollen is not seeking reelection in 2014.)

"Nothing in state or federal law requires that there be a data match as a prerequisite for a citizen's right to vote," Judge Maryann Sumi said in dismissing Van Hollen's lawsuit (J.B. Van Hollen v. Government Accountability Board (GAB) et al (2008)) that tried to use the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) as a voter suppression tool.

In October 2008, it was reported by WisPolitics that Reince Priebus (then Wisconsin and now national GOP Chair) and Wisconsin McCain-Palin co-chair Van Hollen met before and at the 2008 National Republican Convention in St. Paul to discuss this new voter obstruction effort which would was employed by the Van Hollen-headed Wisconsin Department of Justice during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Now, Texas is employing the Priebus-Van Hollen strategy to obstruct voting, requiring an exact and up-to-date name match on Photo Voter ID, per newly enacted Texas GOP law.

The New Civil Rights Movements notes: "Think Progress reports that as of November 5, Texans must show a photo ID with their up-to-date legal name. It sounds like such a small thing, but according to the Brennan Center for Justice, only 66% of voting age women have ready access to a photo document that will attest to proof of citizenship. This is largely because young women have not updated their documents with their married names, a circumstance that doesn’t affect male voters in any significant way. Suddenly 34% of women voters are scrambling for an acceptable ID, while 99% of men are home free."

Van Hollen had denied any contacts with the Republican Party and the McCain campaign about Wisconsin's invented 2008 voting rule in the GOP's failed lawsuit, a denial that was contradicted by WisPolitics‘ audio recording revealing Van Hollen promising this 2008 legal action to Priebus on alleged "voter fraud" during an address at the 2008 Republican National Convention held in St. Paul.

Texas GOP Attorney General Greg Abbott, Wendy Davis' likely opponent for governor in 2014, has had much to say about new voting requirements and other GOP obstruction schemes, now under challenge by the U.S. DoJ under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, to the chagrin of voting rights poseur and lede Republican bullshitter, James Sensenbrenner. Abbott is running the Reince Priebus playbook.

Writes Dave McNeely:


"In 2011, both houses of the Texas Legislature were controlled by large Republican majorities, and their redistricting decisions were designed to increase the Republican Party's electoral prospects at the expense of the Democrats," says the (legal) brief filed by Abbott's office, (defending Texas gerrymandering). "It is perfectly constitutional for a Republican-controlled legislature to make partisan redistricting decisions, even if there are incidental effects on minority voters who support Democratic candidates."

Abbott also accused Jose Garza, a lawyer for the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, of unethical behavior for telling Latino voters to go ahead to the polls even without the now-required photo ID in a Sept. 14 election in Edinburg to fill a city council vacancy.

It is "unethical for a lawyer to advise someone to violate Texas law," Abbott said. "Confusing and misleading Texans in order to create an unnecessary lawsuit is disgraceful."

Garza hotly shot back that he had never encouraged Texans to violate the law, but to cast provisional ballots if they can't get a photo ID. He said he thinks the law is unconstitutional, and if they are refused that would be grounds for a legal challenge.

"Do not stay home and allow a discriminatory law to suppress your vote and voice," Garza said. "That is my message to Edinburg's voters."
Abbott says he needs to stop voter fraud and ensure the integrity of Texas elections.

As the world looks at American politics, wondering vaguely if the US has lost its collective mind in allowing the Tea Party suicide caucus to threaten the world economy, it also cast dubious eyes on the American commitment to voting rights in a democracy, wondering in the words of Teresa Wiltz in The Guardian if this is "2013 or 1953?"

It's 1953, only worse.

In the words of Joel Bleifuss, editor of In These Times, enterprising and corrupt voter obstruction efforts by GOP operatives, including five sitting jurists on the U.S. Supreme Court judges, have in dismantling voter protections imposed on America a "gift to both the billionaire political hobbyists who gave us the Tea Party Congress and the noisy charlatans who push for cynical 'anti-voter-fraud' legislation that is crafted to suppress voter turnout."