This week, the Minnesota Supreme Court heard the League of Women Voters' argument against language set to be used in a ballot initiative this November which, if passed by the electorate, would amend the state's constitution to require that valid, Government-issued Photo ID be presented at the polling place before voters are allowed to vote.
The initiative was placed on the ballot by the GOP majority in the state legislature, but, as we detailed earlier this month, the League has filed suit charging that the language used in the ballot question is extremely deceptive and that it fails to accurately explain how the constitutional amendment would change the voting system in Minnesota, while putting the legal rights of voters at risk.
During oral arguments (video clip posted below) in League of Women Voters of Minnesota v. Ritchie [PDF], veteran MN Supreme Court Justice Paul H. Anderson suggested that the issue before the Court, of whether the ballot question was misleading, was more profound than even the League's attorney, William Pentelovitch, was characterizing it.
The hearing produced the following remarkable colloquy...
If there was any doubt before, after several findings by several courts that the Wisconsin GOP's attempts to institute polling place Photo ID restrictions were in strict violation of their state Constitution, yesterday's verdict ought to (but probably won't) put a hard end to that question...
A Dane County judge on Tuesday permanently barred enforcement of the photo identification requirements of Wisconsin's voter ID law, saying that it imposes too great a burden on voters in Wisconsin than the state constitution allows.
Circuit Judge David Flanagan ruled that Wisconsin Act 23, the voter ID law, "tells more than 300,000 Wisconsin voters who do not now have an acceptable form of photo identification that they cannot vote unless they first obtain a photo ID card."
That requirement, he wrote, imposes a "substantial burden" upon a significant proportion of state residents who are registered or eligible to vote because of the cost and difficulty of obtaining documents needed to apply for a state photo ID. That creates a "substantial impairment" to the right to vote guaranteed by the Wisconsin Constitution, he wrote.
Unless civil rights groups suing, incredibly enough, for the right of legal voters to cast their legal vote in Pennsylvania this year are successful in blocking the new GOP law, hundreds of thousands of voters --- of all parties, but disproportionately Democratic-leaning --- could be disenfranchised in the Keystone State alone this November, under the Republicans' new polling place Photo ID restriction.
The estimated 750,000 voters who do not have state-issued IDs in Pennsylvania surpasses President Obama's margin of victory in 2008. Many of the voters without ID are in poor and minority communities - typically blocs that vote Democratic. Democrats' worst fears appeared to be confirmed when the Republican leader of the state House, who helped shepherd the legislation onto the books, recently boasted that it will "allow" Mitt Romney win the Keystone State.
Democrats now have to make sure voters are aware of the law, know whether they comply, know how to meet the requirements if they don't already - and do it all before Election Day. This could be a steep climb. Only one of five voters approached by TPM at Obama's Pittsburgh rally Friday knew the law existed.
"I heard about it in Florida but not here," said Martin Hoberman, a voter from the Pittsburgh area.
At the same time, AP reports today that based on its study of recent elections in Indiana, Georgia and Tennessee --- states where GOP-backed polling place Photo ID restrictions have already been in effect for some time --- "legitimate votes rejected by the laws are far more numerous than are the cases of fraud that advocates of the rules say they are trying to prevent."
That, of course, is the point.
As the AP story points out in its opening grafs, perfectly legal votes of Republican voters will also be tossed out (in the story they mention a 90-year old WWII veteran and his wife who had no idea their votes for Romney in this year's Indiana primary were never counted) along with the disenfranchisement of untold numbers who don't even bother to show up to vote at all because they don't own one of the very narrowly defined state-issued Photo IDs approved for use under these new voter suppression laws.
And, yes, when Republicans lose their right to vote, it pisses us off just as much as when Democrats lose their right to vote, even when it happens under voter suppression laws passed by Republicans.
We can think of little that is more blatantly and appallingly anti-American than what the GOP is now doing in hopes of purposely and systematically undermining the very core of democracy in this nation.
Far be it for me to call TPM's Josh Marshall "stupid". It just makes a more eye-catching headline in this case. And it also happens to be a fact, as I see it, that Romney's refusal to release his tax returns from any year prior to 2010, and especially his local state return from 2010, is about hiding evidence of a felony crime, as much or likely more than it is about hiding embarrassing details of off-shore bank accounts in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Switzerland, etc.
Josh argued yesterday that the latter is the reason for the presumptive GOP nominee's continuing refusal to publicly disclose those tax returns. It's almost certainly a part of the campaign's calculations and, as he posits convincingly in his blog item headlined "Kryptonite", hard visual confirmation of Romney's foreign tax shelters would be difficult to shake off with explanations to Mr. and Mrs. America.
But the use of legal off-shore tax shelters can be massaged through the "conservative" "messaging" machine with a legitimate-sounding case that avoidance of federal taxes is somehow a patriotic "conservative" duty and/or otherwise yet another example of Romney's keen business insight and smart, fully legal fiscal discipline which every American should someday aspire to.
What cannot be so easily brushed off or propagandized away --- not without completely undermining the current culmination of the GOP's nearly-decade long effort in creating the imaginary notion of massive Democratic "voter fraud" which must be rectified immediately with polling place Photo ID restrictions (actually little more than the GOP's attempt to suppress the legitimate Democratic-leaning vote while preventing almost no existing voter fraud) --- is the likelihood that those tax returns would reveal indisputable evidence that this year's GOP standard-bearer is an actual voter fraud felon himself...
The MN Constitution mandates that a ballot question must truthfully inform voters of what it is they are voting on. The ACLU, following the same format it applied when it successfully prevented a similar photo ID initiative from being placed on the November 2012 ballot in MO, sets forth specific examples of how the ballot question, as enacted by MN's GOP-controlled state legislature, falls well short of that standard.
The ACLU argument may well succeed before the MN Supreme Court. However, as reflected by polls suggesting nearly 80% of Minnesotans support the adoption of photo ID restrictions, there is a very real prospect that the ACLU's legal objections will neither be heard nor understood in the utterly deceived court of public opinion...
The head of a firm which was paid some $50,000 by the Republican Party in Sacramento to sign up new Republican voters this year has "an extensive criminal history, including a prison sentence for stealing from a family she befriended and buying a van with funds stolen from a youth agency."
Moreover, one of the employees that "professional con-artist" Monica Harris, the head of the GOP's Momentum Political Services, hired to work with her at the firm, where she was paid per Republican registration, recently pleaded guilty to fraud charges in a multimillion-dollar mortgage scheme.
The growing scandal, all but ignored by those on the Right who professionally pretend that Democrats and ACORN are stealing elections, underscores yet again the extent to which the Republican Party is willing to go in order to win elections, even while falsely accusing Democrats of undermining them...
Good news for democracy. Bad news for the GOP deceivers and the billionaire sociopaths, like the Koch brothers, who fund them. Missouri's courts have shown that their state's nickname, "The Show-Me State," is apropos.
In Weinschenk v. State (2006), the MO Supreme Court struck down a GOP-enacted polling place photo ID law because it violated the Equal Protection clause of the MO Constitution which treats voting as a "fundamental right." It recognized a compelling governmental interest in preventing voter fraud, but observed that "the Photo-ID Requirement is intended to prevent only impersonation of a registered voter and will not affect absentee ballot or registration fraud."
As the GOP could not muster evidence of in-person impersonation, they failed to establish that their 2006 Photo ID law was narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling governmental interest. The Court, in Weinschenk, based on the facts presented, also determined that the 2006 GOP Photo ID law operated as an unconstitutional poll tax, thereby violating the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
But since when have Republicans hell-bent on undermining our system of electoral democracy let a few negative court rulings or fundamental Constitutional rights stand in their way?...
Last week, The BRAD BLOG's legal analyst Ernest Canning reported on the lawsuit filed by the League of Women Voters, the NAACP and the ACLU in Pennsylvania, together with the Homeless Advocacy Project and the Advancement Project, against the state Republicans' new polling place Photo ID restriction passed into law in March.
The law, unless it's blocked, is set to make it much harder, if not impossible for many previously-legal student, elderly, minority and urban dwelling voters to cast their vote this November.
Canning predicts, however, that, like a similar GOP law in Wisconsin this year, and one in Missouri back in 2006, the new attempt to remove voting rights will be found in violation of the fundamental right to vote guaranteed under Pennsylvania's state Constitution. We'll see if he's correct.
In the meantime, the lawsuit, Applewhite vs Commonwealth of Pennsylvania [PDF] names 11 plaintiffs, the majority of whom have tried to get a birth certificate in order to then obtain their so-called "free" ID to vote from the state under the new law --- only to be told there is no record of their births. Several of those plaintiffs, not surprisingly, were born in the Jim Crow south and are now facing the forces of disenfranchisement again under the GOP law this year even up in the Keystone State in 2012.
Last week, MSNBC's Al Sharpton interviewed the lead plaintiff in the complaint, 92-year old Viviette Applewhite who marched for civil rights alongside Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Georgia, and who has been voting in Presidential elections without a problem for more than 50 years. She has never had a driver's license and, though she says she paid a fee for a birth certificate from the state, she has never received it.
Despite the fact that state officials have been unable to produce evidence of in-person, polling place impersonation --- the only type of voter fraud that could possibly be deterred by polling place Photo ID laws --- Republicans seem more than happy to disenfranchise long-time voters like Applewhite and potentially tens of thousands of others this year.
Applewhite says she believes it's all little more than an effort to stop President Obama from being re-elected, and she fears there are far more people than many realize who will be disenfranchised this year unless the law is overturned.
"Looks like most of the people in my building, they're senior citizens, but they don't have the proper thing to vote with," she says near the end of the interview, "and it's going to be a whole lotta people that's not going to be able to vote"...
Judith Browne Dianis, civil rights litigator at the Advancement Project also appears in the interview above and correctly notes: "This is not about preventing fraud, it's about preventing voting."
She is supported in that contention, ironically enough, by PA's Republican Governor Tom Corbett, seen in a clip above exhorting his supporters to help him keep turnout below 50% during his recent election. Moreever, just after Corbett signed the GOP's voter suppression bill in March, he lied to the media by claiming that it was needed since Pennsylvanians had seen 112% voter turnout in some precincts. Longtime election watchdog Marybeth Kuznick of VotePA, however, told us the Governor's claim was "ludicrous."
For more on the plaintiffs in the PA complaint who are facing disenfranchisement for the first time in their lives --- folks like 59-year old Wilola Shinholster Lee, 72-year old Grover Freeland, 86-year old Dorothy Barksdale and 93-year old Bea Booker --- and why Ernie Canning predicts the new legal challenge will be successful in the Keystone State, see his report from last week right here.
You're unlikely to hear a peep about this on Fox "News" (unless they happen to have me on), but the California Secretary of State's Election Fraud Division is now reportedly investigating a firm hired by the Sacramento County Republican Party said to have submitted thousands of fraudulent voter registration forms.
According to a report today from Sacramento ABC affiliate News10 [see video posted below], a private, for-profit firm calling itself Momentum Political Services, hired by the local Republican Party "to boost GOP registration ranks in key battleground communities" has turned in more than 3,100 invalid voter registration cards during their recent drive.
[UPDATE 5/7/12: According to Sacramento Bee's 5/5/12 report, the number of bad registration forms is much higher than 3,100. The paper reports that since September, out of some 31,000 cards turned in by Momentum Political Services, "at least one-fourth of them have been thrown out because of inaccuracies," according to the Sacramento Registrar of Voters. That puts the questionable registrations from the GOP's company at more than 7,500.]
Voter registration forms have allegedly been turned in with fake addresses, voter names that don't exist, duplicate Social Security numbers, and party affiliations that seem to have been changed "by someone" to Republican. The head of the firm has admitted she has hired workers with criminal backgrounds, as found via Craigslist.
The charges of serial voter registration fraud sound very similar to those leveled in 2008 against another outfit hired by the California State GOP to register Republican voters before that year's Presidential election. In that case, the head of the firm was arrested, and eventually pleaded guilty to voter registration charges himself.
In 2006, another firm hired by the CA Republican Party turned in thousands of registration forms with fake names and an error rate as high as 60 percent. And in 2004, a firm hired by the GOP was investigated in a number of states for shredding Democratic voter registrations and tossing them into dumpsters. Despite those allegations, the same folks were later hired by the McCain/Palin campaign in 2008 to run voter registration drives before the Presidential election.
Of course, you probably haven't heard of any of those stories, even while you've heard plenty about a handful of ACORN workers --- no actual ACORN officials, mind you, and they were never hired by the Democratic Party, and never led to a fraudulent vote --- turning in fraudulent registration forms in past years.
But nobody who ever worked for the non-profit ACORN has ever been accused of what these Republican firms continue to do on behalf of the Republican officials who hire them, paying them per Republican registration, year after year, as is once again apparent in the allegations surfacing today against Momentum Political Services...
92-year old Viviette Applewhite, 59-year old Wilola Shinholster Lee, 72-year old Grover Freeland, 86-year old Dorothy Barksdale and 93-year old Bea Booker are just a few of the Pennsylvania residents and long-time legal voters now fighting to retain their right to vote under the state GOP's new polling place Photo ID restrictions, according to a new lawsuit filed this week in the Keystone State.
The complaint goes on to argue that "there are countless other Pennsylvanians like them [some 80-90,000 according to the state's own data], who will lose the most cherished of all rights, the right to vote, unless the Photo ID Law is declared unconstitutional."
There is now, indeed, a very good chance that the law will, in fact, be declared unconstitutional according to The BRAD BLOG's analysis of the complaint, the state constitution and prior rulings in similar cases.
PA is just the latest of more than a dozen states over the past year where Republican-controlled legislatures and executive mansions have instituted voter disenfranchising polling place Photo ID restrictions. Governor Tom Corbett signed his state's bill into law in March, and promptly lied about his reasons for supporting the removal of voting rights for those lacking Photo ID on Election Day, claiming, without evidence, that some precincts in the state had 112% voter turnout in recent elections. As we reported at the time, that charge was dismissed as "ludicrous" and without evidence by a longtime state election integrity expert.
Nonetheless, "Act 18" has become the law of the land in Pennsylvania, for now, and, unless successfully challenged, will require that voters present a state-issued Photo ID when voting at the polling place in this year's November Presidential election for the very first time.
For the identical reasons that The BRAD BLOG accurately predicted that the League of Women Voters' legal challenge to a polling place Photo ID restriction law under similar provisions of the Wisconsin's Constitution would prevail (absent a political intervention from the Badger State's extraordinarily partisan Supreme Court), we also predict that new legal challenge filed this week in PA, attempting to block the state's draconian polling place Photo ID law, will similarly succeed...
There have been a few pieces of noteworthy news out of Wisconsin over the last few days in advance of their recall election primaries on May 8th (one week from Tuesday) and the recall general elections on June 5th. Some is largely positive for fans of democracy, but some of it, however, is both puzzling and a bit disturbing.
In the upcoming contests, Republican Gov. Scott Walker, his Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and the seats of four Republican state Senators will all face a referendum by the citizenry at the ballot box. The historic elections come more than a year after the GOP took over all branches of state government during the 2010 wave election before proceeding to release the Kraken spark a popular uprising through the tyranny of Big Government removal of a number of citizen rights --- such as collective-bargaining and voting --- along with the heavy-handed implementation of a number of other extreme Rightwing policies.
Here's are several of those late developments --- not concerning the horse races, but concerning the actual track conditions for those races...
[Now UPDATED with audio archives from tonight's show below!]
Mike's got the night off, so we're back in tonight guest-hosting the nationally-syndicated Mike Malloy Show on your public airwaves, on the Internet (streaming links below) and on SiriusXM ch. 127!
As usual, we'll be BradCasting, LIVE from 9pm-Mid ET (6p-9p PT), coast-to-coast and around the globe from L.A.'s KTLK am1150 in beautiful downtown Burbank. Join us by tuning in, chatting in, Tweeting in and calling in! Our LIVE chat room will be up and rolling right here at The BRAD BLOG, as usual, while we are on the air. Please stop by and join the fun while you're listening! (The Chat Room will open at the bottom of this item a few minutes before airtime, see down below, just above "Comments" section.)
Today on KPFK/Pacifica Radio's The BradCast I interviewed Joyce Block (seen at right), the 90-year old Doylestown, PA resident who has voted legally for 70 years, without fail and without a problem until this year, when the GOP's new polling place Photo ID restriction law threatens to disenfranchise her and so many others like her.
Her story is all the more remarkable considering she was born just two years after the 19th Amendment was ratified, giving women the right to vote --- at least until now. She is a pistol and more than ready for the fight! We were also joined by her grandson-in-law Det Ansinn, the Doylestown Borough Council president who has been working like hell to try and see that Block will be able to vote this year.
Earlier this week, I wrote about Block's remarkable story and the difficulty she's had in receiving one of the so-called "free" IDs, under the new restriction, that would allow her to vote this year, despite all of the paper work she presented to prove that she was who she said she was after a 30 minute-trip to the DMV (thanks to Ansinn!) Today, we got an update on her story, and it includes a bit of good news...sort of.
We were also joined by Desi Doyen with the latest Green News Report, and some good callers, including one who wanted to challenge me on gun rights. So I obliged him...
[NOTE: I interviewed 90-year old Joyce Block from Pennsylvania, the woman discussed in the story below, today (Wed, 4/25) on my KPFK/Pacific Radio show, and she offered a bit of a "good news" update on her story. That interview is now posted here. - BF]
And now it's the voters in Pennsylvania who are beginning to lose their right to vote under new Republican voter suppression laws. The latest story of a citizen having their rights robbed by Big Government GOP disenfranchisement laws is that of Joyce Block, a 90-year old grandmother from Doylestown who has voted for 70 years without a problem --- until now.
We've been reporting for some time on legal voters who are being disenfranchised by Republican-passed polling place Photo ID restrictions around the country. For example, in Indiana there were the 80- and 90-year old nuns who were turned away from the polls in 2008 after that state's first-in-the-nation Photo ID restriction had taken away the rights they'd freely and legally exercised for decades at their own monastery. (They were turned away that year by the poll worker, their fellow sister, who had been forced to follow the new voter suppression law.)
Of course, that same law in the Hoosier State didn't prevent their top election official, charged with overseeing the law, Republican Sec. of State Charlie White, from committing three voter fraud felonies himself. He was found guilty in February of this year and forced to leave office. But these laws aren't actually meant to stop voter fraud. Even proponents of such laws are unable to cite any cases of polling place impersonation --- the only type of voter fraud that could possible be deterred by such laws --- which might have been prevented in their state by polling place Photo ID restrictions. These laws are meant solely to disenfranchise perfectly legal, usually Democratic-leaning voters who disproportionately lack the type of ID now needed to vote in states where these laws have been approved.
We told you about 87-year old Ruthelle Frank, an elected town official in Wisconsin who would have to come up with more than $200 for her "free" ID to vote under the GOP's new law there. And then there was 77-year old Bettye Jones for whom it would be strictly impossible to vote at all under WI's law which was, thankfully, recently found to be in violation of the state Constitution by two separate judges in two separate lawsuits in the Badger State.
Down in Tennessee, we told you about 96-year old Dorothy Cooper who was denied a "free" Photo ID, as now needed to vote there, even though she had her birth certificate to prove she was who she said she was. And we also highlighted 93-year old Thelma Mitchell, who used to clean the Governor's office in the statehouse, but was told that her ID was no longer good enough to cast a vote in the Volunteer State.
We could, of course, go on and on and on with such examples, even as we could detail the many high-profile Republicans who have committed voter fraud --- folks like Mitt Romney and Ann Coulter and many others, to name just a few --- who would not have been prevented from committing their crimes even under Photo ID restrictions, because that's not how voter fraud generally occurs and not the sort of voters these laws are meant to disenfranchise. It is, however, a swell way to keep hundreds of thousands, even millions, of perfectly legal --- largely elderly, minority and student (read: Democratic leaning) --- voters from being able to cast their legal vote.
And now, in Pennsylvania, the most recent state where Republicans have approved a polling place Photo ID restriction law --- and where the state's Republican Governor Tom Corbett blatantly lied about it to the media --- we see the 90-year old grandmother-in-law of a local Borough Council president who looks as if she'll be forced to break her perfect 70-year voting record this November, as she too is unable to receive the supposedly "free" ID soon required to vote in the Keystone State...
On Monday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued two one-sentence orders declining to hear both appeals filed by Republican state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen in two different polling place Photo ID cases. In both, judges in lower courts had blocked the controversial voting rights restrictions passed by Republicans last year, finding that the law violated the state Constitution's guaranteed right to vote.
Republicans had hoped to overturn the temporary injunction placed on the law by Dane County Circuit David Judge Flanagan in Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP v. Walker and the permanent injunction issued by Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Neiss a week later in League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Education Network, Inc. v. Walker.
The issue of a permanent injunction in the NAACP case is being heard this week in Judge Flanagan's court. The evidence included the videotaped testimony of 84-year old, home-born Ruthelle Frank, an elected member of the Brokaw Village Board who has voted in every election since 1948. Frank now faces disenfranchisement because her lack of a birth certificate prevents her from obtaining one of the "free" photo ID forms needed to cast a vote under the now enjoined law, unless she is willing to spend more than $200 for both a birth certificate and the necessary changes to state birth records to correct typos on her name in the state registry.
Van Hollen, whose office said it was "surprised and disappointed" by the Supreme Court's decision, had sought an immediate stay of the injunctions on the grounds of perceived irreparable harm if the upcoming recall elections were conducted without his party's new, draconian Photo ID restrictions in place.
The WI Supreme Court decision this week coincides with an announcement by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), in response to "a massive corporate exodus," that it is abandoning its effort to see that state legislatures pass its "model" polling place photo ID restrictions...