Standing up to the NRA after Roanoke, horrifying U.S. gun death toll; PLUS: Denying global warming on Katrina's 10th anniversary; Trump's ugly nativism; Good news for Dems; Marriage dead-enders in KY...
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...
Today, The BRAD BLOG's legal analyst Ernie Canning joined me on KPFK/Pacifica Radio's The BradCast to respond to my question: "What's the problem with ALEC?"
As I note in the opening, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), was co-founded in 1973 by Paul Weyrich (seen in the photo at right, and heard advocating in favor of vote suppression during the show). The group is a self-described "nonpartisan public-private partnership of America's state legislators, members of the private sector, the federal government, and general public" and has been vilified by progressives for the abhorrent policies they advocate (eg. polling place Photo ID restrictions, "Stand Your Ground" laws, etc.)
But other than partisan and/or political differences, isn't what ALEC does perfectly legal? Wouldn't the same type of an organization that advocated for progressive legislation in the same aggressive manor be welcomed by folks on the non-right? And if there is a problem with ALEC, isn't it one that underscores the systemic problems of our corporate lobbying and campaign finance laws, rather than a problem with ALEC themselves? In other words, aren't they only doing what our horrible system allows them to do?
Canning, as you may imagine, has some thoughts on all of that, as do several of our callers --- all of which you can hear in today's episode below. Oh, and though ALEC has yet to respond to our invitation to appear today, we'd still be delighted for them to do so if they'd like to have equal time on a future show.
Our own crack legal analyst Ernie Canning pulls together many of the strands we've been reporting here, for many months, on the Wisconsin GOP's attempt to dismantle voting rights in their state in advance of both the 2012 Presidential Election and, perhaps more importantly, before the upcoming recall elections of Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four Republican state Senators.
It's all a part of the continuing "War for Wisconsin" which we've been covering in great detail here at The BRAD BLOG for quite a while.
If you've had any trouble keeping up, or missed any of the thrilling chapters in the state Republicans' if-ya-can't-beat-'em-disenfranchise-'em, take-no-prisoners assault on the voting rights of legal voters, Ernie puts it all together and brings you right up to date in an interview today by OpEdNews' Joan Brunwasser...
In Wisconsin, two Dane County Circuit Court judges, David Flanagan and Richard Niess both issued injunctions against the state GOP's polling place photo ID restriction ("Act 23") --- Flanagan's temporary, Niess' permanent --- after finding that the law was in direct violation of the WI state constitution's guaranteed right to vote.
Immediately after the first of those two injunctions, issued by Judge Flanagan in Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP v. Walker, the WI GOP filed an ethics complaint with the WI Judicial Commission, alleging that the judge had violated the WI Code of Judicial Conduct because he had signed a petition to recall Gov. Scott Walker (R) and failed to disclose that fact before issuing his ruling.
Fresh off of telling women they should just "close your eyes" when they are forced by the state to have the government come between them and their doctor for a mandated ultrasound before being allowed to terminate a pregnancy, Pennsylvania's Republican Gov. Tom Corbett is now just making stuff up concerning "voter fraud" in his state.
Comments highlighted by Steve Benen at Maddow Blog today suggest the Governor is willing to say just about anything to justify the disenfranchising polling place Photo ID restrictions just passed and signed into law by Republicans in the Keystone State...
Asked to explain the need for such a measure, Corbett offered a curious explanation (thanks to reader K.M. for the tip):
When some of the precincts come in with a 112 percent reporting you have to scratch your head and say how does that happen?" questioned Governor Corbett.
At a certain level, that may seem persuasive. If there were precincts in the Keystone State that had 112% participation, then Republicans would have a pretty strong case for new measures intended to crack down on abuses.
But here's the trouble: there are no examples of Pennsylvania precincts, at [any] time or in [any] election, coming in with 112% participation. Corbett appears to have simply made this up.
We thought we'd double check on that with Marybeth Kuznick, founder of VotePA, the non-partisan election integrity watchdog organization which has been fighting to improve the state's electoral system --- and help stop election fraud --- for years now.
She concurs that Corbett's statement is, as she described it to us, simply "ludicrous"...
[UPDATES: My appearance on RT TV discussing the story below, is now posted here. || Brent Stafford, the Ron Paul supporter who was arrested outside the aborted GOP caucus in St. Charles, MO over the weekend, and Lori Bone seen trying to hold GOP officials accountable after the Clarke County, GA delegate convention was stolen the week prior, both stories discussed and seen on video below, were my guests on my KPFK/Pacifica Radio show Wednesday, 3/21/12. You can now listen to those interviews here. - BF]
This is just amazing. At yesterday's GOP caucus in St. Charles, MO --- one of the largest and most conservative counties in the state --- the Republican establishment is seen blatantly attempting to steal the caucus from supporters of Ron Paul.
As the caucus was prematurely shut down before a vote, with state police called in, no delegates were elected at what "was to have been the biggest single prize of the day," according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch coverage of the Missouri Caucuses' mess. It was just the latest, of many, embarrassments to arise out of a GOP caucus state this year.
A Facebook page called "Hold St. Charles Republican Tyrants Accountable" includes many cell phone videos of the near riots that occurred as party leaders attempted to commandeer the caucus to thundering cries of protest and shouts of "Point of Order!" and "Division!" (a non-debatable process in Roberts Rules of Order requiring the chair to have an immediate vote by a different means, such as rising, after a contested voice vote) by what seems to be hundreds of Paul supporters.
Despite the GOP ordering recording devices to be turned off at the outset of the meeting for some reason, a number of videos [several are posted below] appear to document what happened as one man declared himself chair --- without the approval of attendees --- before subsequently naming a parliamentarian and other caucus officials, in what looks to be a very clear violations of the rules of order that are supposed to be used in the MO GOP caucuses.
A very similar commandeering of the Athens-Clarke County, Georgia delegate convention was reported --- and also documented on video --- last week. Those videos [also posted below] show state and county GOP officials blatantly ignoring what appears to be a majority of Paul supporters hoping to elect their own as delegates to the district and state GOP conventions. There as well, calls for "Division" votes were summarily ignored by the chair, and the official proceedings were prematurely shut down without the required two-thirds majority vote.
At the St. Charles caucus yesterday, state and local police were called in and the caucus was prematurely "voted" to a close (or, at least, announced as much by the local party apparatchik who had declared himself chairman). An impromptu parking lot meeting of Paul supporters outside the venue afterward was then broken up by several dozen police, a hovering helicopter, police sirens, and the arrest of Brent Stafford, the man who is seen as the local leader of the Paul supporters. Stafford was peacefully addressing the crowd in the parking lot when he was handcuffed and hauled away to shouts of "Right to Assemble!" from the onlookers.
I can't say that I've ever seen anything like the huge St. Charles event or the very similar, if smaller and less unruly, Athens-Clarke County, GA affair. At both events, Republican Party officials appear to be caught in the act --- and on video tape --- of blatantly stealing the democratic processes away from supporters of Paul.
All of that, amidst the background of elected Republican officials across the nation implementing disenfranchising polling place Photo ID restrictions in order to, they claim, deter "voter fraud" from corrupting elections...
On Friday, an intermediate Wisconsin appellate court denied a request made by WI Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen (R), on behalf of Gov. Scott Walker's administration, to stay an order issued earlier this month by a Dane County Circuit Court that temporarily suspended the state GOP's polling place Photo ID law.
In Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP v. Walker --- the first of two cases within the past two weeks to result in an injunction on the voting restrictions, known as "Act 23," enacted by a Republican-majority last year --- Judge David Flanagan temporarily enjoined [PDF] enforcement of the law on the grounds that it was in violation of the WI Constitution's guaranteed right to vote.
As of now, that injunction will still stand. In the bargain, local election officials are now seeking to comply with Judge Flanagan's order, so that Photo ID will not be required at the polls in the statewide April primary elections, upcoming recall elections scheduled for May and June, or for the 2012 general election this November.
Unless the denial of a stay is promptly reversed by the partisan Republican majority on the WI Supreme Court, the ruling could have an immediate adverse impact on the ability of the state's controversial Governor, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and the Republican state Senators facing upcoming recall elections to retain office...