Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Carole Aichele, testifying Tuesday during a state trial on the state’s controversial voter ID law, said she wasn’t sure about the details of the law, but stood by her unsupported claim that 99 percent of voters had valid identification.
“I don’t know what the law says,” Aichele said under questioning, according to CBS.
Aichele also couldn’t provide any evidence that 99 percent of voters already have a valid form of ID, as the state has claimed. CBS reported that when lawyers cited testimony from a Department of State official calling the number likely inaccurate, Aichele responded "I disagree."
Wow. Aichele is a Republican. Her husband is Republican Gov. Tom Corbett's chief of staff. Corbett was recently forced to admit that he had no clue what type of ID was now required to vote under the new law he recently signed.
Not since Arizona's Jan Brewer was promoted by Barack Obama from Sec. of State to Governor, has a state had such a clueless dope as their top election official, apparently. And here I thought the previous Secretary of the Commonwealth, Pedro Cortes, a Democrat, was a disaster back in 2008. I guess the bar is getting pretty low for state election officials in PA!...
Worse, thousands of them, as the paper details, were disqualified due to no fault of voters...
Each election year, Ohio residents cast thousands of ballots that are not counted.
Despite efforts to simplify the state's voting to avoid widespread discarding of ballots, it could happen again in November's presidential race.
The Enquirer, during a weeks-long examination of the state's electoral procedures, found that voting - America's most precious right and the foundation for all others - is a fragile civic exercise for many Ohioans.
A confusing maze of state laws, administrative directives and court rulings on voting procedures, errors - by voters and poll workers alike - and other factors cause large numbers of ballots to end up in the electoral trash can every year, particularly in urban counties.
In Hamilton County alone, hundreds of votes are routinely disqualified in major statewide elections because they are cast in the wrong precinct, often only feet from the correct location. Hundreds more votes have been tossed out for another relatively minor miscue: voters' failure to seal an inner envelope containing their absentee ballot.
The report goes on to warn that, unless there are changes made to the state's election laws and procedures --- including the implementation of changes recommended by state election officials after the 2008 contest --- "tens of thousands of ballots are likely to be disqualified" in the key swing-state, once again, during the 2012 Presidential election...
Ever wonder what one of my blog items sounds like inside my own brain when I write it? On today's BradCast on KPFK/Pacifica Radio (audio posted below), listeners got a bit of an idea, as the terrorist-enabling NRA, in the wake of their Aurora, CO Massacre, was squarely in my sights.
Sadly, they were too busy praying or lying or raising money off the tragedy or something, to show up and defend their deadly positions, so today's show was just me, and a bunch of great callers who, unlike the terrorist-enabling NRA, were not afraid to come on our public airwaves to offer their positions in the public square over our public airwaves.
For the record, here are the folks who declined to show up and support their deadly positions on the show today, or who simply didn't respond at all to our invitation to appear. Yes, we really believe in offering opportunities for all legitimate positions to be heard over our public airwaves...
National Rifle Association (NRA): "We believe that now is the time for families to grieve and for the community to heal. There will be an appropriate time down the road to engage in political and policy discussions."
NRA Official State Associations
Colorado State Shooting Association: "While we appreciate your efforts to present the perspective of gun rights organizations such as CSSA on your program, we are unable to accommodate your request."
Arizona State Rifle & Pistol Assocation: "I am sorry but all we are doing is concentrating on our total support and prayers for those families. I know many are jumping on the bandwagon to ban this or do away with the Constitutions guarantees and such but they are always ready to strike out at folks like us in the gun culture. ... Please forgive me for forgoing the interview. When emotions are more level, I would possibly do an interview. ... Thanks so much for your understanding."
California Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc.: no response
Arkansas Rifle & Pistol Association: no response
Florida Sport Shooting Association, Inc.: no response
Texas State Rifle Association: no response
Politicians with A+ or A grade from the NRA
Rep. Paul C. Broun (R-GA): declined
Former AZ State Senator Russell Pearce (R): declined
Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA): no response
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA): no response
Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MI): no response
Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO): no response
Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-TX): no response
Here's today's show, which also includes a few minutes on the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's stunning admission that there is no known case of in-person voter fraud --- the only kind of voter fraud that might be deterred by the GOP's new polling place Photo ID restriction there --- in the history of the state, and a quick visit from Desi Doyen with the latest Green News Report...
Last night we offered some very encouraging news about an apparent federal challenge, in the works by the U.S. Dept of Justice, against the state of Pennsylvania's disenfranchising, GOP-enacted, polling place Photo ID restriction law. Today's news is even more encouraging!
The stipulation agrees, in plain language, that there has never been a known case of in-person voter fraud --- the only type of voter fraud that can even possibly be deterred by such restrictions --- in the history of the Keystone State, or even in other states, for that matter...
Petitioners and Respondents, by and through their undersigned counsel, hereby stipulate as follows:
1. There have been no investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania; and the parties do not have direct personal knowledge of any such investigations or prosecutions in other states;
2. The parties are not aware of any incidents of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania and do not have direct personal knowledge of in person voter fraud elsewhere;
3. Respondents will not offer any evidence in this action that in-person voter fraud has in fact occurred in Pennsylvania or elsewhere;
5. Respondents will not offer any evidence or argument that in person voter fraud is likely to occur in November 2012 in the absence of the Photo ID law.
I don't think it can be stated any plainer. The GOP's polling place Photo ID restriction, which they have passed under the guise that it is needed to prevent "voter fraud", is, itself, a fraud.
Of course, we've been arguing this point for some time (going on 10 years, in fact). In state after state where these laws have been passed by Republican legislatures and signed by Republican governors on the basis that they are needed to curb "voter fraud", the proponents of the laws in every state have been unable to offer even a single historical case of voter fraud in their state which would have been prevented by these measures.
In other words, these laws are not meant to curb "voter fraud", they are meant to curb voting --- specifically, by people who don't have the type of state-issued Photo ID required under these new laws. In the case of PA, that amounts to some 750,000 legally eligible voters, by the state's own numbers --- more voters than Obama won the state by in 2008. The voters most effected by these laws, as study after study have shown for years, are far and away more Democratic-leaning than Republican.
That's the entire story on these purposely disenfranchising voter suppression laws. Period. Always has been, always will be. That, despite the unforgivably poor reporting by many in the corporate mainstream media suggesting there is some legitimate reason to enact these laws. There isn't. There never has been. And it is that poor reporting which has allowed the GOP to keep this issue alive, as if it is anything but a blatant attempt to suppress the Democratic-leaning vote...
Good news for fans of democracy and voting rights, and for foes of discrimination! Bad news for Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, his GOP state legislature, and perhaps others like them in different states.
The U.S. Dept. of Justice may soon be filing a legal challenge to Pennsylvania's new GOP-enacted polling place Photo ID restriction. The law will affect the ability of some 750,000 legal voters to cast their once-legal vote in the Keystone State this November, unless it is overturned. If the feds choose to bring suit against the new law, it would be the first time the federal agency has used the anti-discrimination provisions of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965 to block such a law.
Last February, as a civil rights group had filed a federal challenge against the state of Wisconsin, charging that state's new GOP-enacted polling place Photo ID restriction violated the federal constitution, we explained how the moment presented a "golden opportunity" for the U.S. Dept. of Justice to join the case and challenge it, as well as similar laws in other states, under Section 2 of the VRA.
As Ernie Canning detailed at the time, the DoJ has, to date, only challenged recently-enacted polling place Photo ID restriction laws in jurisdictions which are covered by Section 5 of the VRA. That section of the landmark federal law requires that new election laws in some 16 states, or parts of states with long histories of racial discrimination at the polls, receive federal government preclearance for the new laws before they may be enforced. Section 5 places the burden on the jurisdictions themselves to demonstrate that the new laws will not have a discriminatory effect.
Since these particular laws have been shown, indeed, to be designed to discriminate against largely Democratic-leaning voters, the states where the laws have been denied preclearance by the DoJ --- states like Texas and South Carolina, for instance --- have been unable to demonstrate their laws did not have the effect of discriminating against legal minority voters. In both of those cases, using data supplied to the DoJ by the states, it was simple to show the discriminatory effect of the new laws. (For example, in South Carolina, African-American voters were found to be 20% more likely to lack the type of ID needed to vote under the new law than white voters. In Texas, the state's own data showed that legal Hispanic voters were as much as 120% more likely to lack the requisite ID to vote under the new law than non-Hispanic voters.)
But similar laws passed in states not covered by Section 5 --- states like Wisconsin, Tennessee, Kansas, and Pennsylvania --- have yet to face the same kind of legal scrutiny from the federal government --- until now...
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...