When did rural, Republican voters become namby-pamby whiners? A number of things have bothered me about the GOP plan to gerrymander the Electoral College, not least of which being the anti-democratic (as opposed to anti-Democratic) quality to it—what I have characterized as an iniquitous attempt to bargain with an unfriendly reality, and what New York Magazine‘s Jonathan Chait calls winning without actually having to win.
Sure the shameless power grab is deeply annoying. But so are the pusillanimous excuses foisted by its advocates.
In case you missed it, some swing-state Republicans want to change the way their states allot electoral votes. The states in question all went for Obama and have Republican governors; the scheme floated would allocate electors by congressional district, in many cases awarding the majority of electoral votes to the candidate who got a minority of the votes. Like I said, it’s a pretty transparent attempt to rig the Electoral College, and as such has mostly collapsed under its own weight as the media and the public focus on it.
But it’s worth listening to the excuses proffered for the idea. Virginia state Sen. Charles Carrico Sr., who sponsored the defunct bill in the commonwealth, told the Washington Post that his constituents “were concerned that it didn’t matter what they did, that more densely populated areas were going to outvote them.” And, as Chait relays, there’s Jase Bolger, the speaker of the Michigan house:
I hear that more and more from our citizens in various parts of the state of Michigan, that they don’t feel like their vote for president counts, because another area of the state may dominate that or could sway their vote.
Or to sum up Carrico and Bolger: “Wah!”
Their constituents worry that they might lose elections because their views are in a minority? Suck it up and try to talk your way back into the majority. They don’t feel like their vote counts because they might lose? Losing is a part of life and it’s concomitant with politics in a free society. Participating in the political system is a right—winning is a privilege that has to be earned by dint of getting a majority of your fellow citizens to cast their precious ballots for you. (And, by the way, voting is a right which tends to be much easier to exercise in rural areas than in urban ones where lines can stretch for hours.)
And guess what—the fact is that being in the political minority is neither an excuse not to vote nor an excuse try to rig the process.
By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, February 7, 2013
If you can’t win by playing fair, cheat.
That seems to be the plan of Republican lawmakers in several battleground states that stubbornly keep going for Democrats during presidential elections. Thanks in part to gerrymandering, many states already have — and will continue to have in the near future — Republican-controlled legislatures.
Republican lawmakers in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin are considering whether to abandon the winner-take-all approach to awarding Electoral College votes and replace it with a proportional allocation.
That change would heavily favor Republican presidential candidates — tilting the voting power away from cities and toward rural areas — and make it more likely that the candidate with the fewest votes over all would win a larger share of electoral votes.
One day I will have to visit the evil lair where they come up with these schemes. They pump them out like a factory. Voter suppression didn’t work in November, and it may even have backfired in some states, so they just devised another devilish plan.
Pete Lund, a Republican state representative in Michigan, “plans to reintroduce legislation that would award all but two of Michigan’s 16 Electoral College votes according to congressional district results,” said an article Friday in The Detroit News.
The paper continued, “The remaining two would go to the candidate winning the statewide majority.”
Lund, who proposed a similar bill in 2012, made Republicans’ intentions completely clear, saying, according to the article: “It got no traction last year. There were people convinced Romney was going to win and this might take (electoral) votes from him.”
These bills are a brazen attempt to alter electoral outcomes and chip away at the very idea of democracy, to the benefit of Republican candidates.
The Detroit News also reported that, according to an analysis by Mark Brewer, the state Democratic Party chairman: “Romney would have gotten nine of Michigan’s electoral votes and Obama would have received seven in 2012 under Lund’s proposal. Instead, Obama garnered all 16 Michigan electoral votes en route to his national tally of 332.”
Meanwhile, Obama beat Romney in the state by a margin of nearly 450,000 votes.
Virginia’s bill is further along than Michigan’s. It’s already being debated.
For reference, although Obama won the state of Virginia and all of its electoral votes last year, as he did in 2008, according to The Roanoke Times on Friday, “If the system had been in effect for the 2012 election, Republican Mitt Romney would have won nine of Virginia’s 13 electoral votes, and President Barack Obama would have won four.” Keep in mind that in November, Obama won the state by almost 150,000 votes.
Republicans in Virginia are just as forthright about their intention to tilt the electoral playing field in their favor.
The Washington Post reported Thursday that the sponsor of Virginia bill’s, Charles W. Carrico Sr., a Republican, “said he wants to give smaller communities a bigger voice.” Carrico told The Post, “The last election, constituents were concerned that it didn’t matter what they did, that more densely populated areas were going to outvote them.”
Yes, you read that right: he wants to make the votes cast for the candidate receiving the fewest votes matter more than those cast for the candidate receiving the most. In Republican Bizarro World, where the “integrity of the vote” is a phrase used to diminish urban votes and in which democracy is only sacrosanct if Republicans are winning, this statement actually makes sense.
David Weigel of Slate explained the point of the Virginia plan this way: “Make the rural vote matter more and make the metro vote count less.”
Luckily, as the Roanoke paper noted Friday, Ralph Smith, the powerful Republican Virginia state senator, isn’t on board:
“Smith said this morning that he opposes the legislation, calling it ‘a bad idea.’ Smith sits on the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee, which will hear the bill next week. Without Smith’s support, it’s unlikely the bill could get to the Senate floor.”
Paul Bibeau, who writes “a blog of dark humor” from Virginia, points out a numerical oddity about the effects of the Virginia law that turns out, upon reflection, to be more stinging than funny: “This bill counts an Obama voter as 3/5 of a person.”
That is because, as Talking Points Memo says, “Obama voters would have received almost exactly 3/5 of the electoral vote compared to their actual population — 30.7 percent of the electoral vote over 51 percent of the popular vote.”
This is not where we should be in 2013, debating whether to pass bills to reduce urban voters to a fraction of the value of other voters and hoping that someone with the power to stop it thinks it’s a “bad idea.”
By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, January 25, 2013
“The Owners Are Getting Scared”: If You Want To Say We’re Just Voting For People Who Promote Our Best Interests, You’re Right
Now that President Obama has won–and is being inaugurated today, hooray!–talk about who should and should not be allowed to vote is becoming more common amongst the tea party rank-and-file.
I work at a homeless shelter. Tonight at dinner, as I sat at our service desk and watched all of the people eat, and talk, and laugh, I remembered how disturbed one of my neighbors was when he heard about our efforts to ensure that the residents of our shelter–and all shelters–got out and voted. My neighbor–white, christian, male, conservative, mid-fifties–went from disturbed to downright offended when President Obama won re-election, and the county that it all seemed to come down to was our county, Hamilton County, Ohio. To my neighbor, by bringing local community organizers into our shelter to have residents sign voting pledges, by having state agencies come in to help our residents register to vote, we were essentially delivering the country to President Obama.
“We didn’t tell them who to vote for”. I said.
“Of course you knew who they were going to vote for. Who gave them the free cell phone?” he said.
Ah, the so-called ‘Obamaphone’. Conservatives hate it. To them, it smacks of decadence, and misguided liberal spending. In reality, it’s a very practical investment for our society to make. Newt Gingrich talked about replacing the safety net with a trampoline: we live in a very high-tech world, and in order to function in this world, we have to be plugged in. If we expect disenfranchised folks to even have a chance at competing, wouldn’t they also have to be plugged in? In the shelter business, we are about helping people get housing, but we’re also about helping people eliminate barriers to housing. If our residents have cell phones, that cuts out a lot of walking time, and a lot of paper work. Ultimately, it should help them get back on their feet, and that is something we all want.
“People who are on the government tit shouldn’t be allowed to vote”. he said.
“If you believe that, then no C.E.O. in the country should be allowed to vote.” I said, always the troublemaker.
“The rich worked for what they’ve got. The people who stay at your shelter have been made soft by the system. ” He said.
My response: You are likely to die in the class you are born into. Inherited wealth gives a person an unfair advantage. Being born into a privileged class gives a person an unfair advantage.Yes, a person can rise from the bottom to the top, but what do they have to become to do so? What do they have to sacrifice? I guarantee you a privileged person who rose to the same level did not sacrifice as much. And what if you don’t have the killer instinct? What if you just want to live a simple life, and not participate in the rat race? Should you have to work so hard? Yes, the man born with sand bags tied around his legs can still hypothetically ‘win the race’, but why not take off those sand bags and see how he does? Why not give him the option of not even running the damned pointless thing in the first place?
It’s a frustrating conversation, especially when you consider that my neighbor should be on my side on this: he is not one of the owners of this society. At best, he only serves as one of the owner’s many attack dogs, operating under the illusion that ‘if only I work hard enough, I too can join the ranks of the owners’. But dogs cannot become men.
The point is, this argument about who should and shouldn’t be allowed to vote is coming up more and more. After Romney lost what he and his followers had deluded themselves into believing would be a great white landslide (no way colored and poor folk will vote again like they did last time!), they started talking about restricting the vote.
But it’s too late for that. Us poor people, Us women, Us black people, Us latino people, Us asian people, Us gay people, us disabled people, us non-religious people–we’re voting. We’re being heard. And if you want to say we are just voting for people who are promoting our best interests, then you’re right: but tell me that the rich in this country don’t do the same thing.
And there are more of us.
The owners are getting scared.
And they should be.
By: Spencer Troxell, Daily Kos, January 21, 2013
Sean Barry showed up at the same polling place in Mount Airy, Pennsylvania, where he cast his ballot for Barack Obama in 2008. But when he got there, the poll workers informed him that his name was nowhere to be found on the voter rolls. They also told him he wasn’t alone; other regular voters had arrived only to find their names missing. All of them had to submit provisional ballots. Allegations of an illegal voter purge were already swirling, and Barry felt uneasy. “I feel unsteady about my vote being counted,” he said. But in the end, with or without Barry’s vote, Obama won Pennsylvania easily.
Voter suppression was only going to have an electoral impact if the race got within spitting distance, and in the end, the attempted voter purges, voter ID laws, and partisan decision-making by elections administrators were not enough to swing the 2012 presidential election to Republicans. It was supposed to pick off the votes of poor and minority voters who vote disproportionately Democratic. Instead, the efforts seemed to have the opposite effect, in some places, galvanizing communities of color. But the issue is far from resolved, and were it not for court orders in many states limiting the suppressive policies, the situation could have been much scarier. Voting rights activists now need to do what they can to keep awareness high post-election. If they do, they may have a chance to reframe the entire debate around casting ballots.
There’s little doubt that the plan to make voting harder backfired in several swing states with large minority communities. Turnout among voters of color, those most likely to be impacted by suppressive tactics, was high, particularly in swing states. African Americans matched their record vote in 2008, while Latinos came out in even higher numbers than last time. In minority precincts in Virginia, Florida, and Ohio, voters waited for hours to cast their ballots. People rarely stand for six or seven hours just to vote for a candidate—this was about their rights, too.
It probably wasn’t a shock to the grassroots organizers spreading the word about the new voting changes. In August, when it appeared Pennsylvania’s voter ID law could disenfranchise a huge chunk of the minority community, I spent time with Joe Certaine, a longtime community activist who was leading the effort to get people IDs. He told me turnout would be higher with the law than without—because no one wanted to see their hard-earned franchise taken away. “The people united will never be defeated,” he said. “It’s just that simple.”
But it wasn’t just people power—Pennsylvania’s voter ID law, like those in Wisconsin, Texas, and elsewhere, was not in effect on Election Day thanks to legal battles. A voter purge in Florida, which targeted disproportionately minority voters, stopped before a court could order it not to, while courts intervened in similar purges in Texas and Colorado. Many of those ongoing court battles will resume next year, and help set the tone for the next election.
Those same people who stood in seven-hour lines to make their voices heard would be well-served to get involved in the efforts to reform the election process as a whole. Given the outcome of the presidential race, there won’t likely be any major post-election legal challenges. But make no mistake, around the country there were plenty of problems—ones with easy solutions. For instance, if there were stricter national standards surrounding how voters are registered and how voter rolls are maintained, we wouldn’t have seen the disturbing reports across Philly of regular voters showing up to discover their names weren’t listed—possible evidence of a last- minute purge. (A spokesperson from the Pennsylvania Secretary of State said the “list maintenance” was “nothing more intensive than normal.”)
Removing partisanship more generally would make an even bigger difference. In Ohio, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted restricted early voting hours and made a series of decisions about provisional ballots that may result in some legitimate voters losing their vote. By moving election administrations to a non-partisan process—like the one in Wisconsin—rules about where, when, and how to vote would be made without regard for which party they help. It’s hard to imagine a reason other than partisanship for why long lines are particularly prevalent in minority precincts, for instance, where there seems to be a perpetual shortage of machines.
After elections, most people stop caring about provisional ballots and voting hours, the seemingly drier aspects of the democratic process. But this election may have illustrated bluntly what’s at stake. Fights over strict voter ID laws around the country helped show that in-person voter fraud is largely a myth, and exposed the partisan Republican agenda behind those laws. The first evidence of a shift in public opinion already came last night, when after polling showed the measure would win, Minnesota voters killed a proposal to create a voter ID law. Voting rights activists may be able to build on the unprecedented coverage of voting issues this election and the organizing they’ve already done to make fair elections a policy issue going forward. Just because the election is over doesn’t mean the battle for voting rights is.
By: Abby Rapoport, The American Prospect, November 7, 2012
President Obama’s reelection was at once a deeply personal triumph and a victory for the younger, highly diverse and broadly progressive America that rallied to him. It was a result that ought to settle the bitter argument that ground the nation’s government to a near-standstill.
The president spent much of the year fighting the effects of a stubbornly sluggish economic recovery and facing implacable opposition among Republicans in Congress who made defeating him a high priority. He fought back by undermining Mitt Romney’s major asset as a private-equity specialist and by enlisting Bill Clinton as his chief explainer.
And he mobilized a mighty army of African American and Hispanic voters. They were all the more determined to exercise their voting rights after Republicans sought in state after state to make it harder for them to cast ballots. Latino voters turned out overwhelmingly for the president, guaranteeing that immigration reform will be on the next Congress’s agenda.
Just as important for governance over the next four years, the president took on an increasingly militant conservatism intent on vastly reducing the responsibilities of government and cutting taxes even more on the wealthiest Americans. In the process, he built a broad alliance of moderates and progressives who still believe in government’s essential role in regulating the marketplace and broadening the reach of opportunity.
Many have argued that the president ran a “small” and “negative” campaign, and he was certainly not shy about going after Romney. But this misses the extent to which Obama made specific commitments and repeatedly cast the election as a choice between two different philosophical directions.
He was not vague about what he meant. Obama campaigned explicitly on higher taxes for the wealthy as part of a balanced budget deal. He stoutly defended the federal government’s interventions to bring the economy back from the brink — and especially his rescue of the auto companies.
It cannot be forgotten that saving General Motors and Chrysler was the most “interventionist” and “intrusive” economic policy Obama pursued — and it proved to be the most electorally successful of all of his decisions. The auto bailout was key to Obama’s crucial victory in Ohio, where six in 10 voters approved the rescue. Union households in the state voted strongly for the president, and he held his own among working-class whites.
The president also called for higher levels of government spending for job training and education, particularly community colleges. And he spoke repeatedly against turning Medicare into a voucher program and sending Medicaid to the states.
The voters who reelected the president knew what they were voting for. They also knew what they were voting against. Romney paid a high price for his comments suggesting that “47 percent” of the electorate was hopelessly dependent on government. Writing off nearly half the potential voters is never a good idea. On Tuesday, a clear majority rejected that notion. It rejected as well Rep. Paul Ryan’s categorization of the country as made up of “makers” and “takers.”
Romney tried hard to scramble toward the political middle in the campaign’s final month, and that too should send a signal: In this election, the hard-line ideas of the tea party were rejected not only by those who voted against the Republicans but also by Republicans themselves. And Republicans will be well aware that tea party candidates, notably in Indiana and Missouri, sharply set back their efforts to take control of the Senate.
Republicans will take solace in their success in holding on to the House of Representatives. But the party as a whole will have to come to terms with its failures to expand beyond its base of older white voters and to translate right-wing slogans into a coherent agenda. Republicans need to have a serious talk with themselves, and they need to change.
All of this strengthens Obama’s hand. It will not be so easy for Republicans to keep saying no. They can no longer use their desire to defeat Obama as a rallying cry. They cannot credibly insist that tax increases can never be part of a solution to the nation’s fiscal problems.
And now Obama will have the strongest argument a politician can offer. Repeatedly, he asked the voters to settle Washington’s squabbles in his favor. On Tuesday, they did. And so a president who took office four years ago on a wave of emotion may now have behind him something more valuable and durable: a majority that thought hard about his stewardship and decided to let him finish the job he had begun.
By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, November 7, 2012