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“Crazy Idea”: Laws To Encourage Voting

Connecticut has taken the lead in proposing measures to increase voter turnout by—get this—making it easier to vote.

Voter ID laws have been all the rage around the country, with conservative lawmakers pushing to make it harder to vote, often by requiring some form of government-issued photo identification. The goal, at least according to rhetoric, is to keep the process safe from fraud—despite there being no real evidence of in-person voter fraud, the only kind such laws would actually prevent. In the meantime, states struggle with low-turnout rates and sometimes low registration rates. In Texas, which recently passed one of the more stringent ID requirements, residents vote at among the lowest rates in the country.

All of which makes Connecticut’s current voting debate somewhat shocking by comparison. The secretary of state has taken the lead in proposing measures to increase voter turnout by—get this—making it easier to vote. Two proposals make it easier to register by offering same-day registration for those who show up on Election Day and creating an online voter registration system so people can do it from home. Another measure would increase penalties for voter intimidation. According to officials, the efforts are much-needed to increase turnout. As the Hartford Courant reports:

“It’s long past time that we move our elections into the 21st century in Connecticut,” Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said during a press briefing Friday prior to a legislative hearing on the proposals. “We are not on the cutting edge and our system is old, costly and inconvenient.”

As a result, Merrill said, one out of three state residents who are eligible to vote aren’t even registered.

Voting, most of us can all agree, is a good thing to do. But legislation around voting has become largely about partisan advantage—voter ID laws are seen to give Republicans an advantage because the impact would be particularly felt in poor and minority communities, both largely Democratic constituencies. Not shockingly, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that the American Legislative Exchange Council, a meeting place for corporate interests and conservative lawmakers, has helped bolster the efforts to pass voter ID laws around the country—presumably because ALEC hopes to see more conservatives get into office. Meanwhile Democrats argue voter ID laws decrease access and function like a poll tax, as a way of making it harder for certain communities to vote.

The Courant article shows the same cynicism comes at efforts to increase voting—since those efforts will likely benefit Democrats. One Republican asks why there’s a need for these laws and worries about devaluing the ballot box if access is too easy. Politicians are rarely angels, and it’s likely both sides take an interest at least in part because they hope for political gain.

But that’s largely beside the point. American citizens, regardless of political affiliation, have the right to vote. Increasing access to that right is important; in the secular religion of democracy, voting is practically a holy act. While the efforts to increase turnout in Connecticut may benefit Democrats, that doesn’t change that it benefits the democratic process as well.

 

By: Abby Rapoport, The American Prospect, March 6, 2012

March 7, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Voters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“They Go All Wobbly”: Rush Limbaugh Instills Fear In GOP Candidates

How’s this for political cowardice? Right-wing bloviator Rush Limbaugh launches a vile attack, full of sexual insults and smarmy innuendo, against a young woman whose only offense was to speak her mind. Asked to comment, the leading Republican presidential candidates — who bray constantly about “courage” and “leadership” — run from the bully and hide.

“I’ll just say this, which is, it’s not the language I would have used,” said Mitt Romney. I wonder what language Romney thinks Limbaugh should have used to call Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute.”

“He’s being absurd, but that’s, you know, an entertainer can be absurd,” said Rick Santorum. I doubt seriously that Fluke found it entertaining, in an absurdist kind of way, when Limbaugh creepily suggested she and other women post sex videos on the Internet. I hope and trust that Santorum wasn’t entertained, either.

As for Newt Gingrich, the cat got his tongue, and apparently didn’t return it until Limbaugh had already apologized to Fluke for his “insulting word choices.” Gingrich went out on a limb Sunday and called Limbaugh’s apology “appropriate.”

Which it wasn’t, by the way. Limbaugh’s claim that “I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke” is an obvious lie; there’s no impersonal way to call a woman a slut. His abuse of Fluke — who advocated publicly last week that the health insurance she receives through Georgetown, a Catholic university, should be required to cover birth control — was no one-time gaffe. He poured it on, day after day.

And when he decided to back down, Limbaugh apologized only for his choice of words — not for the bitter misogyny he now believes he should have cloaked in prettier language.

Of the GOP candidates, only Ron Paul seemed to notice the insincerity of Limbaugh’s regret. “I don’t think he’s very apologetic,” Paul said. “He’s doing it because some people were taking their advertisements off his program. It was his bottom line he’s concerned about.”

Why will Paul say the obvious while Romney, Santorum and Gingrich are barely willing to clear their throats? Because Paul, who is in this campaign to spread the gospels of libertarianism and Austrian economics, knows he can’t win the Republican nomination. The others, who think they do have a chance to win, are afraid of making Limbaugh into an enemy  — or, in Romney’s case, into more of an enemy than he already is.

So let’s get this straight: These guys want us to believe they’re ready to face down Vladimir Putin, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong Eun, the Taliban and what’s left of al-Qaeda. Yet they’re so scared of a talk-radio buffoon that they ignore or excuse an eruption of venom that some of Limbaugh’s advertisers — nine, at last count, have said they would no longer sponsor the show — find inexcusable.

I would have thought that crass political calculation might lead the would-be GOP nominees to the correct position on Limbaugh’s rhetorical depravity. Women constitute a majority of voters. If they merely lean toward the Democrats this fall, as they usually do, Republicans still have a mathematical chance to win the presidency by racking up a big majority among men. But if the GOP is perceived to endorse Limbaugh’s hateful rhetoric about “feminazis” and his stance of male grievance, female voters could turn what looked like a winnable election for Republicans into a debacle.

But Romney, Santorum and Gingrich are so frightened of being labeled insufficiently conservative — in this context, meaning “not nice enough to Rush” — that when given the opportunity to show some backbone, they go all wobbly.

What does this say about these men? To me, it suggests that maybe Romney isn’t as smart and disciplined as he’s said to be. Maybe Santorum isn’t as sincere, compassionate or moralistic as he appears. Maybe Gingrich’s vaunted intellectual courage is afraid of its own shadow.

As it happens, President Obamacalled Fluke last week to express his support. Perhaps, as a father, he imagined how he would feel if one of his daughters were attacked so viciously. Perhaps, as a canny politician, he saw the benefit of denouncing Limbaugh’s caustic caterwauling.

Either way, Republicans spent yet another week talking about contraception. Casey Stengel once said that “most ballgames are lost, not won.” He could have been talking about elections.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 5, 2012

March 7, 2012 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Women's Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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