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“A Great Day For Democracy”: Federal Judge Upholds Early Voting Rights For All Citizens

A federal judge has ordered Ohio to restore in-person voting rights on the weekend before election day, in the second major victory for voting rights advocates in two days.

In July, the Obama campaign filed a lawsuit stating that Ohio’s new election law “arbitrarily eliminates early voting during the three days prior to Election Day for most Ohio voters, a right previously available to all Ohio voters.” The recently enacted law gave preferential treatment to members of the military, who were allowed to vote at a board of elections up through the Monday before Election Day, while civilians had an earlier voting deadline of 6 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day.

The Obama campaign argued that the law was politically motivated and designed to suppress Democratic voters, who are most likely to utilize early-voting options. Additionally, the campaign disputed the legality of instituting unequal voting rights for UOCAVA (“Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voter Act) and non-UOCAVA voters.

In his opinion, Judge Peter C. Economus agreed with the Obama campaign’s complaint.

“A citizen has a constitutionally protected right to participate in elections on an equal basis with other citizens in the jurisdiction.” Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330, 336 (1972). In Ohio, that right to participate equally has been abridged by Ohio Revised Code ‘ 3509.03 and the Ohio Secretary of State’s further interpretation of that statute with regard to in-person early voting. In 2005, Ohio expanded participation in absentee balloting and in-person early voting to include all registered Ohio voters. Now, “in-person early voting” has been redefined by the Ohio legislature to limit Plaintiffs’ access to the polls. This Court must determine whether preliminary injunctive relief should be granted to Plaintiffs on their claim that Ohio’s restriction of in-person early voting deprives them of their fundamental right to vote. Following Supreme Court precedent, this Court concludes that Plaintiffs have stated a constitutional claim that is likely to succeed on the merits. As a result—and as explained below—this Court grants Plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction.

Just hours after the decision, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced that he will appeal to the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. As election law expert Rick Hasen notes, the Sixth Circuit has been “bitterly divided in election law disputes in the past”, and the case “could get very ugly very quickly.” So while the Obama campaign won a victory today, the battle for voting rights in Ohio is far from over.

 

By: Axel Tonconogy, The National Memo, August 31, 2012

September 1, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Poor Donald Trump”: His RNC Prime Time Billing Goes To The Other Clowns

Donald Trump, a television character in a 1980s-era satirical dystopian future SciFi movie, was supposed to have a big “surprise” on Monday at this week’s RNC, which he wasn’t invited to (he says otherwise but he is delusional), but then the Republicans were “forced” to cancel because of Hurricane Isaac. And they didn’t reschedule it.

What they did make time for at the convention included a song by the guy your grandma liked on “American Idol” a few years back, a speech by former Hooters promoter Connie Mack and an old man yelling at a chair.

The old man yelling at the chair was, of course, legendary American actor and director Clint Eastwood, who was invited because I think the organizers assumed he wasn’t as crazy as every single other Republican celebrity, but then he went and did the craziest thing of the week. (I don’t think Eastwood is crazy, actually. He’s just … eccentric.)

That had to be particularly galling, for Donald. This totally unvetted rambling piece of absurdist theater got prime billing right before the nominee, but the dumb video he made was just ignored completely.

Poor Donald didn’t get any attention this week for his craziness, because he wasn’t invited to Tampa. Because he embarrasses the Republican Party. Because he is basically a giant national joke. Donald Trump, object of fun for all Americans, was too embarrassing to be allowed to go to Tampa and ruin Mitt Romney’s party.

You know who was in Tampa? And not just there but constantly being followed by a gaggle of reporters eager to listen to every statement he uttered? Jon Voight. Jon Voight was a special guest at the Republican National Convention, because he is less embarrassing than Donald Trump. Jon Voight, who was in “Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2,” and who is, in 2012, most famous for being Angelina Jolie’s embarrassing estranged father, was on Fox like every 10 minutes while Donald Trump was in New York being ignored by everyone.

Also Stephen Baldwin. He was there too! Everyone said he was super nice.

Those two people — both of whom are completely insane, by the way — are less embarrassing than Donald Trump, who for real thinks he is a well-respected and feared businessman and not a TV clown. I feel so bad for the guy.

By: Alex Pareene, Salon, August 31, 2012

September 1, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“His Party Is The Problem”: Romney’s Loyal Opposition Insurgent Cast Members

Who knew that Mitt Romney was such a fan of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign?

“How many days have you woken up feeling that something really special was happening in America?” Romney told thousands of Republican delegates, alternates and hangers-on Thursday night. “Many of you felt that way on Election Day four years ago. Hope and Change had a powerful appeal.”

Speaking of the “fresh excitement about the possibilities of a new president” Americans felt upon Obama’s election, the man who will now seek to prevent the Democratic president’s re-election told the fortieth Republican National Convention about how much he had hoped Obama would succeed “because I wanted America to succeed.”

But it wasn’t just that citizens wanted America to succeed. As Romney noted: “Every family in America wanted this to be a time when they could get ahead a little more, put aside a little more for college, do more for their elderly mom who’s living alone now or give a little more to their church or charity.… This was the hope and change America voted for.”

In this, Romney was right.

When Americans went to the polls in 2008, the clear majority voted for Barack Obama because they wanted a president who would address the economic missteps and misdeeds that had caused a stock market meltdown on the eve of the election—handing the new president what even one of his harshest critics, Republican vice president nominee Paul Ryan, admitted in his Wednesday night acceptance speech was “a crisis.”

The response to that crisis, Americans hoped, would do more than just bring a measure of stability to the markets. They hoped that it would bring a measure of prosperity to them and to their communities.

Unfortunately, Obama and his party did not have partners in addressing the crisis.

While Romney says he wanted Obama to succeed, Rush Limbaugh said before the new president was inaugurated in January, 2009, “I hope Obama fails.” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said on behalf of the president’s legislative partners: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

Paul Ryan saw to it: rallying opposition to a stimulus that was designed to jumpstart the economy, opposing healthcare reforms that mirrored those Romney implemented as the governor of Massachusetts, and refusing even the most minimal compromises as the nation’s credit rating was threatened during a absurd fight over whether to raise borrowing limits that Democratic and Republican presidents had raised in the past.

Even in the rare instances where Obama put the needs of the nation—and the moment—above politics, other members of “the loyal opposition” merely opposed. One of them even argued against providing the support that was needed to preserve the American auto industry, writing an article that declared: “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”

Who was that guy?

Oh, right, Mitt Romney.

Much was made of the web of deception that Paul Ryan wove with his acceptance speech on Wednesday night. But Romney actually tried to one-up his running mate.

The man who stood before the convention of his party and declared that he wanted Barack Obama to succeed campaigned against Obama’s election in 2008—attacking the Democratic nominee and his supporters for proposing “timid, liberal empty gestures.”

Throughout Obama’s first term, Romney was a steady critic—not just of auto bailouts but of virtually all of the policies of the new administration. He never demanded, as Wendell Willkie did after the 1940 elections, that Republicans recognize the necessity of working with a Democratic president. Like Ryan, Romney abandoned the traditional “one nation” Republicanism of Dwight Eisenhower and a former Michigan governor named George Romney, which argued that Republicans could and should work with Democrats, especially in tough times.

On a night that was all about telling Mitt Romney’s story, with reflections on his humane service with his church, on his not so humane service with Bain Capital and of his moderate Republican service as governor of Massachusetts (well, except for the Romneycare part), Romney and his enthusiasts had plenty to say about Obama’s failings. Even in speeches that were ostensibly about Romney’s business acumen, there were sharp, at times unrelenting “they just don’t get it” attacks on the president.

Then, Romney went for the jugular with lines like: “President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.”

Applause.

“To the majority of Americans who now believe that the future will not be better than the past,” he told the crowd, ‘I can guarantee you this: if Barack Obama is re-elected, you will be right.’”

Thunderous applause.

That just does not sound like a guy who wanted Barack Obama to succeed.

It sounds more like a guy who formed part of a partisan opposition that did everything in its power to make Obama “a one-term president.”

Three years into the first Obama term, veteran Washington watchers Thomas Mann (who works for a think tank packed with former Republican White House aides) and Norman Ornstein (who works for Dick Cheney’s old think tank) wrote an article titled “Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem.”

“We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party,” observed Mann and Ornstein.

“The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition,” they continued. “When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.”

The Republican Party of Teddy Roosevelt and Wendell Willkie, of Dwight Eisenhower and George Romney, of Gerald Ford and, yes, of Ronald Reagan, never moved so far from the mainstream that it would not cooperate and compromise when it came time to do right by America.

But the party that Mitt Romney now leads moved so far that it was, indeed, “nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.”

They did not achieve Limbaugh’s dream of forcing an Obama failure. But they made the president’s tenure dramatically harder, and the prospect for renewal dramatically more difficult to achieve. And, now, Mitt Romney says: “Today the time has come for us to put the disappointments of the last four years behind us. To put aside the divisiveness and the recriminations. To forget about what might have been and to look ahead to what can be.”

Or, it could be a time to consider the successes that might have been if the party that has nominated Mitt Romney for president and Paul Ryan for vice president was not “an insurgent outlier in American politics [that was] ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science.”

“You might have asked yourself over these last years whether this is the America we want,” Romney said in his acceptance speech.

Yes, Americans might have asked just that.

 

By: John Nichols, The Nation, August 30, 2012

September 1, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Mr. Romney Reinvents History”: Says His Party Rallied Behind President Obama

Mitt Romney wrapped the most important speech of his life, for Thursday night’s session of his convention, around an extraordinary reinvention of history — that his party rallied behind President Obama when he won in 2008, hoping that he would succeed. “That president was not the choice of our party,” he said. “We are a good and generous people who are united by so much more than divides us.”

The truth, rarely heard this week in Tampa, Fla., is that the Republicans charted a course of denial and obstruction from the day Mr. Obama was inaugurated, determined to deny him a second term by denying him any achievement, no matter the cost to the economy or American security — even if it meant holding the nation’s credit rating hostage to a narrow partisan agenda.

Mr. Romney’s big speech, delivered in a treacly tone with a strange misty smile on his face suggesting he was always about to burst into tears, was of a piece with the rest of the convention. Republicans have offered precious little of substance but a lot of bromides (“A free world is a more peaceful world!”) meant to convey profundity and take passive-aggressive digs at President Obama. But no subjects have received less attention, or been treated with less honesty, than foreign affairs and national security — and Mr. Romney’s banal speech was no exception.

It’s easy to understand why the Republicans have steered clear of these areas. While President Obama is vulnerable on some domestic issues, the Republicans have no purchase on foreign and security policy. In a television interview on Wednesday, Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, could not name an area in which Mr. Obama had failed on foreign policy.

For decades, the Republicans were able to present themselves as the tougher party on foreign and military policy. Mr. Obama has robbed them of that by being aggressive on counterterrorism and by flexing military and diplomatic muscle repeatedly and effectively.

Mitt Romney has tried to sound tough, but it’s hard to see how he would act differently from Mr. Obama except in ways that are scary — like attacking Iran, or overspending on defense in ways that would not provide extra safety but would hurt the economy.

Before Thursday night, the big foreign policy speeches were delivered by Senator John McCain and Ms. Rice. Mr. McCain was specific on one thing: Mr. Obama’s plan to start pulling out of Afghanistan at the end of 2014 is too rapid. While he does not speak for Mr. Romney, his other ideas were unnerving, like suggesting that the United States should intervene in Syria.

Mr. Romney reportedly considered Ms. Rice as a running mate, and she seems to have real influence. But Ms. Rice is a reminder of the colossal errors and deceptions of George W. Bush’s administration. She was a central player in the decision to invade Iraq and the peddling of fantasies about weapons of mass destruction. She barely mentioned Iraq in her speech and spoke not at all about Afghanistan. She was particularly ludicrous when she talked about keeping America strong at home so it could be strong globally, since she was part of the team that fought two wars off the books and entirely on borrowed money.
Ms. Rice said the United States has lost its “exceptionalism,” but she never gave the slightest clue what she meant by that — a return to President Bush’s policy of preventive and unnecessary war?

She and Mr. McCain both invoked the idea of “peace through strength,” but one of the few concrete proposals Mr. Romney has made — spending 4 percent of G.D.P. on defense — would weaken the economy severely. Mr. McCain was not telling the truth when he said Mr. Obama wants to cut another $500 billion from military spending. That amount was imposed by the Republicans as part of the extortion they demanded to raise the debt ceiling.

Ms. Rice said American allies need to know where the United States stands and that alliances are vitally important. But the truth is that Mr. Obama has repaired those alliances and restored allies’ confidence in America’s position after Mr. Bush and Ms. Rice spent years tearing them apart and ruining America’s reputation in the world.

The one alliance on which there is real debate between Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama is with Israel. But it is not, as Mr. Romney and his supporters want Americans to believe, about whether Mr. Obama is a supporter of Israel. Every modern president has been, including Mr. Obama. Apart from outsourcing his policy to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on settlements, it’s not clear what Mr. Romney would do differently.

But after watching the Republicans for three days in Florida, that comes as no surprise.

 

By: Editorial, The New York Times, August 30, 2012

 

September 1, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Contempt For The Mainstream”: Republican Platform Deletes All Memory Of Moderation

The campaign platform adopted by the Republican party this week became instantly notorious for its plunge to the right, deleting all memory of moderation in previous years. The document might be even more remarkable, however, for its tone of utter defiance.

No one expected the party to soften its support for gun rights, even after the Aurora shooting. But despite the national horror at the deaths of 12 people and the injuries to 58 others, Republicans deliberately added a plank to this year’s platform intended to inflame the gun debate.

As the Associated Press reports, the platform contains this new line: “We oppose legislation that is intended to restrict our Second Amendment rights by limiting the capacity of clips or magazines.” High-capacity magazines, which allow attackers to shoot more people quickly, without reloading, were used in both in Aurora and in the Tucson shooting that injured the former congresswoman Gabby Giffords and killed six. There is no Second Amendment right to shoot without reloading, and even many supporters of the right to bear arms oppose the easy availability of big clips, which used to be illegal.

The platform also supports the “stand your ground” laws that played a role in the shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Florida earlier this year. Where the 2008 platform said that citizens have the right to a gun at home for self-defense, the new one adds a line supporting “the fundamental right to self-defense wherever a law-abiding citizen has a legal right to be.”

On another contentious issue, the platform reverses course on disclosure of political donors, sticking a thumb in the eye of previous generations of Republicans who believed that full disclosure was the antidote to unlimited contributions. As Paul Blumenthal of the Huffington Post reported today, earlier platforms going back to 1996 supported full disclosure, but the current version says exactly the opposite.

“We oppose any restrictions or conditions that would discourage Americans from exercising their constitutional right to enter the political fray or limit their commitment to their ideals,” the document says, explaining why it opposes passage of the Disclose Act, which would end the use of secret donations fueling so many of this year’s attack ads.

After the Citizens United decision, Republicans realized they would gain a huge financial advantage if corporations and executives were allowed to give unlimited sums without fear of public embarrassment. Led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, they constructed a First-Amendment theory to fit this benefit, saying that secrecy protects free speech (for corporations) without worry of harassment.

Now the party has enshrined that political greed and expediency in its fundamental declaration of principles. Although “principles” seems too high-minded a word for these statements of contempt for the mainstream.

 

By: David Firestone, The New York Times Opinion Pages, August 30, 2012

September 1, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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