mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Judge Slams Voter Suppression Law”: ‘Why Does The State Of North Carolina Not Want People To Vote?’

Voting rights advocates in North Carolina caught a lucky break on Thursday, where it was revealed that the panel of three judges who would consider that state’s comprehensive voter suppression law included one Clinton appointee, Judge Diana Gribbon Motz, and two Obama appointees, Judges James Wynn and Henry Floyd. Last month, a George W. Bush appointee to a federal trial bench in North Carolina allowed the law to go into effect during the 2014 election, the panel of three judges from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit are now considering whether to affirm or reverse that decision. They heard oral arguments in the case on Thursday.

Several provisions are at issue in this case that all make it more difficult for residents of North Carolina to cast a vote. One provision cuts a week of early voting days. Another restricts voter registration drives. A third implements a strict voter ID law, although that provision does not take effect until 2016, so it would be reasonable for the court to decide not to suspend it during the 2014 election.

One provision that received a great deal of attention from the judges during Thursday’s oral arguments in this case is a change to the state law that causes ballots to be tossed out if a voter shows up in the wrong precinct. For the last decade, voters who showed up at the wrong precinct would still have their votes counted in races that were not specific to that precinct, so long as they voted in the correct county. The new law prohibits these ballots from being counted at all. According to the Associated Press, that means thousands of ballots will be thrown out each election year.

Judge Wynn, the only member of the panel who lives in North Carolina, appeared baffled by this provision. Explaining that he lives very close to a precinct that is not his assigned polling place, he asked the state to justify why his vote should be thrown out if he did not travel to a precinct that is further away from his home. At one point, his questions grew quite pointed — “Why does the state of North Carolina not want people to vote?” Wynn asked. At another point, he described a hypothetical grandmother who has always voted at the same place. Why not “let her just vote in that precinct?” he wondered?

An attorney defending the North Carolina law spent a great deal of his time at the podium arguing that it would be too disruptive for a court to suspend parts of North Carolina’s election law this close to the November elections. As a legal matter, this is a strong argument. In a 2006 case called Purcell v. Gonzalez, the justices reinstated a voter ID law that had been halted by a lower court. They explained that “[c]ourt orders affecting elections, especially conflicting orders, can themselves result in voter confusion and consequent incentive to remain away from the polls. As an election draws closer, that risk will increase.”

Yet the judges seemed skeptical of this argument as well, questioning what evidence the state could show that voters would actually be confused. When an attorney argued that restoring lost voting rights could be logistically challenging for the state, Judge Floyd asked whether “an administrative burden [can] trump a constitutional right?”

The argument that judges should heed Purcell‘s warning and be cautious about changing voting law close to an election also did not convince a much more conservative panel considering another voter suppression law in Wisconsin. Earlier this month, a panel of three Republican judges reinstated a voter ID in a single page order issued the same day that they heard oral arguments in the case. At the time, election law expert Rick Hasen criticized this order as a “very bad idea,” in part because of the reasons stated in Purcell. There are already early signs that Hasen was correct.

The Wisconsin case is already making its way to the Supreme Court, and the North Carolina case is likely to wind up there as well, especially if the Fourth Circuit rules against the state’s law. Should both cases come before the justices, that means that they will be confronted with one case where a court changed a state’s election law in a way that Democrats generally approve of, and another case where a court changed the state’s election law in a way that Republicans generally approve of. Both of these changes, moreover, would be made close to an election.

If the conservative Roberts Court really meant what it said in Purcell, then it is likely to allow the North Carolina law to go into effect while suspending the Wisconsin law. Should it allow both laws to take effect, however, that would raise serious concerns about whether the justices are willing to apply the same rule to every case, regardless of whether the rule benefits Democrats or Republicans.

 

By: Ian Millhiser, Think Progress, September 29, 2014

September 30, 2014 Posted by | North Carolina, Voter Suppression, Voting Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Judicial Neutrality Is Nothing But A Farce”: The Latest ObamaCare Decision Makes It Official, We Need More Liberal Judges

After the passage of ObamaCare in 2010, dozens of conservative wonks, activists, and lawyers began poring over the text of the law, trying to find some legal foothold to overthrow as much of it as possible. First they argued that the law’s individual mandate was unconstitutional in NFIB vs. Sebelius, which was rejected by the Supreme Court in 2012. However, the decision weakened the law by making its expansion of Medicaid optional, which led most conservative states to reject it and deny coverage to millions of poorer Americans.

Then, in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby, conservatives attacked the scope of the law’s mandated coverage, arguing that the inclusion of certain kinds of contraception violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That one they basically won, though the damage was minimal.

You’ll know these efforts by what conservatives usually call them: “judicial activism.” It paid off again today, with a three-member panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit dealing a sharp blow to ObamaCare’s subsidy system. Adrianna McIntyre explains:

The suit alleges that subsidies should only be available in states that set up their own insurance exchanges, based on the text of the Affordable Care Act. The government can still appeal, but if it ultimately loses the case at the Supreme Court, it’s possible that federal subsidies will no longer be available to help make insurance affordable in over 30 states.

Due to what appears to many outside observers to have been poorly crafted legislative language, Congress arguably wrote a sentence that provides subsidies exclusively to state-based exchanges and not to federally facilitated ones, even while subjectively intending to provide subsidies in both cases. [Vox]

Now, Halbig v. Burwell is only a preliminary ruling. The government probably will request an “en banc” ruling before the entire appellate court, which leans to the left — thanks to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pushing through filibuster reform that filled its long-empty seats with President Obama’s appointees. What’s more, another ruling hours later by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, upheld the ObamaCare subsidies, deferring to the government’s interpretation of the language to mean that it is authorized to dole out those subsidies. It’s possible this will all end up before the Supreme Court, increasingly America’s only policy-making body of consequence.

God only knows what the high court will decide. Thirty-six states did not create their own ObamaCare exchanges, which means that upholding Halbig would swipe the subsidies from something like 87 percent of people who bought insurance on the federal exchange — about 4.7 million of them. Premiums would shoot up by an average of 76 percent, basically crippling the law. An individual mandate is unjustifiable without subsidies for people who can’t afford insurance. Chief Justice John Roberts might balk at destroying the keystone achievement of the Obama presidency on what amounts to a trivial technicality — or he might not.

What we do know is that the concept of judicial “neutrality” is nothing but a farce. The conservative goal is to pick at any possible legal thread and mobilize the judicial system to achieve their aim of destroying the law and throwing millions of people off their health insurance, even if the underlying legal rationale is wildly tendentious or weaselly or undemocratic. There will be Republican-appointed judges who will buy such arguments wholesale, as evidenced by the conservative majority in Halbig, which didn’t even bother to hide their scorn for the government’s case.

Indeed, half the reason so many states don’t have exchanges in the first place is that a Cato Institute analyst named Michael Cannon has been crossing the nation telling them not to, with the deliberate object of maximizing the damage to ObamaCare if the courts endorsed Halbig-style reasoning.

Liberals need to jettison the impossible idea of neutral, objective judges, and just get avowed lefties appointed wherever possible. As conservatives have demonstrated, that’s simply how the system works.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, July 22, 2014

July 23, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Conservatives, Judicial System | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Arrogance Cloaked In Humility”: Conservative Judges Are Ganging Up To Steal Your Affordable Healthcare

Tuesday morning, two competing courts – and the conservative judges turned silent partisan assassins that dominate them – put at risk the affordable health insurance on which millions of Americans have already come to rely. These six robed men in Washington and Virginia, within about two hours, have now set up yet another US supreme court showdown on the Obamacare law Republicans on Capitol Hill just couldn’t kill, despite trying more than 50 times.

Up first: an outrageous two-to-one decision by a panel of the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruling against sensible subsidies that real people need, based on what we can charitably called the “reasoning” of the two Republican nominees on the three-judge panel – the opinion was written by an appointee of George HW Bush, along with a judge nominated by his son.

They were asked to decide on the legality of the subsidies based on the precise wording of the Affordable Care Act, which provided health benefits to non-affluent Americans purchasing insurance from federal exchanges newly established under President Obama’s signature health-care law. In the literal language of the statute, subsidies are available to those purchasing insurance on “state exchanges”, although a majority of exchanges were ultimately established in the states by the federal government because of state-level Republican hostility to the law. Sensibly, the Internal Revenue Service allowed anyone who purchased from any exchange – federal or state – to qualify for the subsidies.

The Bush-appointed judges, however, aren’t much for being sensible: they ruled instead that only those who purchase insurance from the exchanges established by the states are allowed subsidies.

In what can only be described as black comedy, the majority opinion concludes with paeans to judicial restraint. (One is reminded of Lewis Carroll’s Walrus, “deeply sympathizing” with oysters prior to having “eaten every one”.) “We reach this conclusion, frankly, with reluctance,” the majority wrote, going on to concede the following:

[O]ur ruling will likely have significant consequences both for the millions of individuals receiving tax credits through federal Exchanges and for health insurance markets more broadly.

But they are compelled, you see, to inflict these consequences as a means of “ensuring that policy is made by elected, politically accountable representatives, not by appointed, life-tenured judges.” For two judges to subvert the clear purpose of the law in the name of judicial restraint is, to borrow Justice William Brennan’s phrase, arrogance cloaked as humility.

The sole dissenting judge, Harry Edwards, in his tour de force dissent, made clear his distaste for appointed judges making new law – and pointed out that the majority opinion requires the courts to ignore all the sound principles of statutory construction.

Congress clearly thought the subsidies were essential to the functioning of the exchanges, and it permitted the federal government to establish exchanges in order to prevent states from thwarting the aims of the ACA – which is to help people buy more affordable health insurance.

The majority’s reading, however, would allow hostile states to do exactly what the law was designed to prevent: by refusing to establish a state exchanges, they could effectively stop all the exchanges from working properly.

As Edwards observes, the majority’s interpretation “is implausible because it would destroy the fundamental policy structure and goals of the ACA that are apparent when the statute is read as a whole”. Plus, not a single state government – even those hostile to the law – believed that the statute demands what the majority says it does. Nobody is confused about what the law intended, but some people who oppose the ACA on political grounds are opportunistically pretending to be.

Meanwhile, just across the Potomac River, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals was charged with hearing a different case on the same question. But it ruled in favor of the administration, effectively siding with the first ruling’s minority opinion. That’s the sort of legal dichotomy – however strange the buzzer-beater timing – that pretty much guarantees the supreme court will ultimately answer this question for all the Americans using the federal exchanges.

That’s slim comfort for some: while most of the law narrowly survived a constitutional challenge that made it to the supreme court, the number of Americans covered by it would be much higher had the court not used bafflingly illogical reasoning to re-write the act’s Medicaid expansion in a separate ruling, which made it easier for states to opt out of that provision.

That’s all part of the Republican strategy, of course: once they lost their battle in Congress to ensure that as many non-affluent Americans as possible would continue to experience the “freedom” of going without health insurance coverage, they’ve been throwing ad hoc legal arguments at the ACA, hoping that something would stick.

Don’t be fooled that the judges who hear these challenges are not influenced by the ongoing political partisanship. As Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress demonstrated, both judges who ruled against the subsidies today are highly partisan Republicans.

Despite Republican efforts, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine published last week found that 20m Americans are now covered by the exchanges and Medicaid expansion created by the Affordable Care Act. For all its imperfections, the law is a striking policy success and has done a great deal to address a major national problem. However, the Republican party – and most of its agents on the federal courts – would still prefer the number of Americans who benefit from the law to be much lower, as evidenced by their legal strategy.

The only good news is that this decision against the subsidies may not stand. The federal government is expected to appeal for a hearing from the entire DC circuit court, and it is unlikely that the full court would reach the same conclusion. It’s also far from clear that opponents’ argument could command a majority of the supreme court, where the cases are probably headed.

But it’s still remarkable that an argument this legally weak – and with such destructive human consequences – could command support from the majority of an appellate panel. Given the active Republican hostility to the Affordable Care Act, and the party’s utter indifference to the fate of the millions of people is helping, there’s no way to be entirely confident that the supreme court won’t use the opportunity of a new case to take something else away from the Americans who need it.

 

By: Scott Lemieux, The Guardian, July 22, 2014

 

 

July 23, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Conservatives, Obamacare | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Vengeful And Ridiculous”: A Shabby Crusade in Wisconsin

The latest technique used by conservatives to silence liberal academics is to demand copies of e-mails and other documents. Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli of Virginia tried it last year with a climate-change scientist, and now the Wisconsin Republican Party is doing it to a distinguished historian who dared to criticize the state’s new union-busting law. These demands not only abuse academic freedom, but make the instigators look like petty and medieval inquisitors.

The historian, William Cronon, is the Frederick Jackson Turner and Vilas research professor of history, geography and environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin, and was recently elected president of the American Historical Association. Earlier this month, he was asked to write an Op-Ed article for The Times on the historical context of Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to strip public-employee unions of bargaining rights. While researching the subject, he posted on his blog several critical observations about the powerful network of conservatives working to undermine union rights and disenfranchise Democratic voters in many states.

In particular, he pointed to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group backed by business interests that circulates draft legislation in every state capital, much of it similar to the Wisconsin law, and all of it unmatched by the left. Two days later, the state Republican Party filed a freedom-of-information request with the university, demanding all of his e-mails containing the words “Republican,” “Scott Walker,” “union,” “rally,” and other such incendiary terms. (The Op-Ed article appeared five days after that.)

The party refuses to say why it wants the messages; Mr. Cronon believes it is hoping to find that he is supporting the recall of Republican state senators, which would be against university policy and which he denies. This is a clear attempt to punish a critic and make other academics think twice before using the freedom of the American university to conduct legitimate research.

Professors are not just ordinary state employees. As J. Harvie Wilkinson III, a conservative federal judge on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, noted in a similar case, state university faculty members are “employed professionally to test ideas and propose solutions, to deepen knowledge and refresh perspectives.” A political fishing expedition through a professor’s files would make it substantially harder to conduct research and communicate openly with colleagues. And it makes the Republican Party appear both vengeful and ridiculous.

By: The New York Times, Editorial, March 25, 2011

March 26, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Collective Bargaining, Conservatives, Democracy, GOP, Gov Scott Walker, Governors, Ideologues, Politics, Republicans, State Legislatures, States, Unions, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Republicans | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

%d bloggers like this: