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“Undue Burdens”: Voter ID Laws Are Costing Taxpayers Millions

One federal judge has allowed a voter ID law to take effect in Wisconsin. Another is now contemplating whether to do the same in Texas. Defenders of these laws, which exist in some form in 34 states, insist that requiring people to show government-issued identification at the polls will reduce fraud—and that it will do so without imposing unfair burdens or discouraging people from voting. In North Carolina, for example, Republican Governor Pat McCrory wrote an op-ed boasting that the measures fight fraud “at no cost” to voters.

It’s not surprising that McCrory and like-minded conservatives make such arguments. The Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts has steadily weakened the Voting Rights Act and related legislation, which for generations federal officials used to make sure minority voters had equal voice in the political process. But in 2008, when the Court approved Voter ID laws, the Court left open the possibility of new challenges if plaintiffs can demonstrate the laws impose a burden on would-be voters.

There are now good reasons to think the laws do exactly that.

One reason is a report, published over the summer, from Harvard Law School’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice. Researchers there complied published articles and legal testimony, in order to calculate the cost of of obtaining a government-issued identification. They included everything from the cost of waiting to the cost of traveling and obtaining documentation. Their conclusion? The costs can range anywhere from $75 to $400 per person. The study is not a comprehensive, since it examines evidence from just three states— Texas, Pennsylvania and South Carolina, which had its law blocked by the U.S. Justice Department but upheld by a District Court. But as many as 11 percent of voters don’t have a photo ID, according to the Brennan Center, and the study illustrates the challenge these people—many of them very poor—would face trying to get new identification documents. “The more it can be shown that is a substantial financial cost, the clearer it is that these laws are unconstitutional,” said Richard Sobel, author of the study.

Of course, some people would face higher costs than others. According to the study, people who move from another state can have a particularly hard time, because they’ll have trouble tracking down—and then paying for—the documentation they’ll need to get an identification card. Many states require that people present birth certificates in order to get Voter ID cards, but in at least two states, South Carolina and North Carolina, people who want a new birth certificate must present some other form of government identification. In other words, somebody would need a photo ID in order to obtain a voter ID.

Another group that can face extra costs and difficulty getting ID cards is women—specifically, women who have changed their names after marriage. A study by the Brennan Center from 2006 showed that just 48 percent of women with access to a birth certificate have access to identification with their legal name. “It’s clear the costs are much much greater largely because we change our names,” Elisabeth Macnamara, president of the League of Women Voters, told me. The League of Women Voters in Wisconsin has challenged Wisconsin’s voter ID law, partly on this basis. “We are seeing courts considering the Photo ID and see how much it takes to get one.”

A separate issue is the hassle people face when they try to get Voter ID cards. “We’ve experienced people being treated differently depending which DMV they go to or which examiner they talk to as to whether which document is sufficient,” Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina, said in an interview. These difficulties should strengthen legal challenges to the requirement, he said: “It does bolster the argument that it amounts to a poll tax.”

Individual voters aren’t the only ones who face extra costs because of Voter ID laws. State governments’ do, too. The report from Harvard’s Houston Center showed the laws could cost Pennsylvania between $15.75 million and $47.26 million; South Carolina’s law would cost the state between $5.9 million and $17.70 million; and in Texas, could see the costs for its law go between $26.07 million and $78.22 million. “This is a huge amount of money to get a free ID, especially when the right to vote is a right that should be exercised freely and these resources could be used to getting people out to vote,” Sobel said.


By: Eric Garcia, The New Republic, October 3, 2014

October 4, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Voter ID, Voting Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Contraception Is Not Controversial”: The Last Time The Supreme Court Meddled In Women’s Health, It Was A Big Setback For The GOP

By ruling that family-owned businesses can deny contraceptive coverage to their employees, the Supreme Court handed a victory to a handful of businesses whose owners equate contraception with abortion. But the conservative justices may have dealt a blow to Republican political chances in 2014 and even in 2016.

Polls show, of course, overwhelming public support for contraception, even among Catholics. A Gallup poll in May 2012 found that 89 percent of all respondents and 82 percent of Catholics believed that contraception was “morally acceptable.” If Democrats can paint their Republican opponents as supporters of the Roberts Court and its decisions, they could help their cause significantly, especially among women who might otherwise vote for Republicans or not vote at all.

One can look at the effect an earlier court decision regarding women’s rights had on Congressional and gubernatorial elections. In July 1989, the court handed down Webster v. Reproductive Health Services upholding Missouri’s right to restrict the use of state funds and employees in performing, funding, or even counseling on abortions. It was the first court decision restricting the rights bestowed under Roe v. Wade.

The nation, of course, was divided on the issue of abortion. How the issue played politically depended on which side of the debate saw itself under attack, and in this case the Webster decision mobilized pro-choice supporters. The right to abortion became a hot issue in the 1990 elections, and in the final results, abortion-rights supporters came out ahead. There were several telltale races. In Florida, Democrat Lawton Chiles defeated incumbent Republican Governor Bob Martinez, who, in the wake of Webster, had championed restrictive laws for Florida.

In the Texas governor’s race, Democrat Ann Richards defeated Republican incumbent Clayton Williams. According to polls, Richards, who made opposition to Webster a centerpiece of her campaign, garnered over 60 percent of the women’s vote, including 25 percent of Republican women. In the final tally, abortion-rights supporters, running against or replacing anti-abortion candidates, secured a net gain of eight seats in the House of Representatives, two Senate seats, and four statehouses.

What was also striking was the overall size of the gender gap. According to the National Election Studies survey, there was no gender gap between male and female supporters of Democratic congressional candidates in 1988. In 1990, gender gap was ten percentage pointsthe highest ever. All in all, 69 percent of women voters backed Democratic congressional candidates that year. Of course, there were other issues than Webster that were moving votes, but there is no doubt that the court ruling played an important role that year.

Fast forward to 2014. If Webster improved Democratic chances in 1990, the court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby could prove a boon to Democrats. Abortion rights remain controversial but contraception is not, and the opposition to contraception raises hackles among most voters, but especially among women. If Democrats, who had seemed destined for defeat in November, can tie the ruling around the necks of their Republican opponents, they could do surprisingly well in November.


By: John B. Judis, The New Republic, July 2, 2014

July 3, 2014 Posted by | Contraception, GOP, Hobby Lobby | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Shows Why Ideologues Can’t Govern

Ideologues make lousy politicians, even worse office holders. The ideological straight jacket does just what you would expect–it constricts movement. Everything is nice and neat and tight but not conducive to serious efforts to move forward. Politicians such as Scott Walker, who put themselves in ideological straight jackets, either live to regret it or are thrown out on their ear, or both.

Intellectuals sometimes make good ideologues, cultural commentators make very thought provoking arguments, philosophers have the luxury of being way out on the edge at times, but those who go into office find that they are rejected very quickly by the public when all they have is their ideology.

Scott Walker is the latest example of an ideologue–combined with a self righteous, bullying approach, not backed up by intellectual rigor.

My guess is that the events of the last month will not only harm him politically in the short run but will result in a serious problem for those who follow in his footsteps.

First and foremost, his approach to governing won’t work. Cutting taxes for ideological reasons, rather than pragmatic ones, prohibiting local governments from paying for education with their own decisions on local taxes, cutting services to the bone, breaking collective bargaining with unions, making them a scapegoat, just won’t wash.

Look at the governors who are putting forth a balanced, reasonable approach to focusing on the dual realities of too much spending and too little revenue. They are not engaging in a hard and fast ideological battle. They are pragmatic. They do not focus only on slash and burn cuts but, rather, are flexible enough to include tax and fee increases.

What was Walker thinking, cutting taxes by $117.2 million as his first act when his state faced a deficit of $137 million? I guess I get the million dollars he included to encourage businesses to move to Wisconsin but I sure as heck don’t understand a $49 million tax cut for health savings accounts. The rich will take advantage of that boondoggle and it won’t create jobs.

That was ideology, not pragmatism.

Look at Gov. Jerry Brown in California, or Mark Dayton in Minnesota, or John Kitzhaber of Oregon, John Lynch of New Hampshire, Pat Quinn in Illinois, or Andrew Cuomo in New York. These are governors, many of whom have a lot tougher problem than Wisconsin, who are struggling and succeeding, not resorting to hard ideology, not refusing to look at the revenue side of the equation.

If members of Congress take lessons from the states, they should learn a whopper from Wisconsin. Don’t follow in Walker’s footsteps, look to the governors listed above.

In fact, they can even look to Ronald Reagan who as governor way back in 1967 raised taxes by $1 billion in California as well as cut the budget. As president, he raised taxes in every year but one, when it was necessary. He learned very quickly about “never saying never.” He didn’t put himself in the ideological straight jacket that many now fantasize about. I am not a Reagan fan, but I do recognize he was pragmatic.

Walker is in way over his head. Sadly, he has been a train wreck for his state. Let’s not let his style and approach be a train wreck for the nation.

By: Peter Fenn, U.S. News and World Report, March 11, 2011

March 12, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Class Warfare, Deficits, Economy, Governors, Ideologues, Jobs, Middle Class, Politics, States, Unions | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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