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“It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over”: Pennsylvania GOP To Reconsider Electoral-Vote Scheme

Republican Mike Turzai, Pennsylvania’s House Majority Leader, made quite a name for himself over the summer when he boasted that the state’s voter-ID law, ostensibly about the integrity of the electoral process, “is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”

That plan didn’t go well — courts rejected the voter-suppression effort and President Obama won the Keystone State with relative ease. But Turzai isn’t done rolling out election schemes (via my colleague Laura Conaway).

A Pennsylvania lawmaker is proposing making the state the only one to divide its electoral votes based on a presidential candidate’s percentage of public support, a method that would have helped Republican Mitt Romney on Nov. 6.

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, a Republican from Chester, wants to replace the winner-take-all system, which gave President Barack Obama the state’s 20 electoral votes, with one that divides them to reflect the proportion of votes cast for each candidate. His method would have awarded 12 votes to Obama and eight to Romney had it been in force this year.

It’s understandable that Pennsylvania Republicans would consider efforts like these, and Pileggi’s proposal reportedly has the support of Gov. Tom Corbett (R). The Democratic presidential candidate has won the state six of the six elections, and it’s easier to rig the system then earn public support.

But as I wrote about a year ago, that doesn’t make efforts like these any less ugly. As Ian Millhiser explained, “Pileggi’s plan is nothing more than a proposal to steal electoral votes that are overwhelmingly likely to be awarded to the Democratic candidate under the current system and give them away to the Republican candidate.”

Last year, this identical effort fizzled when congressional Republicans balked fearing the shift might endanger their seats. The fact that Pileggi is back at it, however, suggests the state GOP takes the plan seriously, and is well worth watching.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 5, 2012

December 6, 2012 Posted by | Elections, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Dirty Dancers And Bad Money”: Mitt Romney’s “Dark Road To The White House”

Shady money, voter suppression, shifting positions, murky details and widespread apathy.

If there is a road map for a Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan win in November, that’s it. Distasteful all.

As The New York Times reported this week, Paul Ryan made the trip on Tuesday to kiss the ring of Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino owner who has pledged to spend as much as $100 million to defeat President Obama. No reporters were allowed in, of course.

As The Times’s editorial page pointed out on Friday:

“Last year, his company, the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, announced that it was under investigation by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission for possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act — specifically, that it bribed Chinese officials for help in expanding its casino empire in Macau. Later, the F.B.I. became involved, and even Chinese regulators looked askance at the company’s conduct, fining it $1.6 million for violating foreign exchange rules, The Times reported on Monday.”

There was a saying I heard growing up in Louisiana: “Bad money doesn’t spend right.”

On Wednesday, a judge in Pennsylvania who is a Republican refused to block a ridiculously restrictive, Republican-backed voter identification law from going into effect in the state, which is a critical swing state. Surprise, surprise.

And to add insult to injury, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Friday: “On the same day a judge cleared the way for the state’s new voter identification law to take effect, the Corbett administration abandoned plans to allow voters to apply online for absentee ballots for the November election and to register online to vote.”

Corbett is Tom Corbett, the Republican governor of the state.

In June, State Representative Mike Turzai, a Republican and the Pennsylvania House majority leader, ripped the veneer off the purpose of the voter changes in the state when he declared, “voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania: done.”

Angry yet? Well wait, there’s more.

As has been well documented, Mitt Romney has flip-flopped on many of the major positions he once held: abortion, taxes, guns. Now his vice-presidential pick, has traded his wingtips for a pair of toe-splitters.

Thursday, as Think Progress pointed out, Ryan adopted Romney’s position on China’s currency manipulation and stealing of intellectual property, saying: “Mitt Romney and I are going to crack down on China cheating and make sure trade works for Americans.”

However, as Talking Points Memo reported: “Ryan has consistently opposed measures to crack down on China’s currency manipulation practices, which tilt the playing field against American labor.”

Furthermore, The Boston Globe reported Tuesday: “In 2009, as Rep. Paul D. Ryan was railing against President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package as a ‘wasteful spending spree,’ he wrote at least four letters to Obama’s secretary of energy asking that millions of dollars from the program be granted to a pair of Wisconsin conservation groups, according to documents obtained by The Globe.”

Even so, Ryan denied the fact in an interview with a Cincinnati TV station on Thursday, saying, “I never asked for stimulus.”

Ryan later recanted. In a statement, he said of the letters: “They were treated as constituent service requests in the same way matters involving Social Security or Veterans Affairs are handled.” It continued: “This is why I didn’t recall the letters earlier. But they should have been handled differently, and I take responsibility for that.”

Oops! Paint a scarlet “H” on that man’s chest for hypocrisy.

Romney, for his part, has consistently resisted specifying what he would cut to get to the balanced budget that he promises, and he continues to resist calls to release more tax returns.

“Mitt Romney said on Thursday that he had not paid less than 13 percent of his income in taxes during the past decade,” The Times reported. But are we supposed to take his word for the rate being even that high? Absolutely not!

Show, don’t tell, sir.

America, this is the Republican ticket. Although most smart political observers currently have Romney losing the Electoral College, Romney, following this repulsive road map, is virtually tied with Obama in national polls of likely voters.

That is, in part, because of apathy. As USA Today reported, the 90 million people who are unlikely to vote in November prefer Obama over Romney by 2 to 1, and “they could turn a too-close-to-call race into a landslide for President Obama — but by definition they probably won’t.”

If this underhanded dirty dealing by the Republican ticket doesn’t jolt some of these unlikely voters into likely ones, I don’t know what will.

 

By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, August 17, 2012

August 18, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“We Don’t Want You To Vote”: The Deep, Dark Mysteries Of Pennsylvania’s Voter ID Law

There is no clear plan to help Pennsylvanians get the ID now required for voting. Does the state want thousands to simply stay home on Election Day?

Sometimes fearing the unknown isn’t such a bad idea. Like, for instance, when they’re serving “mystery meat” in the cafeteria. Or, on a slightly bigger scale, when your state is considering a new law that could disfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters.

Pennsylvania legislators had no such healthy sense of fear when it came to passing the nation’s most restrictive voter ID law just a little over four months ago—practically yesterday, considering the ramifications of such a huge change to election procedures. But when the bill was being debated, lawmakers and state officials supporting the bill insisted it would be a breeze to ensure that no one was disenfranchised; everybody who wanted to vote would still be able to vote. “This is going to be an additional responsibility,” said Daryl Metcalf, the Republican state representative who sponsored the bill, but “one that is not burdensome in any way.” Besides, Republican Governor Tom Corbett’s office said that only 1 percent of Pennsylvanians lacked a valid ID. Even for that 1 percent, Corbett said, “This is no barrier to voting. You have to have a photo ID to go anywhere.” For the scant few presumed to be lacking IDs, the state would provide one free of charge. Easy peasy.

But now, with only three months until Election Day, it’s abundantly clear that things are going to be a lot more complicated. The number of voters lacking the required ID is considerably higher than state officials guessed. The plan for giving out free, new IDs is a complete mess. At best, it looks like the way Pennsylvania enforces the law, which deals with a central right of citizenship, will be a rushed affair. At worst, it will leave thousands, if not hundreds of thousands without a chance to cast a ballot.

While the state defends the law in court, officials are simultaneously scrambling to come up with a public education campaign and make new identification cards widely available. Court proceedings started last week in a lawsuit brought by voting rights groups. Testimony on Friday highlighted just how much is left to do to implement the law—and just how much remains unknown. The stakes are high, as Pennsylvania is a swing state in one of the most contentious presidential elections in recent memory.

Despite the implications, there’s a whole lot we don’t really know about Pennsylvania’s plans for implementing its voter ID regulations. Let’s start with what we do know; it’s scary enough.

First of all, the law is way more complicated than its proponents would allow during the debate. “Photo ID” sounds simple enough, but the state’s law has a slew of specific requirements. For starters, acceptable identification must have an expiration date. That requirement knocks out a variety of IDs that you might expect would be accepted, like veteran’s cards issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. It also disallows a lot of college ID cards; while the law allows IDs issued from any state university or community college, most of those IDs don’t currently carry an expiration date. Many colleges are trying to issue new ID cards or put stickers on the old cards with expiration dates, but time is short.

The law has a slew of other caveats and wrinkles. For instance, while identification cards must have an expiration date, those issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation can still be used even if they’re expired—so long as they’ve expired less than one year before November 6. All other forms must still be valid, including passports and military IDs. Employee IDs issued by counties and municipalities are allowed (so long as they have an expiration date), but any other form of photo ID issued by counties or municipalities won’t be accepted. (That means if you were planning on using your gun license, you’d better come up with a new plan.)

We also know that a ton of people will need new or alternative identification with a photo. The Secretary of the Commonwealth’s own study—released long after legislators passed the law—shows that as many as 9 percent of registered voters currently lack an ID issued by the state’s Department of Transportation, the most common form of identification. Subsequent studies have found even more alarming numbers. Matt Barreto, a professor at the University of Washington, found that 12.6 percent of Pennsylvanians who voted in 2008 currently lack a valid ID. An analysis by the AFL-CIO showed that, when you factor in those whose IDs will have expired longer than a year by Election Day, as many as 20 percent of Pennsylvania voters—or 1.6 million Pennsylvanians—could be disenfranchised.

The greatest unknown is how the state plans to ensure these massive numbers of voters can get their identification in time. When the law was passed, state officials said it would be no problem to educate voters and distribute IDs. Already, though, the offices that issue IDs are making mistakes. Friday’s testimony showed that voters were being charged for IDs that are supposed to be free. There’s also a serious concern that poll workers won’t know the rules around the new law; they will not be required to attend training sessions on voter ID, and the state has sent out conflicting information to local election officials.

A plan to offer a new photo ID specifically for voters was supposedly concocted in June, after the lawsuit was filed. Several of the plaintiffs in the suit are senior citizens who do not have birth certificates, or other necessary documents they would need to get a standard state-issued ID. The new voter ID cards, according to state officials, would offer such people an option. But as court testimony made clear Friday, the state has already struggled with delays; the IDs were supposed to be ready last week. Now, one state official testified, they will be ready to go by August 26. But as the plaintiffs’ attorney pointed out, there’s no mention of that date in the contract with the vendor that’s supposed to produce these cards. And there is no penalty if the vendor fails to have the cards ready by then.

State officials say that won’t be a problem. But the legislature only provided funding for 85,000 new IDs. That doesn’t even cover the number needed in Philadelphia alone. But Kurt Myers, the deputy secretary for safety administration, told the court that he expected to issue fewer than 10,000 of the new voter ID cards.

Ten thousand IDs? When hundreds of thousands don’t have them? Were we all absent for math class the day they taught “voter ID counting”?

As it happens, this is not a math problem. It’s a problem of cynical politics. As Barreto found, a third of Pennsylvanians don’t even know about the law. Many will show up at the polls and be turned away. The inevitable delays and arguments will almost surely leave others in line longer—and make it more likely that they’ll leave without voting. The number of Pennsylvanians who vote will almost surely decline. There’s no clear state plan for dealing with voters lacking identification, because, it’s clear, the plan is that many of them simply won’t show up.

Which brings us to the last thing we know: This law is about suppressing the votes of poor and nonwhite voters.

Voter fraud, the ostensible reason for all this, is not a problem in Pennsylvania or in anywhere else in the U.S. This law is about partisan advantage for the GOP, pure and simple. The state has already admitted in court documents that there are no known cases of in-person voter fraud, in which one person pretends to be another. (That’s the only kind of fraud this law guards against.) As Talking Points Memo first reported, Pennsylvania has already signed an agreement with the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, acknowledging that there have been no investigations of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania and that there’s not likely to be any such fraud this November. The state isn’t even going to pretend that voter fraud is a problem—though that was the sole justification for passing this law.

The Republican House Majority Leader in the state already bragged that voter ID would result in a win for Mitt Romney. Left unsaid was that the law would make it disproportionately harder for poor and minority voters who tend to vote Democratic.

This is about politics at the cost of civil rights. That’s one thing we know for sure.

 

By: Abby Rapoport, The American Prospect, July 30, 2012

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

“Just Close Your Eyes”: The Right’s 2012 Solution While Systematically Taking Away Your Rights

Last month, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett offered a solution for women who were going to be forced by the government to undergo a completely unnecessary ultrasound against their wills: “You can’t make anybody watch, okay? Because you just have to close your eyes.” The governor’s suggestion would be almost comical, if it weren’t for the tragic fact that forcing women to watch was the whole point of the legislation Corbett supported.

But it seems that Corbett’s suggestion doesn’t just apply to women seeking abortions in the Keystone state. It is, in essence, what the GOP is telling to every woman turned off by the party’s attacks on reproductive rights, equal pay and domestic violence protections: “You just have to close your eyes.”

Mitt Romney’s campaign is banking on the fact that voters of both genders are concerned about the economy in these uncertain times. Polls show that they’re right. But just because you’re concerned with the economy doesn’t mean you ignore it when a group of people are systematically taking away your rights for their own short-term political gain.

Sadly, this is the new normal. The Tea Party’s success has been based on this “just close your eyes” formula. Swept into power on a wave of economic dissatisfaction, Tea Party legislators in Washington and the states asked the country to “close its eyes” as it did everything but fix the economy. “Pay no attention while we roll back decades of progress everything else you care about. Just close your eyes while we bash immigrants, cut essential services, make it very hard to vote, and take away collective bargaining rights”. Many minorities have been affected, particularly in the last two years, but arguably and amazingly, no group has been under attack more than the American majority — women.

A new report from People For the American Way investigates the new landscape that the Tea Party is creating for American women. Mississippi is set to become the only state in the country without a legal abortion clinic. Texas is on the path to denying reproductive health care to 130,000 low-income women. Wisconsin repealed its enforcement mechanism for equal pay lawsuits. Senate Republicans are fighting to stop the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Following an all-male panel speaking on women’s health, a woman who dares speak in front of Congress about the importance of affordable contraception is called a “slut.”

Even with closed eyes, these things are very hard to miss.

The Romney campaign has attempted to distract voters from this train wreck of anti-woman policies by claiming that a second Obama administration will hurt women economically. Last week, they hammered hard on the claim that women have accounted for 92 percent of job losses under President Obama — a mangled statistic that ignores, among other factors, that many of those losses were the result of Republican-led layoffs of teachers and other government employees. Then they decided to accuse Democrats of waging a “War on Moms” — forgetting, perhaps, the candidate’s history of aggressively pushing low-income women to work outside of the home when their children are very young.

Women haven’t bought it. In polls, Romney still trails Obama among women voters by double digits. And in an under-reported fact, among women ages 18 to 29, he’s losing by an astounding 45 points. You don’t need a political science degree that know that that spells disaster.

Mitt Romney and congressional Republicans seem to think they can get away with almost anything because, in the end, their Election Day hopes will be saved by a bad economy. The problem is, the people they attack on a regular basis — women, gays, Latinos, Muslims, you name it — know the Tea Party’s record on the economy and its history of cynical, culture-war attacks that deeply affect the lives of real people. We have our eyes wide open.

 

By: Michael B. Keegan, President, People For the American Way, Published in The Huffington Post, April 18, 2012

April 20, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

GOP “Ultracraziness”: Experts On “Lady Stuff”, Ultrasounds And Contraception

If the state of Arizona excels at one thing, it’s passing laws that make people angry. Today, an Arizona senate panel voted to give all employers the right to refuse coverage of birth control on their health-insurance plans. The bill is awaiting approval by the State Senate. Arizona Representative Debbie Lesko, a supporter of the bill, explained her rationale to the Arizona Star: “I believe that we live in America. We don’t live in the Soviet Union. So government shouldn’t be telling employers, Catholic organizations or mom-and-pop employers to do something that’s against their moral beliefs.”

In other contraception news, the controversial “Women’s Right to Know” Act, which would make it mandatory for women to have ultrasounds before getting abortions, made some more enemies today.

Republican Virginia State Senator Ryan McDougle, who backs the bill, received a barrage of posts on his Facebook page today from women who oppose the bill, asking McDougle for gynecological wisdom. One woman, complaining about her period, wrote, “frankly, I’ve had enough of this inconvenience — the costs of pads and pain reliever and all the mess — well YOU know how it is. You’re an expert on this lady stuff.” McDougle’s staff promptly removed the comments, but not before a screenshot was taken.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett also chimed in about the ultrasound bill. When asked if he thought it was going too far to make a woman look at her ultrasound before having an abortion, he replied: “You can’t make anybody watch, okay? Because you just have to close your eyes.” All in all, a rough day for Republicans and ladies.

By: Eliza Shapiro, Daily Intel, March 16, 2012

March 16, 2012 Posted by | Women's Health | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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