I Love Voting…

No sarcasm or snark needed.  I just really love voting.  Since I turned 18, the only elections I haven’t voted in were ones I was in jail during.  The 2004 election was the most painful one for me, not because Kerry lost to Bush, but because I couldn’t vote.

I french pressed some Kenyan coffee this morning, grabbed a bagel, and made it to my polling place by 8 am.  As per PA law, they asked me if I had my ID with me and were very polite when I refused to show it.  (As a side note, we need to start getting ID’s for those who need them now.  Like it or not, chances are the voter ID law will be in effect for the next election.)  The local paper had a front page feature explaining that ID would be requested but not required, and the poll workers at my polling location seemed really helpful; I heard them explain to a few elderly voters that even though they were asking for ID, they didn’t need to show it to vote, making sure they understood the law and that they didn’t have to go home and get their ID if they forgot it.  Of course, I live in a deep red congressional district and my precinct  is overwhelmingly white and elderly.  To be honest, I am not sure if a single minority voter is registered in my precinct.  (Not kidding either.  While there is a city in my congressional district, the suburb I live in is whiter than wonder bread.)  I can only hope the poll workers in minority majority districts are as patient and helpful.

I spent a few minutes after voting outside talking to possibly the most outspoken conservative in a town filled with conservatives.  As much as we disagree on every single political issue, there is one thing we agree wholeheartedly on; that informing yourself and voting is not just a right, but a civic duty.  Though we spend much of the time we are in the same room either arguing with or rolling our eyes at each other, today he shook my hand, called me a patriot, and said “I don’t agree with you, but at least I know you aren’t a low information voter.”

And you know what?  I still think he is batshit insane, but at least he gives a shit.  He’ll be standing out front of the fire hall all day urging people who are already going to to vote for Romney.  And once I post this, I will be back on the road, delivering coffee and snacks to democrats working outside some of the reddest polling places in the state.

At the end of the day, one of us is going to be very disappointed.  And I hope it is going to be him, as much as I am sure he hopes it will be me.

But both of us will sleep well, knowing we did our part.

Do not wake up tomorrow wishing you would have made the time to vote.  Do not spend the next 4 years like I spent the 4 after Kerry lost, thinking “if only I would have done something to make a difference.”

Who Cares If the Law Got Put on Hold? The GOP Got What They Wanted

If you’ve been following the issue or reading this blog, you know that Pennsylvania’s new Voter ID law, the strictest such law in the nation, will not be in effect for this years election cycle.  The Republican run state government rammed the law through the legislature, and made no effort to hide the political intent behind Voter ID.  As independent analysts examined the amount of citizens the law could potentially disenfranchise, they urged the government to slow down, to roll the law out over time so that all eligible voters who wanted one could get the required ID.  Gov. Corbett ignored them and instead rolled out a multimillion dollar ad blitz telling PA residents they would need an ID to vote this year, even though the law was being challenged in the court system.  Disenfranchising voters wasn’t a bug; it was a feature.

When the law was eventually put on hold for this years election, many saw this as a victory for voter’s rights advocates and a defeat for the state GOP.

The courts ruling was neither.

Sure, the law won’t be in effect for this years election.  People who do not have the required ID will still be permitted to vote.  Yay.

But the law is still on the books.  It was not struck down, only placed on pause.  But the larger problem is the damage that has already been done.  As I said, the state ran a multimillion dollar ad blitz earlier in the year telling people they needed to show ID to vote this year.  And that information was also on the state voter information hotline as well as every government website dealing with elections.  When the court ruled the law couldn’t be enforced for this years election cycle, there was no multimillion dollar ad blitz informing PA residents of that fact.  The “Show It” television commercials are still running, with a minor change in wording that states “you will be asked for but not required to provide” ID to vote.  After the court ruling, the voter information hotline continued telling callers they needed ID to vote until a staffer at The Rachael Maddow Show called and complained.  As far as I know all the local election board webpages are now updated with the correct information, but they took their own sweet time making the changes.  As I reported recently, at least one newspaper run by Trib Total Media has published articles claiming you still need to show ID to vote.

Sure, people without ID will not be legally prevented from voting this election cycle.  But with the information out there, how many will stay home on election day believing they need an ID to vote?

Add this one to that list of conflicting information.  From ThinkProgress:

The latest misleading claim comes from CBS Pittburgh radio station KDKA, which is running an ad claiming that voters will need photo identification to go to the polls on November 6th, despite the fact that while voters may be asked to show ID, it is not required to vote. The ad aired on October 26, around 7:30 am immediately after a weather report for the Pittsburgh area. “The Voter ID law was just recently signed by the governor,” an unidentified woman in the ad says:

NARRATOR: When you need to vote–

WOMAN: The voter ID law was just recently signed by the governor.

NARRATOR: You need to know –

WOMAN: You’re not going to be allowed to vote unless you present an acceptable photo identification. Get to a PennDOT licensing center and get a photo ID at the drivers’ license center.

NARRATOR: It’s your right, it’s your duty, it’s your choice –

WOMAN: And you will need an acceptable ID in order for you to vote.

Click on through to ThinkProgress if you want to listen to the ad yourself.  Continuing:

The ad is particularly confounding because KDKA itself has reported on the recentdecisions regarding the voter ID law.

But it also follows a trend of misleading information in the state — like billboards and television ads, as well as reports from local governments — that has become so rampant voting rights’ groups have asked a court to step in to stop the wrong information from spreading.

So proud to be a Pennsylvanian right now.



Speaking of Voter Suppression

Remember a couple of weeks ago when a Pennsylvania Judge ruled that the new Voter ID law in PA wouldn’t be in effect for the 2012 election cycle?  Me neither!*  And neither does Trib Total Media or their one newspaper, the Mount Pleasant Journal.  First a little background information on the movers and shakers of this story, courtesy of ThinkProgress:

The Mount Pleasant Journal is one of several newspapers run by Trib Total Media, a media conglomerate owned by billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife. Scaife’s foundation donated hundreds of millions of dollars to conservative organizations ranging from the American Enterprise Institution to the Federalist Society, and he currently serves as vice-chairman of the right-wing Heritage Foundation’s board of trustees.

Now ones political views do not remove your ability to publish an unbiased newspaper.  Not every piece of media put out by conservative run companies is destined to lean to the right, but I have first hand experience with Trib Total Media since I read Pittsburgh area newspapers, and it isn’t a secret that the Pittsburgh Tribune Review is basically a print version of Fox News.  You know, “fair” and “balanced”.  *winkwink*  In fact, it is such a known fact that the Tribune Review paid for a television ad campaign  to try and convince people that while their editorials and opinion pages heavily leaned to the right, their actual news department was unbiased.  (Objective News/ Conservative Views or something similar was their tagline.  If anyone can find the ad online, please link it for me.  It used to air during every damn Pirates game.)

And the common knowledge understanding of the Trib’s political leaning causes me to have a really hard time believing this is an honest mistake:

That was from the Mount Pleasant Journal.  Once again from ThinkProgress:

Last Thursday, at least one of Scaife’s newspapers printed an inaccurate story headlined “Photo ID required for November election,” when, in reality, a court order suspended the requirement that Pennsylvania voters show an ID or lose their right to vote.

the claim that voters will need to show ID in order to vote, as well as the claim that voters who do not show ID will be forced to cast a provisional ballot and then show ID later, are entirely false. The state of Pennsylvania is currently bound by a court order which permits voters without ID to cast normal ballots, not provisional ballots, and to have those ballots counted just like any other. Voters will still be asked to show ID at the polls, but may not be turned away or given a provisional ballot because they do not show it.

The Republicans in Pennsylvania pushed through the strictest voter ID law in the nation, admitted that it was a political move that would help Mitt Romney, and put out a multi-million dollar ad campaign to inform voters that they needed an ID to vote.  Once the law was put on hold for this year, the state suddenly seemed to lose interest in informing the public, as several government run websites claimed until last week that you needed ID to vote, and the PA voter information hotline stated that you needed ID to vote until a stafffer at The Rachael Maddow Show called the state and complained.  Even though the law was put on hold because it would have disenfranchised voters, the damage was done with the ad campaign.  And now right leaning newspapers are continuing the disinformation process.

Gov. Corbett and the state government needs to end this confusion and get the word out to all PA voters that they do not need an ID to vote this year.  They were more than willing to spend the money when their pet law was passed, now they need to undo the confusion they caused by trying to force a law like this onto the books in time for this years election.

But I won’t be holding my breath….


*Apologies to Mock, Paper, Scissors.

Voter Suppression: Our Democracy Has a Problem.

I don’t give much thought to conspiracy theories.  They are mostly unhinged and easily debunked.  But on theory that seems at least somewhat grounded in reality is the theory that the GOP, realizing the demographics have turned against them for national races, has decided to attempt to steal elections through any means necessary.  We don’t need to look at Florida in 2000 or Ohio in 2004 to see that there is at least a grain of truth to this theory.  It isn’t like the GOP is hiding it or anything.  Voter ID laws are universally partisan and serve to disenfranchise voter blocs that trend blue.  The purging of the voter rolls by GOP Governors not only include a majority of legal voters, but also target minorities, once again a voter bloc that trends blue.  These examples are above board.  While of highly questionable legality (watch the courts put holds on more and more Voter ID laws if you don’t believe me) they are still done out in the open.  Some in the GOP are even willing to admit the purpose of these things is to win elections.  See Pa. House Republican Leader Mike Turzai for example:



If only all Republicans were so forth coming.

Not everything the GOP has attempted in this vein has been out in the open however.  Take their hiring of Nathan Sproul to handle their voter registration efforts in several states.  Who is Nathan Sproul?  Let’s ask the Tacoma Washington News Tribune:

Nathan Sproul was hardly unknown when his firm, Strategic Allied Consulting, was hired over the summer to register voters for the Republican Party.

In 2004, employees with his previous firms were accused of a wide assortment of infractions: destroying voter registration forms of Democrats, duping college students into registering as Republicans, refusing to register Democrats or independents. Nevada, Oregon and Arizona opened investigations but closed them without charging anyone.

On Tuesday, new details emerged that Strategic Allied Consulting knew of problems in Florida earlier than reported in what is now a case of possible voter registration fraud in a dozen counties.

Did the Republicans just forget about this?  Or are they fans of Sproul’s techniques? From the LA Times:

Sproul said he created Strategic Allied Consulting at the RNC’s request because the party wanted to avoid being publicly linked to the past allegations. The firm was set up at a Virginia address, and Sproul does not show up on the corporate paperwork.

“In order to be able to do the job that the state parties were hiring us to do, the [RNC] asked us to do it with a different company’s name, so as to not be a distraction from the false information put out in the Internet,” Sproul said.

Sure seems like they know who he was, and approved of his tactics.  If not, why hire him?  Now yes, Sproul’s gig is up (at least until next election) and the GOP has fired SAC and halted their voter registration efforts in the states where SAC was operating.  But we may never know how much damage has already been caused; how many people who registered as democrats will find that they were never registered when they get to the polls or how many people had their information illegally changed possibly leading to them not being able to vote.

Breaking away from the national GOP, we find the Tea Party group True the Vote.  True the Vote claims to be a non-partisan group dedicated to making sure elections are fair and legal.  There is no relationship between that description of True the Vote and reality, however.  As ThinkProgress reports:

Since 2009, a Tea Party organization called True the Vote has been stoking the recently ignited fervorfor voter purges and voter ID requirements currently winding their way through state courts. The Houston-based group has involved itself in every major election in the past three years, purporting to defend election integrity from widespread voter fraud.Wisconsin’s election to recall Gov. Scott Walker (R) was the most recent test drive for True the Vote’s vote suppression project. During the June recall election, a voting hotline received numerous calls from college students claiming True the Vote “poll observers” challenged their right to vote. These poll observers exploited a provision in the state’s new GOP-sponsored voter ID law to claim it was illegal for students home for the summer to vote in local precincts if they had been home for less than 28 days. Others were hassled for proof of residency.

Minority voters in Wisconsin also reported harassment by True the Vote’s white poll watchers, who took notes and watched as the predominantly black line of voters cast their ballots. When Walker survived the recall election, True the Vote congratulated their poll watchers on “a victory of their own making.”

Prior to their efforts in Wisconsin, a judge ruled that their use of poll watchers in Texas’ 2010 elections amounted to an illegal contribution to the Republican Party.

And now they are going national:

Now, Colorlines reports, True the Vote is planning to take this localized strategy national in November. A major component of this effort will be gathering “evidence” to assist the group’s longer term work to enact voter ID laws and other legislation addressing the nearly nonexistent problem of in-person voter fraud.

As it is more likely that a person will be struck by lightning than that they will commit in-person voter fraud, proponents of voter ID laws have had trouble coming up with enough fraud examples to justify potentially disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of low-income and minority voters. True the Vote is hoping to change that by policing elections with untrained poll watchers heavily recruited from Tea Party events. These poll watchers will record common irregularities like mismatched addresses, typos, or dual registration errors as “fraud” to create the false impression that voting restrictions are justified:

As one strategy, the group buys voter rolls from states and counties, then disseminates the lists to thousands of largely unsupervised volunteers, who are urged to submit to election officials names from the rolls that may be improperly registered.[…] True the Vote encourages recruits to “build relationships with election administrators” because “they control the access to the vote,” as [elections coordinator] Ouren told a gathering in Houston. In 2010, the group was able to get a list of voter registration data from Republican Harris County registrar Leo Vasquez, who reportedly refused the same to the Democratic Party, for which the party sued. When the King Street Patriots submitted to him their list of fraudulent actions they claimed to see at the polls, Vasquez accepted them without verification and held a press conference with Engelbrecht asserting Harris County polls were “under a systemic and organized attack.”

As ThinkProgress has documented, these purge lists are often riddled with errors and frequently disenfranchise legitimate voters. But volunteer voter purges are just one part of the multi-pronged strategy True the Vote will use, in the courts and at the polls, to influence the November election — and, if they can, every election to come.

And now, apparently thinking True the Vote has a great idea, comes local Republican parties training their own poll challengers.  From ThinkProgress:

As courts continue to block voter suppression efforts around the county, conservative groups are redoubling efforts to intimidate voters at the polls come Election Day.New Mexico has started its own voter purge of 177,000 people, including a voting rights activist married to a state representative. However, as the law won’t go into effect until November 2014, the local Republican Party has apparently started training “poll challengers” for this election. A hidden camera caught Pat Morlen, the vice chair of the Sandoval County Republican Party, instructing volunteer “poll challengers” to demand photo ID and force legal voters to use provisional ballots. The video, filmed by the nonprofit ProgressNow New Mexico, shows vice-chair Morlen making several claims that directly contradict New Mexico law:

MORLEN: You can request to see a form of ID. At the request of two or more precinct board members of different political parties, a voter shall still present the required physical form of identification.

VOLUNTEER: What happens if we get people in there who are part of what the media is calling the purge?

MORLEN: They’ll vote provisional. That’s all that’s gonna happen.

Unfortunately, the lies didn’t stop there:

ProgressNow compiled an extensive list of the lies presented as election law, including claims that Spanish speakers are not permitted interpreters and that the police are involved in election monitoring:

CLAIM: “The police are supposed to be the ones who ensure that the election is legit.” FACT: Elections officials preside over elections, not the police. FACT: Police can be enlisted to ensure the orderly conduct of an election but officers who interfere with an election are guilty of a petty misdemeanor.

CLAIM: The trainer claims a person who changed their address but stayed within their same voting precinct should receive a provisional ballot. FACT: Anyone in this situation is given a regular ballot at the polls. (See 1 NMAC 10.3)

CLAIM: The trainer claims that interpreters are not provided to non-English speakers and then is unsure if polling places will provide Spanish-language ballots. FACT: Assistance for people in language minorities is provided, as are Spanish-language ballots.

This isn’t Moon landing denialists, or 9/11 truthers.  This looks less and less like a conspiracy theory and more like a concerted effort by the GOP to win elections by stopping eligible voters from voting everyday.

Voter ID laws are a solution in search of a problem.  Voter Suppression is a problem that needs a solution.