We’re Not a Swing State

Ohio is a swing state.  Florida is a swing state.  There may have once been a time that Pennsylvania was a swing state as well, but those days are over.  No matter how much the voters residing in the state’s thinly populated rural counties believe otherwise, Pennsylvania is blue, a fact highlighted by the Democratic sweep yesterday of state-wide elections.

If you live in Pennsylvania, you could be forgiven for believing the opposite.  Any study of the problems of our system of representative democracy and single-member districts would have to dedicate at least a chapter to Pennsylvania.  While Pennsylvania hasn’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988, we have a US Senator from each party, the GOP holds a 13 to 5 advantage in US Representatives, and the PA General Assembly is Republican controlled as well, with the Senate split 30-19 (with one vacancy) and the House 119-84.  While some of this discrepancy (such as the GOP Senator) can be explained by Democratic voters baffling inability to find the polling locations in non-presidential election years, much of it can only be explained by problems inherent in our system of choice (cause of course North Dakota should get two Senators, for a non-Pennsylvanian example….),  and that enemy of democracy no matter who wields the power, gerrymandering.

Pennsylvania was typical of those states where Republicans benefited in 2012 from the decennial redrawing of congressional district lines. Democratic candidates drew more than half of the total votes cast statewide for the U.S. House last fall, but Republicans won nearly three–quarters (13 of 18) of Pennsylvania’s congressional seats. The GOP–controlled state government approved a map that packed Democratic votes into the five districts that they carried, where the party’s candidates posted winning percentages ranging from 60% to 89% of the total vote. Meanwhile, the Republican vote was spread more broadly, with nine of the GOP winners drawing less than 60% of the vote in their districts.

Source: Rhodes–Cook Letter, Feb. 2013

How anyone can look at those numbers and believe something even close to “political justice” carried the day is beyond me.  Sure, the GOP gained seats, but they didn’t gain them through the will of the people, rather they gained them through slight of hand trickery.  Republicans may be fine with this at the moment, especially since it gives them much more power than state-wide or nation-wide polling would predict for their party, but it is yet another short sighted vision.  Gerrymandering is an evil that both parties engage in, yet the Republican gerrymandering effort after the 2010 census went much further than previous district drawings.  When taken along side the push for Voter ID, especially here in PA where the GOP publicly admitted Voter ID was a political strategy to elect Republicans, it reeks of desperation.  With the current GOP presidential candidates veering so far off to the right in a nation that is rapidly becoming center left, actions such as the blatant gerrymandering and the push for Voter ID risk painting the GOP as a party that upon losing the culture wars, is willing to do anything to hold on to power.  But removing image issues from the discussion, the GOP has to be aware that eventually the other party will get to draw the districts, and by tossing any idea of subtlety out the window, they have given the Democratic party no reason not to respond in kind when they have the power.  The damage to our system of government, the destruction of the GOP’s image, and the future threat of retribution; is a few years of unearned power really worth it all?

It is the Wednesday after election day, 2015.  The only state-wide races on the ballot were judicial.  The stage was set once again for the GOP to gain largely undeserved power in Pennsylvania, as control of the state Supreme Court was up for grabs.  And yet….

And yet that isn’t what happened.  Michael Wojcik carried close to 53% in his race for Judge of the Commonwealth Court.   For Judge of the Superior Court, Alice Dubow did indeed break the 53% mark.  And the State Supreme Court race resulted in a sweep, with the win for the three Democrats, David Wecht (18.37%), Kevin Dougherty (18.52%) and Christine Donohue (18.17%), making it clear who PA residents want in control of the State’s highest court.

Across the nation, their are certainly some results that the GOP can point to and celebrate.  But this defeat in PA in an off year election has to make them a bit uneasy.  Is the damage the extreme conservative wing keeps inflicting on the party hurting the brand to the point where even off year elections favor the Democrats?  That is a question that will take much more time and evidence to answer.  But yesterday’s election did make one thing abundantly clear, no matter how much the major media will try to convince you otherwise next year:

Pennsylvania is not a swing state.


Insert Comment About Inmates, the Asylum, and Who Happens to be in Charge Here:

From ThinkProgress:

Two-thirds of North Carolina Republican voters would support immediately impeaching Hillary Clinton if she’s elected president, according to a poll released Tuesday.

Conducted by Public Policy Polling, the survey drew from the responses of 425 self-identified Republicans likely to vote in the 2016 presidential primary. Along with various questions about the Republican candidates, it asked voters if they would either “support or oppose impeaching [Clinton] the day she takes office.”

Sixty-six percent of respondents said they would support immediate impeachment for Clinton, while only 24 percent said they would oppose it. Ten percent said they were not sure, according to the poll.

This follows, of course,  congressman Mo Brooks (AL-Guess) making the following statement in a radio interview on The Matt Murphy Show:

“In my judgement, with respect to Hillary Clinton, she will be a unique president if she is elected by the public next November,” Brooks said. “Because the day she’s sworn in is the day that she’s subject to impeachment.”

There is a portion of the Republican party that doesn’t care anymore about democracy, the will of the people, or the United States’ system of government.  We’ve already seen members of Congress such as the House Freedom Caucus who oppose any compromise with the opposition party, which effectively breaks a two party non-parliamentary system of government, and we’ve seen congressional districts that will use primary elections to punish any Republicans not seen as “ideologically pure” enough.  (Ask Eric Cantor, former House Majority Leader, among others.)  This cycle we have seen even the “mainstream” GOP presidential candidates go overboard opposing church-state separation.  Several have spoken out against the 14th Amendment as a side dish to their race-baiting xenophobia while others claim that the president is free to ignore Supreme Court decisions with which he  or she disagrees.  So much for that document the conservatives all claim to love so much.  I guess the second is the only amendment they care about.

The current GOP takes every possible opportunity to move forward with the backdoor elimination of reproductive health services.  Pro-life advocates, emboldened by their success, move the goal posts suddenly start moving against multiple forms of birth control that they claim act as abortifacients.  (Just like we said they would.  And we were told we were crazy.)  They don’t want to stop abortions, they want to punish women for being sexually activeLook at Colorado if you don’t believe it.

They continue to push for voter ID laws, the stricter the better, in spite of study after study showing the laws disenfranchise large numbers of minority and lower income voters practically exclusively, some say by design, without any evidence that the law is needed or indeed, that the crime it is set up to stop, in person voter fraud, even happens outside of exceedingly rare cases.  Pennsylvania Republican House Leader Mike Turzai openly admitted the laws are a partisan political strategy and they still push these laws.  (Although watching the current US Congress, I guess that isn’t much of a surprise.  *cough*Benghazi*cough*)

Why would they accept a Hillary Clinton election victory?  Obama won twice and they never treated him as the legitimately elected President of the United States. They impeached her husband over a fucking blow job.  Why wouldn’t they use their power in the gerrymandered House to ignore the results of a legitimate election?

Thanks for the Great Idea, Hasselbeck!

Taking my cue from Elisabeth Hasselbeck (although to be fair, she does seem to share this ability with just about every other Fox “News” personality) and her seemingly amazing ability to turn practically any topic into a discussion about the manufactured scandal Benghazi, I have decided to join the extremely loud scandal mongers by changing the focus of Foster Disbelief itself.  Before we get to that though, let us first watch the master in action, as she attempts to capitalize on the NFL’s unsurprising domestic violence debacle and turn the focus where it belongs, back on that place she insists we should be outraged over (outraged!!!), Benghazi:

“Fox & Friends” host Elisabeth Hasselbeck took to Twitter on Tuesday to compare the controversy over the NFL’s handling of domestic abuse cases and the White House’s handling of the Sept. 11, 2012, terror attack on American facilities in Benghazi, Libya.

“Imagine if everyone that asked for transparency in the #nfl @nfl Demanded that same #transparency in our #government #Benghazi,” Hasselbeck wrote on Twitter.


Fox News has been criticized for what some call an obsession with placing the blame for Benghazi on the Obama administration. According to a study conducted by liberal watchdog group Media Matters, Fox News’ primetime lineup ran 1,098 segments on Benghazi in the first 20 months following the attacks, including 281 segments alleging a “coverup” by the Obama administration.

Fox “News”?  Obsessed with pinning blame for something on Obama?  Perish the thought!  Inconceivable, even.  We all know that Fox “News” is just another arm of the liberal media, after all.  (By the way, that is an actual statement I heard while listening in to an argument at a local Tea Party event.  Yes, I know that it is not a common belief, even for the true lunatic fringe, but I still get a kick out of knowing someone out there actually believes that it is true.  Someone who votes.)  That being said, one can kind of understand why members of Fox & Friends would want to draw attention elsewhere, after the masterful way their male hosts handled the issue the day TMZ released The Video:

 Hasselbeck is not the only “Fox & Friends” host to stir controversy while weighing in on the NFL’s domestic abuse problem.

Last week, her co-hosts, Brian Kilmeade and Steve Doocy, joked about a lesson to be learned from the video showing Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking his then-fiancee unconscious in an elevator.

“I think the message is, take the stairs,” Kilmeade said during a discussion of the video.

“The message is, when you’re in an elevator, there are cameras,” co-host Steve Doocy added.

I have to admit that if I was unlucky enough to find myself on camera with them while they made those comments, I may have yelled “Benghazi!!!” as well.  Anything so those words wouldn’t stick in people’s memory.  Of course, this being Fox & Friends, those comments, no matter how offensive most of us may find them, more than likely drew laughs, guffaws, chuckles, high fives, and cries of “right on, ain’t no camera in the stairs.”

Now that I have seen the light, thanks to Elisabeth Hasselbeck, you may be noticing some changes around here.  While the URL will remain the same for convenience, the name of the blog will be changing to Foster Benghazi.  Rather than spending time writing about religious fundamentalists, science denial, and meaningless issues such as a woman’s right to control of her own body, marriage equality, and an end to racism, sexism, misogyny, rape culture, homophobia, and forced observance of other people’s religious beliefs, I will now be dedicating the space to nothing but stories about Benghazi.  Do not think that means you won’t find variety, however, here at Foster Benghazi.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  You’ll see stories trying to convince you that Benghazi is a scandal, that it is a scandal worth paying attention to, that the blame for the scandal is completely Obama’s, that the Obama administration conspired with rock creatures from the center of the Earth, and the known terrorist sympathizer race of Rodent Hominids from the Moon to hide the truth about Benghazi from the American public, that Obama himself ordered the killing of the four Americans at Benghazi, that Hillary Clinton pulled the trigger that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens at Benghazi, and that Fox “News” and the conservative media have desperately tried to create a scandal out of Benghazi so that the GOP can reap political good fortune and turn four dead American citizens into votes on election day, thereby allowing them to sweep into power, stock the Supreme Court with Constitution raping judges, outlaw abortion and birth control, and pass huge tax cuts for the richest Americans, creating enough kick backs that every member of the GOP establishment (not the voters though.  They get fleeced with the rest of them) can retire and move to a tropical island nation where brown skinned natives wear white gloves and full suits while serving them on the sun soaked beaches.  Whoa, got a little out of control there.  Did I mention Benghazi?

For a taste of whats to come, here it the first new story at Foster Benghazi by your blogger, Foster Benghazi.

6.7 million viewers tuned in for the 2015 Miss America competition Sunday night.  Imagine the results if 6.7 million Americans demanded that the Obama administration explain why they killed Americans in Benghazi?(Get the idea yet?)  The LA Times reports that there were 303,900 tweets about the pageant.  Imagine the response if 303,900 tweets were posted demanding that Vice President Biden explain exactly why he personally beheaded 2 of the 4 Americans sacrificed to Allah during the false flag operation at Benghazi.  (Okay, I am getting the hang of this.)  For that matter, what is The LA Times doing reporting about something as insignificant as the Miss America competition when they could be devoting 110% of their resources to getting to the bottom of the real reason Hillary Clinton ordered the assassination of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, a move that ended the lives of three other Americans at Benghazi, and finally reveal that it was indeed “that time of the month” for Hillary, proving once again that a woman in the White House would result in nuclear war every 30 days.  And Benghazi!  (Almost forgot it that time.)

In less depressing news, while 6.7 million Americans did tune into the Miss America competition, a competition rumored to have been organized by the Obama administration as an attempt to distract the American public from Obama’s criminal actions in Benghazi, 16.5 million viewers tuned in to watch Sunday Night Football.  While those 16.5 million should have been writing angry blog posts about the murderer in the White House and his plans to declare himself “Allah’s Chosen Ruler and Official Hitler for Life” the month before the 2016 election, a plan exposed to the public only after a careful examination of the Benghazi incident, there is a possible silver lining to those numbers.  An anonymous source, who I quite possibly just made up in my head while typing this sentence, has informed me that 16 million Americans, outraged over the Stalin like actions of Hillary Clinton in Benghazi where she helped the Obama administration slaughter a rumored 3 million American citizens, with 4 confirmed deaths, only decided to watch Sunday Night Football because they figured their best chance of seeing a woman, standing in for Hillary in their minds, get punched in the face was by watching the NFL.  Rather than watching football on the off chance a domestic battery breaks out, those 16 million should march on Washington and demand their God given right to punch Hillary in the face for her treasonous actions in (say it with me now) Benghazi.

I hope you enjoyed that taste of the new Foster Benghazi.  I will return tomorrow with more hard hitting coverage of the biggest scandal our galaxy has ever experienced, the story some people are saying “makes Watergate look like lying about a blow job, the story sure to bring down not only the Obama administration, but the entire communist-Nazi-Muslim soaked Demon-cratic Party, Benghazi.  Until then, this is Foster Benghazi signing off.


To turn off the satire for a second here, the worst thing (or one of the worst things) about this obsession over Benghazi on the right is the cover it provides Obama on real issues that actually should be scandalous.  As surprising as it may sound to you, especially since I covered both the 2008 and the 2012 elections while endorsing and promoting Obama, and volunteering for both campaigns, I have one thing in common with many members of the GOP’s congressional membership;  I want Obama to be impeached.

After that though, the differences are legion.  While the Republicans want him impeached just so they can say they impeached him, and if they had the votes would push through an impeachment for something akin to lying about oral sex and debating the meaning of the word “is,” I want him impeached for the way he and his administration have routinely wiped their ass with the Constitution when it comes to secrecy, executive power, and the ability to detain indefinitely if not just outright execute American citizens.  Mr. President, you lied to me and the rest of the American people when you said you would be different than Mr. Bush on these issues.  You fooled me the first time, I am ashamed to admit.  The second time you got my vote because the thought of the current GOP in power scares me into a panic attack.  You got my votes because the system is broken.  Obama is a center right politician who leans into wingnut territory when it comes to executive power and a few other issues, who can take practically any stance on any issue he feels like taking, and make any campaign promise that benefits him without any need to honor said promise, because the other party, in our brilliant 2 party system, has legitimate national candidates suggesting things such as letting the uninsured die outside the emergency room if they don’t have the money to pay, poking bears, poking Iran, poking both bears and Iran, starting more wars by fiat, banning contraception, declaring the USA a Christian Nation, and increasing the rate of capital punishment just as we start to learn how easy it is for an innocent man to end up on death row.  Obama could sacrifice a baby on national tv during a special telecast that he forces HBO to air during the season 5 premier of Game of Thrones and I would shrug and say, “Well, he’s still better than Santorum.”  How broken is the system?  That last sentence is my response to that question.

Of course, no one will ever hold Obama accountable for using the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as his own personal cum towel.  The GOP would love to impeach him, but they can’t go after him for actual legitimate impeachable offenses, because then they would have to admit George W. Bush committed the same crimes against the people as Obama.  The Democrats have no reason to impeach him because they are creatures of the system like our President. As much as the Constitution is rallied around these days, it is such a depressing minority that have a problem with the executive branch deciding that whole “checks and balances” thing the founders came up with is a bit too outdated for the War on Terrorism age.  And you Obama apologists out there may tsk at me, and say things like “Now Foster, Obama realizes the amount of power he has been given to deal with terrorism, but he has pledged, pledged!, not to use that power unjustly.”  And even if I believed a thing he said after two campaigns worth of ignored promises (and I am not talking about promises he made that the GOP has blocked him on either, just promises that he has broken himself), even if I trusted him with, say, the power to indefinitely detain American citizens, I sure as hell wouldn’t trust a President Santorum, President Romney, President Ryan, President McCain, President Christie, President Perry, President Jindal, or hell, a President H.R. Clinton to honor that promise either.


Have ya heard about Benghazi?

(Edited to deal with a Wall of Text)

Romney Campaign Sets New Bar for Political Dishonesty

Seriously, I know all politicians are liars.  In the past I’ve pointed out several broken promises, if not outright lies, from President Obama, and to be completely honest I doubt a politician could be completely honest with the electorate and still have a chance in hell of winning any office.  That being said, the Romney campaign seems to have set a new record.  Is there no lie too brazen to tell?  No position too closely held that it can not be changed for appearance?  Multiple Mitt has not only flip-flopped on a few issues.  He has not only lied about a few things.  He has done both so effectively that I do not believe it is possible for anyone but Mendacious Mitt to know his true views on most issues.  Which of his dozen or so stances on abortion, for example, does he actually subscribe to?  If elected, will we get the moderate Mitt of the recent weeks or the “severely” conservative Mitt of the primary season?  The “reach across the aisle” Mitt he claims he will be, or the “800 vetoes(707 of them overturned)” Mitt from his days as governor?  And most disturbingly (to me at least), how can the American electorate actually be considering making a man who refuses to be nailed down to any position President of the United States?

Now after so many lies from Mitt and his campaign, does this one actually surprise anyone?  From ThinkProgress:

Documents from a recent Romney poll watcher training obtained by ThinkProgress contain several misleading or untrue claims about the rights of Wisconsin voters. A source passed along the following packet of documents, which was distributed to volunteers at a Romney campaign training in Racine on October 25th. In total, eight such trainings were held across the state in the past two weeks and 17 since late September.

One blatant falsehood occurs on page 5 of the training packet, which informed poll watchers that any “person [who] has been convicted of treason, a felony, or bribery” isn’t eligible to vote. This is not true. Once a Wisconsin voter who has been convicted of a felony completes his or her sentence, that person is once again eligible to vote.

The training also encouraged volunteers to deceive election workers and the public about who they were associated with. On page 3 of the packet, Romney poll workers were instructed to hide their affiliation with the campaign and told to sign in at the polls as a “concerned citizen” instead. As Kristina Sesek, Romney’s legal counsel who just graduated from Marquette Law School last year, explained, “We’re going to have you sign in this election cycle as a ‘concerned citizen.’ We’re just trying to alleviate some of the animosity of being a Republican observer up front.”

And also from ThinkProgress:

A new ThinkProgress investigation has found that in Iowa, Romney poll watchers are being trained to watch for voters who show up without a photo ID, even though no voter ID law exists in the state.

In a training video for Romney poll watchers in Iowa, the narrator tells volunteers to be on the lookout for anytime “a voter fails to show a voter ID and they are still permitted to vote.” If that happens, he says, “alert the legal team so they can handle the problem.” The text of the campaign’s slide, however, says something contradictory, instructing volunteers when poll workers should check the voter’s ID. Despite the mixed messages, the slide ends with: “If an election worker is not checking photo ID, please call the legal hotline immediately.”

Win at all costs, baby.



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.

Good News on the Voter Suppression Front

Welcome news from Ohio today.  From the Daily Kos:

Some 145 billboards mostly in minority areas of Ohio and Wisconsin warning of big penalties for voting fraud were slated to start coming down Monday.

Of course, some unknown amount of damage has already been accomplished no matter what happens now.

The billboards depict a judge’s gavel and the text “Voter Fraud is a felony—up to 3 1/2 years and a $10,000 fine.” They appeared in Cleveland, Columbus and Milwaukee. Civil rights advocates and labor leaders had objected to the billboards as being meant to intimidate minorities and keep them from voting. The ads were hung in early October on the billboards, which are owned by Clear Channel Outdoor. The company initially said it would leave them up even though it conceded that it was a mistake to put them in the first place. The billboards were paid for by an anonymous contributor.

But Clear Channel Outdoor reversed course over the weekend, saying that it was against company policy to allow for anonymity with political advertising. The company usually requires that ads have the name of the purchaser at the bottom.

Voter fraud* is mainly a myth in this country and these billboards, almost all hovering over minority communities , were clearly intended as a voter suppression tactic.    We will never know how many people will stay home on election day because of these billboards, but at least Clear Channel Outdoor has finally done the right thing and begun taking them down.  They are also taking a further step thanks to a little community pressure:

Under pressure from the community Clear Channel Outdoor also donated 10 billboards around the Cleveland area that read “Voting Is a Right. Not a Crime!”

There should be a billboard with that message in every city in this nation.

* Voter registration fraud, on the other hand, is a serious problem this election cycle, highlighted by the whole Nathan Sproul debacle (Google it if you haven’t heard of it.)  Hell, a Pennsylvania man who worked for Sproul in Virginia is facing 8 felony charges for voter registration fraud right now

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.


Partial Victory in Pennsylvania

Via the Washington Post, although I am sure you can find it wherever you prefer to get your news:

A Pennsylvania judge on Tuesday ordered state officials not to enforce the commonwealth’s tough new voter-ID law in the November election, a political victory for Democrats who say the measure is an attempt to discourage support for President Obama in a battleground state.


Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson, who upheld Pennsylvania’s law when he first considered it this summer, ruled Tuesday that state officials had not made enough progress in supplying photo IDs for those who lack them. He said it seemed likely that some otherwise qualified voters would be disenfranchised.

So the law has been postponed until after this years election, meaning that you will not have to show ID to vote in Pennsylvania this year.  That’s what we wanted, right?  So why is it only a partial victory?

Well, two things.  First, Judge Simpson ruled that poll workers can still ask voters for ID.  The poll workers have to allow you to cast a normal ballot (no provisional ballot mess) whether you have ID or not.  This could cause all sorts of problems.  People in line without ID could hear the poll workers asking those in front of them for ID and then assume that since they don’t have it that they won’t be allowed to vote, causing them to get out of line and leave.  Some could get to the front of the line and then leave after saying no to the question, mistakenly assuming that the poll workers asked them the question for an actual reason.  And perhaps more concerning, poll workers may end up turning away people without ID because of poor training and/or confusion over the law.

All of those possibilities become significantly more likely due to the second issue:  Pennsylvania’s ad campaign for the new law.  From MSNBC:

But the ruling did not address the state’s $5 million advertising campaign telling voters that they’ll need an ID to vote. One TV ad that last month was running across the state says: “To vote in Pennsylvania on Election Day, you need an acceptable photo ID with a valid expiration date,” and tells voters to “show it.”

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Secretary of State Carol Aichele said the ad campaign would go on. “We will continue our education and outreach efforts, as directed by the judge in his order, to let Pennsylvanians know the voter ID law is still on track to be fully implemented for future elections, and we urge all registered voters to make sure they have acceptable ID,” said Aichele.

Asked for clarification, Aichele spokesman Matthew Keeler told Lean Forward, via email: “We are looking into the media campaign to transition and update information and ads to continue to educate voters and prepare for election day.”


Still, supporters of the law are claiming that changing the campaign would be impractical. “It’s already in the works,” said Steve Miskin, a spokesman for Rep. Mike Turzai, a Republican, told Lean Forward. “How do you just pull it back?”

But voting-rights advocates say if the state doesn’t do so, the result could be widespread confusion, leading some voters to stay away from then polls because they wrongly believe they need ID.

“There is a concern on our side about the possibility of misinformation going out,” David Gersch, a lawyer for civil-rights groups challenging the law, told reporters on a conference call. If there’s confusion about whether an ID is needed, he added, “folks may just stay home.”

Gersch and other voting-rights lawyers on the case said they might pursue further legal action if the state won’t assure them it’ll change the ad campaign, though they’re hopeful that won’t be necessary.

Of course, none of this chaos would be happening if it wasn’t for the GOP’s brave contingent of anti-voter fraud warriors* insisting that this law needed to be rammed through and in place for the 2012 election cycle, even though in person voter fraud, which is the only type ID laws could have any effect on, doesn’t really exist**.

But ram they did, and then they took out an ad campaign that insured that no matter what the court ruling on the law would be, part of the damage from the law would already be done.  From Philly.com on July 8th: (Bolding, for once, is in the original article)

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett‘s administration has signed a $249,660 contract with a company run by Mitt Romneyfundraiser, former state GOP party executive director, pharmaceutical lobbyist, and school voucher advocate Chris Bravacos to direct a media campaign promoting the state’s Voter ID law.

Yes, that very same law, requiring that voters present identification at the polls, which critics contend will suppress Democratic-leaning non-white, poor, elderly and youth voters and which House Majority Leader Mike Turzai recently boasted (video) is “gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”

One sample PSA on the Bravo Group‘s Vimeo page portrays voter ID as just the latest installment in a bright history of American voting rights, and features anodyne black and white photos―including one of suffragettes. Another spot portrays a lot of shiny-toothed middle class models holding ID cards. [note: Bravo removed the two videos this morning but Occupy Harrisburg has reposted them here and here.]

The tagline? “Your right to vote: it’s one thing you never want to miss out on.”

So the law is halted for this election, but how much damage has already been done is unknown.  I hope Gov. Corbett proves me wrong, but I have a strong suspicion that the state is not going to spend the same amount of time and money telling voters they don’t need ID than they did telling them they did need ID.  You know, since the law itself was a naked partisan attempt at voter suppression.

The job ahead of us in PA is simple.  Get this information out there.  Make sure every PA voter knows that they don’t need an ID to vote this election, no matter what they hear and no matter what any poll workers tell them.  I’d bet my last dollar that shady right wing groups will unleash robo-calls in the weeks prior to the election claiming that ID is required.  We need to make sure PA residents know the facts.


*Strange how the GOP’s brave contingent of anti-voter fraud warriors doesn’t have much to say about the voter registration scandal caused by the GOP hiring a group known to engage in practices that range from questionable to outright illegal, is it not?

**Don’t believe me?  Here is the state admitting there is no problem with in-person voter fraud from TPM.

The state signed a stipulation agreement with lawyers for the plaintiffs which acknowledges there “have been no investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania; and the parties do not have direct personal knowledge of any such investigations or prosecutions in other states.”

Additionally, the agreement states Pennsylvania “will not offer any evidence in this action that in-person voter fraud has in fact occurred in Pennsylvania and elsewhere” or even argue “that in person voter fraud is likely to occur in November 2012 in the absense of the Photo ID law.”