Miranda Blue's blog

Pat Buchanan: Joni Ernst A 'Gal' With The 'Same Kind Of Attractiveness' As Sarah Palin

Democratic Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin drew criticism from right and left last week when he urged voters not to choose Joni Ernst, the Republican candidate to replace him, simply because she’s “really attractive” and “sounds nice.”

Conservative commentator Pat Buchanan apparently didn’t get the memo.

The former Republican presidential candidate dedicated a good portion of an interview with Newsmax today to gushing about how now Senator-elect Ernst is “a gal with a real sense of humor and a fighting spirit” and “has the same kind of attractiveness that Sarah Palin had at the start and that Michele Bachmann gained in the Iowa caucuses, being a very attractive, outspoken person, a woman in the GOP full of passion and full of hard-core philosophy.”

True The Vote's Election Day App Undercuts Its Own Voter Fraud Conspiracy Theories

A week before Election Day, the “voter integrity” group True the Vote released a new smart phone app to empower its army of citizen detectives to report suspected incidents of voter fraud and intimidation across the country, in the hopes of creating, as True the Vote’s founder Catherine Engelbrecht put in an interview on Monday, “an archive that will finally pull the curtain back on the myth that there is no voter fraud.”

But it seems that the evidence of massive voter fraud that Engelbrecht hoped to expose failed to materialize. In the week that the app was available, users recorded only 18 incidents of election irregularities, the vast majority of which had nothing to do with True the Vote’s policy priorities.

Eight were incidents of voting machine malfunctions — a serious and persistent problem, but not the product of a voter fraud conspiracy. One was a report of the disorganization that left a number of Hartford, Connecticut, precincts missing their lists of voters.

Three reports were of suspected “voter intimidation” — one, a report of a camera in a polling place, another of an elderly woman who claimed a poll worker snatched her ballot out of her hands when she was done with it, and one from a Houston voter who was very concerned about an “African American woman” standing nearby while she voted:

Only one app user reported a suspected case of voter impersonation — the main bugaboo behind restrictive voter ID laws — an Iowan who reported getting a call about a rejected absentee ballot despite never having submitted one.

Ironically, one report to True the Vote’s app chronicled a voter’s struggle with an overly restrictive voting law that True the Vote supports. An Ohio voter reported casting a provisional ballot because they had moved since last voting. This voter would have been allowed to cast a ballot if Ohio permitted same-day voter registration, a practice that True the Vote opposes. The voter reported that a number of others in their precinct were experiencing the same problem:

It’s this voter’s experience that best represents the problems that thousands of Americans had casting votes that count yesterday. Texans struggled to present photo IDs acceptable under their state’s tough and deliberately discriminatory voting law. In North Carolina, a new restricting the precincts in which voters could cast ballots left people confused and unable to vote. In Georgia, a failure to process new voter registrations meant that many prospective voters were turned away from the polls.

Groups like True the Vote have raised the specter of widespread voter impersonation fraud in order to push for restrictive laws that make it harder for large segments of the population to vote. Their own app shows how wrong-headed they are.

Why Tennessee's Anti-Choice Measure Won, While Colorado's And North Dakota's Went Down In Flames

Yesterday, voters in Tennessee approved a ballot measure amending the state constitution to remove all legal protections for abortion rights, paving the way for state lawmakers to pass broad abortion restrictions. At the same time, voters in Colorado and North Dakota overwhelmingly rejected “personhood” measures that would have given the full rights of citizenship to zygotes, thereby criminalizing all abortion along with some forms of birth control. In Colorado, where the nation’s foremost personhood advocacy group is based, it was the third time such a measure had been rejected by voters.

Yesterday’s results are the product of a split among the anti-choice movement about how to achieve the goal of criminalizing all abortions. While most of the movement shares this end-game, its leaders are bitterly divided over the best strategy to achieve it.

The nation’s largest and best-funded anti-choice groups, including National Right to Life, Americans United for Life and the Susan B. Anthony List, favor an incremental approach to chipping away at the protections guaranteed in Roe v. Wade. The incremental strategy has had tremendous success in recent years as measures on the state level have forced scores of abortion clinics to shut their doors. Women in Cincinnati, for instance, still have a legal right to an abortion. But thanks to a recent law aimed at shutting down abortion providers, they may soon lose access to the city’s only clinic that provides the service.

And even in North Dakota, although zygotes won’t be given the legal rights of people (at least for the time being), anti-choice activists are targeting the state’s sole abortion provider, which was struggling to keep its doors open and was recently banned from administering medical abortions.

The personhood movement is angry at mainstream anti-choice leaders for being willing to accept “compromise” legislation that includes exceptions for survivors of rape and incest. But it also thinks that the incremental strategy won’t work. Instead, personhood advocates seek to take advantage of a loophole in Roe v. Wade by which, they believe, if a zygote or a fetus is defined by law as a legal person, Roe’s abortion protections will fall. Groups pushing the so-far unsuccessful personhood ballot measures have allies in this strategy in some far-right judges, most notably on the Alabama Supreme Court, who are trying to build a legal framework for undermining Roe.

On the electoral level, the personhood strategy’s biggest flaw may be it is just too honest about the goals of the anti-choice movement. While Americans are fairly evenly split between those who call themselves pro-choice and those who choose the label pro-life, 70 percent want to keep Roe v. Wade and only 24 percent want to overturn it. Americans have muddled views about circumstances under which they think abortion should be legal, but know that they don’t want it to be completely criminalized.

Groups like Americans United for Life and the Susan B. Anthony List know this and have stayed far away from personhood measures. When a Mother Jones reporter asked AUL for a comment on North Dakota’s measure, a spokeswoman replied, “AUL does not handle personhood issues.”

But other national groups have supported these measures. While National Right to Life’s affiliate in Colorado opposed that state’s measure , saying it would be “immediately overturned in court,” the national group’s North Dakota affiliate backed its state’s even more extreme measure. And while Colorado Republican senator-elect Cory Gardner ran away from the personhood issue, both of North Dakota’s senators supported the ballot measure in their state. The Family Research Council’s North Dakota affiliate also got behind the measure in its state, along with the state chapter of Concerned Women for America and the North Dakota Catholic Conference.

And despite the unpopularity of their bills at the ballot box, personhood advocates still have a strong hold in Congress, where “life at conception” bills have 22 sponsors in the Senate and 133 in the House.

But in the end, even as anti-choice Republicans won handily in Colorado and North Dakota, the personhood measures went down in flames, leading the proponents of the Colorado proposal to rejoice that they at least lost less badly than they had in the past.

The victory of the measure in Tennessee — which will allow legislators to broadly cut off access to abortion rights without explicitly criminalizing abortion — shows that, for now, the incrementalists’ strategy is winning. Even voters in dark-red states like North Dakota can’t stomach a bill that outright criminalizes all abortions. But the anti-choice movement’s strategy to approach the same goal through different means is, so far, working.

Wiles: Government Might 'Splice' Viruses To Create Army Of Zombie Cannibals

End Times broadcaster Rick Wiles has been sounding the alarm about municipal “zombie apocalypse” emergency preparedness drills, which he believes are a warning that the government is planning something big…like mass executions.

On his program yesterday, Wiles presented a new possible explanation for these zombie drills: that the government could be working to splice together viruses to make people “literally go insane” like the man in Florida who ate another man’s face. This is all, of course, a sign that the Last Days are upon us, according to Wiles.

Later in the program, Wiles spoke with Zach Taylor of the National Association of Former Border Patrol Agents, and asked him if the CDC’s handling of Ebola cases shows that “somebody is deliberately creating the environment for a pandemic inside the United States.”

Taylor said it could be even worse.

“They may be managing this media crisis to mask something they’re doing that’s more detrimental,” he said, suggesting that the government is drawing media coverage to Ebola cases to distract from an outbreak of Enterovirus D68, which Taylor and other anti-immigrant activists are baselessly blaming on Central American child migrants.

We aren’t sure how this squares with Taylor’s other Ebola conspiracy theory, which he repeated to Wiles, that the government “disappeared” a number of immigrants on the southern border over the summer who were infected with Ebola.

Personhood Leader's Halloween Costume: Stabbed In The Back By Cory Gardner

When he launched his bid for U.S. Senate, Colorado Republican Rep. Cory Gardner dropped his previous support for his state’s radical anti-choice “personhood” amendment like a hot potato and has since been attempting to deny that he is sponsoring a similar bill at the federal level, saying that the bill does not exist.

This flip-flopping and evasion has brought Garner criticism from abortion rights advocates, but has also alienated his former allies in the “personhood” movement.

Jennifer Mason, the communications director for the Colorado-based Personhood USA, chalked up Gardner’s inconsistent stand on personhood to “bad political advice”: “Obviously [Gardner's] a victim of some bad political advice, there’s no reason for him to pull local support while he’s still 100 percent behind the federal amendment. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Then, Colorado reporter Jason Salzman wrote yesterday about a Halloween Twitter exchange he had with Keith Mason, the head of Personhood USA and Jennifer's husband, in which Mason declared that his “costume this year is a knife in my back” inscribed with Gardner’s initials:

 

Sadly, there are no pictures.

Kobach's New Rules Block 20 Percent Of Kansas Voter Registration Applications

In the run-up to the first general election in which Kansans have been required to provide one of a narrow set of “proof of citizenship” documents in order to register to vote, nearly 20 percent of voter registration applications in the state have been rejected or suspended, according to a Kansas political science professor.

University of Kansas professor Patrick Miller told Kansas City’s NPR affiliate last week that a large percentage of these suspended or rejected registrations are from independents, “essentially making the electorate more Republican”:

An even larger group than those who have had ID problems at the polls are those voters who haven’t yet proven U.S. citizenship, another provision of the new law. There are 22,468 voters whose registrations are suspended because they are lacking citizenship documentation, according to the Secretary of State’s office. That’s larger than the population of Prairie Village, a Kansas City suburb.

“This is a big change for Kansas. In 2010, we only rejected .03 percent of voter registration applications,” said Patrick Miller, a University of Kansas assistant political science professor. “Whereas in 2014, we’ve suspended or rejected almost 20 percent. That’s a massive increase.”

Of the nearly 22,468 suspended registrations, 18 percent are Democrats, nearly 23 percent are Republicans and a whopping 57 percent are independents, or unaffiliated. The new law has effectively made the electorate more partisan, Miller said.

“It’s filtering out independents, the swing voters, making proportionately the electorate more Democratic, more Republican,” Miller said. “In Kansas, the effect of this is essentially making the electorate more Republican, given that Republicans have a registration advantage here.”

The new Kansas law was championed by Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has also been in charge of implementing it. Kobach is facing his own tough reelection battle this year thanks in part to the mess created by his new voting restrictions.

Rick Perry, Ron Johnson And Jeff Sessions To Join Anti-Muslim Activists At Florida Beach Resort Confab

FrontPageMag editor and increasingly unhinged anti-Obama yeller David Horowitz is hosting his annual “Restoration Weekend” for anti-Muslim activists at a beach resort in Florida this month. This year, Horowitz has recruited an impressive slate of Republican politicians, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine to partake in the event’s offerings of golf, spa treatments, and Muslim-bashing.

Joining the GOP politicians at the Palm Beach weekend will be anti-Muslim activists including the Family Research Council’s Jerry BoykinJihadWatch’s Robert SpencerNational Review columnist Andrew McCarthy and, as Horowitz announced this weekend on Newsmax, far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders.

Conservative pundits Ann Coulter, Michael Reagan and Ben Shapiro will also be at the event, according to its website, along with FreedomWorks CEO Matt Kibbe, Heritage Foundation economics chief Stephen Moore and Wall Street Journal editorial board member Kimberly Strassel.

Horowitz organizes and funds the annual Restoration Weekend through his David Horowitz Freedom Center — attendees pay between $1,750 and $20,000, but the group’s most recent available tax return shows the 2012 event didn’t even break even. At past events, Horowitz has attracted GOP luminaries including Sen. Ted Cruz, former Sen. Jim DeMint, Rep. Steve King and Rep. Michele Bachmann. All apparently undeterred by their host’s record of anti-Muslim extremism, including accusing former Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin and Republican anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist (whose wife is Muslim) of being secret Muslim Brotherhood agents.

In just the past year, Horowitz’s commentary has moved even further to the fringe. As the Justice Department launched an investigation of the shooting of an unarmed black teen in Ferguson, Missouri, this summer, Horowitz accused Attorney General Eric Holder of leading a black “lynch mob.” A day earlier, Horowitz said he was “sure” President Obama was secretly a Muslim because “he’s a pretend Christian in the same way he’s a pretend American.”

Such anti-Obama conspiracy theories have a welcome place at Horowitz’s Restoration Weekends. At last year’s event, for instance, Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona agreed with Robert Spencer’s statement that President Obama is either a secret Muslim or just acting like one:

Wilders, who has spoken at past Horowitz-affiliated events, including at least one Restoration Weekend, is currently on a U.S. tour that included lunch at the Capitol with Bachmann. Wilders, one of the most fiercely anti-Islam voices in Europe has compared the Quran to Mein Kampf and this year lost some prominent members of his own party when he targeted Moroccans living in the Netherlands to stir up support before the European elections.

FRC Fellow: 'The Whole Country’s Being Conscripted Into A Pride Parade'

In an interview with Ohio Religious Right activist Molly Smith last week, Family Research Council Senior Fellow Bob Morrison compared the LGBT rights movement to the Vietnam draft, lamenting that “the whole country’s being conscripted into a pride parade.”

“Now we’re finding out that it’s not just about defending marriage, as important as that is,” Morrison told Smith. “It’s a question of defending liberty itself, because they can’t violate the laws of nature and of nature’s God, as the Declaration talks about, they can’t violate those laws without trampling religious freedom and political liberty at the same time.”

Speaking of nondiscrimination laws that prevent businesses from discriminating against LGBT people, he argued, “They’re not exercising discrimination, what they’re doing, what you’re doing is conscripting them. You’re forcing them to take part in your gay pride parade.”

“When I was a young guy, the draft was a hot issue,” he added. “Okay, well we’re being conscripted, the whole country’s being conscripted into a pride parade, and I don’t want to be in that parade.”

Voting For The Future Of Voting: Secretary of State Races To Watch

One influential issue at the ballot box this year is the future of how we cast our ballots. In secretary of state races throughout the country, voters will be choosing who runs their elections — and how open those elections are to all voters.

As Republican lawmakers continue to enact news laws aimed at curtailing the rights of voters, secretary of state elections have taken on renewed importance.

We’ve picked three key secretary of state races that we’ll be watching closely Tuesday and added a few more influential races that are also worth keeping an eye on. (And this isn’t even counting states like Florida and Pennsylvania, where the secretary of state is picked by the governor, leaving the gubernatorial elections will have even stronger voting rights implications.)

Kansas

Perhaps the hardest-fought and most-watched secretary of state race this year is taking place in the heavily Republican Kansas. And that’s all because of the national profile and extreme agenda of one man: incumbent Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

When Kobach won his job in 2010, he was already a national figure. After a stint in the Bush Justice Department, Kobach joined the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) — the legal arm of the nativist anti-immigrant group FAIR — where he worked with lawmakers to craft harsh anti-immigrant measures throughout the country, including Hazleton, Pennsylvania, and Arizona, where he helped write the infamous “show me your papers” law SB 1070. After a failed run for Congress in 2004, Kobach set his sights on his state’s elections office.

Kobach has recently gained a prominent place in national Republican politics, serving as an immigration policy adviser to Mitt Romney and working to insert anti-gay and anti-immigrant language into the 2012 GOP platform.

Kobach won his position handily in 2010, but is facing an unexpectedly tough fight to hold onto it. Part of the reason is because he’s kept up his out-of-state anti-immigrant work: He still holds a position at IRLI and jets around the country advising states and localities that have agreed to be his policy guinea pigs, prompting his critics to complain that he’s not spending enough time in Kansas. And part of it is because he’s brought his activism home, using his platform in Kansas to push some of the most extreme voting restrictions in the country by hyping fears that undocumented immigrants are voting en masse in Kansas.

In 2011, at Kobach’s urging, Kansas passed a restrictive voter ID law that included a requirement that those registering to vote provide a passport, birth certificate, or similar “proof of citizenship" to elections authorities. The proof-of-citizenship provision, which took effect this year, has thrown Kansas voter registration into chaos. Less than one week before the election, 22,394 potential Kansas voters are unable to cast ballots because they had not provided an acceptable form of citizenship documentation. In addition, Kobach has placed an estimated 300-400 voters in a special voting rights “tier” in which they can vote only in federal elections and not in state elections. Kobach has proudly reported that of the 200 people who were placed in this special class of disenfranchised voters in this summer's primary election, only one bothered to show up to cast a half vote.

Kobach is also at the helm of Interstate Crosscheck, a faulty program that claims to identify people who are voting in two states at once but in reality has encouraged states to purge eligible minority voters from their voter rolls.

Kansans became even more leery of Kobach’s priorities this year when he spent $34,000 in taxpayer money trying to keep a Democratic senate candidate, Chad Taylor, on the ballot after he dropped out to make way for the independent challenging Republican Sen. Pat Roberts. Kobach only relented when the state supreme court ordered him to, and even then he tried (unsuccessfully) to find a way around the order.

A recent poll shows Kobach tied with his Democratic challenger, Jean Schodorf.

Ohio

In the presidential swing state of Ohio, the secretary of state is often in the center of national battles over voting rights. Republican Jon Husted has been no exception.

In the lead-up to the 2012 election, Husted stepped in to break tie votes in Democratic-leaning Ohio counties, allowing those counties to eliminate night and weekend early voting hours... even as Republican-leaning counties expanded their early voting hours. In response to a national outcry, Husted enforced “uniformity” by requiring all counties to bring early voting opportunities down to the lowest common denominator, including cutting off night and weekend voting and eliminating early voting in the three days before the election. When a federal judge ordered Husted to reopen voting in the three days before the election, he flatly refused to comply, saying it would “confuse voters.” Eventually he relented, but as the election approached he appealed the ruling all the way to the Supreme Court.

Since the 2012 election, Husted has kept up his efforts to restrict early voting in 2014, fighting to eliminate the so-called “Golden Week” of early voting — in which voters can register and cast their ballots in one visit — and to cut early voting hours, including on Sundays, a time frequently used by African American churches for get-out-the-vote efforts.

Husted faces a Democrat state Sen. Nina Turner, a major critic of his record on voting rights. Although the two were neck-and-neck in an early poll, a recent poll shows Husted with a significant lead.

Arizona

Before Kansas ushered in its restrictive “proof of citizenship” law, Arizona was already fighting for a similar measure. In 2004, Arizona voters passed Proposition 200, a medley of anti-immigrant and voter suppression measures including a requirement that those registering to vote present one of a narrow set of documents to prove that they are citizens. The Supreme Court struck down the provision in 2013, saying that it was preempted by federal law — but left a loophole, suggesting that Arizona could sue the federal Election Assistance Commission to require that federal voter registration forms used in the state include the extra “proof of citizenship” requirement. So Arizona did just that, joined by Kansas under Kobach.

That case is still working its way through the courts, but it’s left a peculiar situation in Kansas and Arizona where Kobach and his Arizona counterpart Secretary of State Ken Bennett have set up dual-track voting systems in their states in which people who register to vote with a federal form but do not provide additional citizenship documents are allowed to vote in federal elections, but not in state elections. As we noted above, of about 200 Kansans on the special limited-rights voting track in this year’s primary election, just one voted. In Arizona, about 1,500 were put on the limited track, and 21 cast ballots.

Bennett isn’t up for reelection this year — he unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for governor — but the race to succeed him will determine the future implementation of Arizona’s restrictive requirements. Republican Michele Reagan sought and won Kobach’s endorsement, boasting that she voted for the infamous anti-immigrant bill that Kobach helped bring to Arizona. In the state senate, Reagan wrote a bill that, among other voting restrictions, would prevent community groups from collecting and delivering mail-in ballots, a method commonly used in voting drives by Latino groups. When an effort to repeal the bill by referendum started to gain steam, Reagan and her fellow Republicans worked to repeal it first, thus allowing the state legislature to bring back parts of the bill in a piecemeal fashion.

Reagan is facing off against Democrat Terry Goddard, a former state attorney general and mayor of Phoenix. Both candidates have said they want tighter disclosure requirements for “dark money” spending by outside groups. But when the Koch-backed 60 Plus Association bought $304,000 in ads attacking Goddard last week, she refused to distance herself from the dark money effort.

Reagan also struggled this week to explain her vote for Arizona’s so-called “birther bill,” which would have required presidential candidates to prove to the secretary of state that they are native-born American citizens.

Other States To Watch: Colorado, New Mexico, Arkansas, Iowa

In Colorado, Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler — a key Kobach ally and crusader against the supposed scourge of Democratic “organized voter fraud” who last year tried to stop county clerks from sending ballots to voters who had not voted in the the last election — is stepping down this year, having tried and failed to get his party’s gubernatorial nomination. In the race to replace him are Republican El Paso County Clerk Wayne Williams, described by the Denver Post as Gessler’s “lone public ally” among clerks in the ballot controversy, and Democratic attorney Joe Neguse. The two differ on the sweeping elections overhaul Colorado passed last year, which allows same-day voter registration and requires the state to mail a ballot to every voter.

New Mexico’s secretary of state race has incumbent Republican Dianna Duran pitted against Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a rising Democratic star. Toulouse Oliver is emphasizing “full participation across a wide spectrum of the electorate” in her campaign, while Durran is accusing her of using “community-organizer, consultant-styled rhetoric.” In a TV ad that doubles as a promotion for right-wing myths about widespread voter fraud, Durran accuses Toulous Oliver of “registering a dog to vote.” In reality, a right-wing activist tried to register his dog to try to prove a point; he was caught and Toulouse Oliver referred his case to the proper authorities.

Earlier this month, the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down the state’s voter ID requirement, a ruling that Secretary of State Mark Martin is vowing to fight. As the case worked its way through the courts, Arkansas voters got conflicting messages from elections officials under Martin’s leadership. He faces a challenge from Democrat Susan Inman.

In Iowa, outgoing Secretary of State Matt Schultz spent $150,000 in taxpayer money in a quest to root out voter fraud in Iowa…and found none. He also conducted a voter roll purge that critics called an attempt to  intimidate Latino voters.” The race to succeed him — between Republican voter ID supporter Paul Pate and Democrat Brad Anderson — is locked in a dead heat.

Bachmann: Obama Wants To 'Flood Our Nation With Millions Of Sure-Thing Democrat Voters'

Rep. Michele Bachmann said today that if President Obama were to take executive action to prevent the deportation of some undocumented immigrants living in the United States, his goal would be to “flood our nation with millions of sure-thing Democrat [sic] voters” who would rely on “the United States government as their source of supply.”

“This will be the most significant achievement of President Obama’s second term,” Bachmann told Newsmax host Ed Berliner of the potential executive action. “It is what he has wanted from the very beginning, and that is to flood our nation with millions of new sure-thing Democrat voters. And the reason why is because he wants to bring a flood of individuals into the country who will be looking to the United States government as their source of supply.”

The Minnesota Republican went on to argue that such a move from the president would simultaneously hurt Democrats and ensure their victory in future elections: “That won’t help the Democrat Party, the president’s actions will hurt the Democrat Party in future elections, but the president unfortunately doesn’t care because his long-term view is that it will eventually deliver voters to the Democrat Party.”

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