Miranda Blue's blog

How 2014's Elections Will Influence 2016's Voting Rights

Voters across the country trying to cast votes in Tuesday’s elections ran into hurdles erected by Republican legislatures, governors and secretaries of state. Along with mechanical glitches and human error — which occurred in states with leaders on both sides of the political spectrum — voters faced new laws and policies that made it harder to vote.

In Alabama, a last-minute decision by the attorney general barred people from using public housing IDs to vote. Voter ID laws in North Carolina and Texas sowed confusion. Georgia lost 40,000 voter registrations, mostly from minorities. In all, the group Election Protection reported receiving 18,000 calls on Election Day, many of them having to do with voter ID laws. The group noted that the flurry of calls represented “a nearly 40 percent increase from 13,000 calls received in 2010.”

In the presidential election year of 2016, it looks unlikely that those problems will subside — especially if Congress fails to restore the Voting Rights Act. The two states that had the closest vote tallies in the last presidential election — Florida and Ohio — will go into the presidential election year with Republicans controlling the offices of governor and secretary of state and holding majorities in their state legislatures.

In Florida, Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who won reelection yesterday, will be able to appoint a secretary of state and will enjoy the support of a veto-proof Republican majority in the state House.

In Ohio, controversial Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted won reelection on Tuesday, along with Gov. John Kasich. They’ll be able to work with a strengthened GOP majority in the state legislature.

In North Carolina, where a Republican legislature and governor have cracked down on voting rights, the GOP held onto its majority. Republican secretary of state candidates in the swing states of Colorado, Iowa and Nevada also won elections yesterday.

Two influential elections for voting rights also took place in states unlikely to be presidential swing states. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a national ringleader for advocates of restrictive voting laws, won reelection. In Arizona, which has been working with Kansas to defend their states' respective tough voting requirements, Republican candidate Michele Reagan also won her contest.

One exception to the trend is Pennsylvania, where Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, who backed a harsh voter ID law that has since been struck down in the courts, lost to voting rights supporter Tom Wolf. Although Wolf will contend with a Republican majority in the state legislature, he will be able to appoint a secretary of the commonwealth.

Laurie Higgins: GOP Establishment Is Like Tolkein's Gollum

In a blog post today, Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute (state affiliate of the American Family Association) turns to a colorful analogy to describe the Republican Party’s internal conflicts.

Higgins contends that the establishment GOP, which worked this year to stamp out some of the more vocally extreme candidates in its ranks this year, is like Tolkein’s Gollum, so captivated by a shiny object that it ends up destroying itself and those it loves. (In The Lord of the Rings, the shiny object is the One Ring. In contemporary politics, it’s presumably voters who support LGBT equality and abortion rights.)

Just to be clear, Higgins also compares the party establishment to Cain, who in the Bible kills his brother Abel.

The GOP is slowly transmogrifying into the political incarnation of Tolkien's Gollum:

Gollum, dancing like a mad thing, held aloft the ring, a finger still thrust within its circle. "Precious, precious, precious!" Gollum cried. "My Precious! O my Precious!" And with that, even as his eyes were lifted up to gloat on his prize, he stepped too far, toppled, wavered for a moment on the brink, and then with a shriek he fell. Out of the depths came his last wail precious, and he was gone.

Illinoisans should fully expect to hear immoderates and perhaps even dispirited conservatives say, "See, Bruce Rauner/Mark Kirk-type of Republican is the only kind of Republican who can get elected in Illinois." But soon, they won't be tacking on "in Illinois."

Four years ago, the U.S. Senator-elect from Colorado, Cory Gardner, supported the Personhood Amendment and even circulated petitions to gather signatures for it. Then this year, the GOP establishment got to him. Just weeks before Gardner announced his candidacy, pro-life activists in Colorado got wind of the news that he would be renouncing his support for the Personhood Amendment.

Karl Rove deceitfully wrote this last May: "in Colorado, tea-party favorite and front-runner Ken Buck stepped aside when Mr. Gardner entered the race, recognizing he was better able to enthuse all the party." So, in May Rove implied that Buck just freely stepped aside because of his own uncoerced epiphany that Gardner would be the best candidate for "enthusing" the party.

That's interesting, because late last night on FOX News election coverage, Karl Rove boasted that his Super PAC told the Colorado GOP that no Super Pac money would got to support Ken Buck for U.S. Senate. I'm speculating here, but I suspect that Rove et al told Gardner they would support him as long as he retreated from the Personhood Amendment.

Immoderate Republicans accuse conservatives who agree with Robert George of turning on their Republican brethren and "forming a circular firing squad." But who really is Cain in this contemporary narrative? Who is Sméagol and who is Déagol?

Schlafly: GOP Senate's First Priority Should Be Blocking All Judicial Nominees

In a post-election interview with WorldNetDaily — “It’s a terribly important election, and I’m thrilled with it because it’s almost as big as our Republican victory in 1946” — conservative leader Phyllis Schlafly insisted that the first priority of the new GOP-controlled Senate should be to block every single one of President Obama’s judicial nominees:

Now Schlafly said it’s time for the new Republican majority to get to work by stopping President Obama from packing the judicial system with his preferred judges.

“I think the most important job of the Republican Senate is to defeat or reject, or not even take up, any of Obama’s court nominees,” she said. “He’s already put too many liberals on the court, and we don’t want any more.”

Last year, the Senate lowered the vote threshold for ending most judicial filibusters after Republicans had abused the process to routinely block even noncontroversial, bipartisan nominees.

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.

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