Pennsylvania

UPDATE: State legislation shines national spotlight on voter ID

"On voting rights in America, the arc of the universe has indeed been long, centuries long, from the three-fifths compromise in the Constitution to the poll tax to the literacy test. But it has always bent toward justice. These new laws seek to bend the arc backward again, to take away from people their effective right to vote."
PFAW Foundation

RNC: Two Darlings of the Religious Right Take the Stage Tonight

Along with the parade of Republican officials and Tea Party favorites like Gov. Scott Walker and Ted Cruz, two darlings of the Religious Right will be speaking tonight during the Republican National Convention:

Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia chaired the 2012 RNC platform committee, which a committee member described as “the most conservative platform in modern history.” McDonnell, known to many as Governor Ultrasound for his support of the “vaginal probe” law, is the most prominent graduate of Pat Robertson’s foray into higher education – Christian Broadcasting Network University, now called Regent.

As a student there, McDonnell authored a 93-page thesis – “The Republican Party's Vision for the Family” – which served as a blueprint for a Religious Right version of America. In it, he characterized “working women and feminists as 'detrimental' to the family” and argued that the government “should favor married couples over 'cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators.” McDonnell disavowed his thesis when he ran for governor, but the Washington Post noted that as a legislator he “pursued at least 10 of the policy goals he laid out” in his thesis. Not surprisingly, Pat Robertson donated to McDonnell’s gubernatorial campaign and hosted him on the 700 Club, referring to him as his “dear friend.” 

Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, ran away with the hearts of Religious Right leaders during the GOP presidential primary. They rallied together to propel his campaign and then keep it afloat, and when he finally dropped out, they had one consistent piece of advice for Romney – be more like Santorum. Santorum, although Catholic, resonated with right-wing evangelicals like no other candidate. He spoke consistently and candidly about his faith and his extreme views on social issues, particularly his fervent opposition to reproductive rights and equality for gays and lesbians. However, the comments that won him favor among Religious Right audiences often got him in hot water with the broader electorate.
 
Santorum spoke to the Religious Right’s view that America, and its culture and people, are going down the tubes. He warned of “dire consequences” if the country strays from God’s “principles” and vowed to prosecute obscenity while decrying the Obama administration, which he said favors “pornographers over children and families.” He promised that he would reinstate Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, forcing gays and lesbians in the military back into the shadows, and urged public schools to challenge the theory of evolution. He argued that Americans should not “defy nature” by allowing gays and lesbians to marry and accused Planned Parenthood of targeting African-Americans for abortions as part of a racist, eugenic plot. Instead of Planned Parenthood, he expressed nostalgia for the days of illegal, back alley abortions.
 
The remark that summed up Santorum’s outlook was recorded in 2008 but only surfaced during the primary. Speaking at Ave Maria University in Florida, Santorum said that Satan was systematically destroying the country. He also managed to start an international row during the primary with his claim that 10% of deaths in the Netherlands are from euthanasia (which, he argued, is what Obamacare would lead us to).

 

PFAW Memo: Sen. Toomey Can Help Get Pennsylvania’s Judicial Nominees Confirmed by Encouraging his Republican Colleagues To Cooperate

To: Interested Parties
From: Jodi Hirsh, People For the American Way of Pennsylvania
Re:
Senator Toomey Can Help Get Pennsylvania’s Judicial Nominees Confirmed by Encouraging his Republican Colleagues To Cooperate

Last month, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved two nominees to fill two long-vacant seats in Pennsylvania’s federal courts. Each has broad bipartisan support and is strongly supported by both Sens. Casey and Toomey. Yet over four weeks later, neither has received a vote from the full Senate. Sen. Pat Toomey has recently urged their prompt confirmation, correctly stating that “The one thing standing between the confirmation and these two gentlemen putting on the robes and serving, is a vote on the Senate floor.” That’s true. And he says he will push for a floor vote in September. That’s good.

But in addition to making statements he needs to press members of his own party for action.

In fact it is Senate Republicans, including Sen. Toomey, who have systematically slow-walked nearly every judicial nomination that President Obama has made. Confirmed district court nominees under President Bush at this point in his presidency waited on average just 33 days from committee approval to a vote from the full Senate. In contrast, district court nominees under President Obama have waited an average of 96 days, or three times as long. This is not because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid refuses to schedule votes. It is because Reid can’t schedule a vote without the minority party’s consent, and that consent has routinely been denied even for nominees with strong bipartisan support like the two pending in Pennsylvania, just one of the many stalling tactics they have used to keep President Obama’s nominees off the courts

Pennsylvania nominees Matthew Brann of Canton and Malachy Mannion of Scott Township are not alone in waiting for Senate votes. There are now 22 judicial nominees who have been approved by the Judiciary Committee and who are waiting for a simple up-or-down vote from the Senate. Nineteen were approved by the Judiciary Committee with strong bipartisan support. Seven of these have been waiting since April or earlier for a vote. A third of these are women and people of color, nominees who would help diversify the federal bench. And most have been waiting for a Senate vote far longer than Mannion and Brann.

After the Judiciary Committee vets a nominee, especially a consensus nominee like most of the ones now pending, the Senate should quickly cast a yes-or-no vote. There is no legitimate reason for delay. In past administrations, we have seen multiple confirmation votes per week. But since May, Senate Republicans have allowed only one a week. There is no reason for this but partisan obstruction, pure and simple. Rather than being toward the bottom of a list of 22 nominees, Brann and Mannion should be at the top of much smaller list composed only of the few nominees approved by the committee in late July and early August, with the full expectation of confirmation on the day the Senate returns from recess.

For Mannion and Brann to have a realistic chance of being confirmed this fall, Senator Toomey will need to talk to his fellow Republicans – especially Minority Leader Mitch McConnell – and demand votes not only for Pennsylvania’s nominees, but for all of the many district court nominees ahead of them in line. Until those other nominees get votes, two courtrooms in Pennsylvania’s Middle District will remain empty.

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Pennsylvania Pastors ‘Dismayed’ by Voter ID Decision

Philadelphia, PA – A coalition of African American pastors spoke out today against a state judge’s refusal to halt the implementation of Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law, a move that could put low-income, elderly, minority and student voters at risk of disenfranchisement in November’s election.

Members of the African American Ministers Leadership Council, a program of People For the American Way Foundation, said that the decision not to stay the voter ID law could suppress the votes of those who have traditionally struggled to exercise their right to vote.

“The purpose of this law has been clear from the beginning,” said Rev. Michael Couch of Berachah Baptist Church in Philadelphia. “It was meant to keep African Americans, students, and other traditionally suppressed communities from  exercising our hard-won right to vote. Even the law’s supporters have admitted that there is absolutely no evidence of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania. Instead, this law is a purely political attempt to disenfranchise citizens who have every right to vote. I am dismayed at today’s decision and hope that as this case moves through the courts, our judges recognize the ugly intent and real consequences of voter ID.”

The African American Ministers Leadership Council, founded in 1997, has been working nationwide to help bring African Americans to the polls in every election, most recently through the newly-launched non-partisan “I Am A VESSEL and I Vote!” program.


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People For Raises Awareness of the 'Romney Court' on Sotomayor Anniversary

PFAW Activists Rally Outside Romney Headquarters in Greentree, PA

Yesterday marked the 3rd anniversary of Sonia Sotomayor officially assuming her office as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. People for the American Way, in partnership with other progressive organizations including NARAL and the AFL-CIO, marked the occasion with activists on the ground in the key states of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

At a campaign event in Colorado yesterday, President Obama underscored the importance of the election for its impact on the future of the court.

Today is the three-year anniversary of Sonia Sotomayor taking her seat on the Supreme Court. Yesterday was the two-year anniversary of Elena Kagan taking her seat on the Supreme Court. So let's be very clear -- the next President could tip the balance of the Court in a way that turns back the clock for women and families for decades to come. The choice between going backward and moving forward has never been so clear.

People For president Michael Keegan also laid out the stakes in the Huffington Post.

President Obama’s decisions to nominate Justices Kagan and Sotomayor prove his commitment to selecting qualified jurists and building a more representative and inclusive court that respects the Constitution and the rights of every American. Mitt Romney’s decision to turn to ultra-conservative judge Robert Bork for judicial counsel is a clear signal that he would only appoint far-right figures to the Supreme Court, judges that are even further to the right than Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia.

It’s difficult to imagine a more conservative court than the one we have now, but that’s exactly what a Romney presidency would bring. With critical issues such as reproductive rights, voting rights, LGBT rights, campaign finance, and worker protections almost certain to come before the court next presidential term, stakes have never been higher.

For more on Mitt Romney’s dangerous vision for the Supreme Court, visit Romneycourt.com.

Yesterday, PFAW avtivists were featured on Ohio Public Radio:

 

ONN Tv,

and Ohio Capital Blog:

PFAW

Next Up: Leash Laws for Unicorns

Jon Stewart takes on the “Wizards of ID” and their voter suppression laws.
PFAW Foundation

Newest Young Elected Progressive Candidates

We are continuing to roll out our new Young Elected Progressives candidates this week with three more candidates under the age of 35. Today we are introducing you to Bret Binder (PA), Will Sylianteng (PA), and Sarah Gillooly (MO).

Bret Binder

Bret Binder is running for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in the 156th district. Binder is currently an attorney and small business owner. He founded Binder & Canno, LLC and is part owner of Pudding Lane Brookline, a gourmet rice pudding emporium. He also played important roles with multiple real estate companies, including being the general partner of Seamazing, LLC. Prior to the creation of his law firm, Binder was a law clerk to Justice Sandra Schultz Newman of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. He hopes to use this background while in the state legislature to fight back against the recent Voter ID law and will promote the importance of public education to the leaders in Harrisburg. Visit his website here.

Will Sylianteng

Will Sylianteng is running to represent the 151st district in the Pennsylvania House. He currently practices law in Blue Bell, PA and has chaired the Montgomery County Bar Association’s Diversity Committee as well as being the vice-chair of its Civil Practice Committee. Additionally, Sylianteng volunteers to teach a 6th grade Civics and the Law class at a local school. He has received several awards since he began practicing law, including being named a SuperLawyer Rising Star, Lawyer on the Fast Track and Pennsylvania Diversity Attorney of the Year. If elected, Sylianteng will become the first Asian-American to be elected to the Pennsylvania legislature. Visit his website here.

Sarah Gillooly

Sarah Gillooly is running for Missouri House of Representatives in the 24th district. She is a progressive champion who has put forth great time and effort into the fight for equality. She worked for Missouri’s LGBTQ organization, PROMO, and serves Missouri and Kansas women in the battle for equal health benefits. Gillooly has dedicated herself to furthering the civil rights agenda through activities that have pushed for protection of federal family planning funds, the promotion of public education, and adding gender identity to the Kansas City Human Rights Ordinance. Visit her website here.

PFAW

US Rep joins Citizens United fight after Phila. passes resolution

A recently passed resolution in Philadelphia that calls for a democracy of the people, by the people, and for the people sparked a federal figure to declare his support.
PFAW

Pennsylvania Federal Judge and Legal Experts to Discuss Vacancy Crisis in American Courts

FOR PLANNING PURPOSES

CONTACT: Jodi Hirsh 412-391-2005 / info@justactionllc.com

Three of Pennsylvania's foremost experts on the federal courts will discuss the deepening vacancy crisis in American courts, and specifically in Pennsylvania, at an event in Philadelphia on Wednesday, June 13.

The Honorable Norma L. Shapiro, Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and Prof. Mary Frances Berry of the University of Pennsylvania will join Prof. Anita L. Allen of the University of Pennsylvania for an in-depth exploration of the factors that have led to one in ten seats on the federal courts being vacant, including seven seats in Pennsylvania. These vacancies force Pennsylvanians to face unacceptable delays as they seek their day in court.

What: Panel Discussion: The Continuing Judicial Vacancy Crisis

When: Wednesday, June 13. 2012, 4:30-6:30 p.m.

Where: University of Pennsylvania Law School 3400 Chestnut Street, Room T145, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Press contact: Jodi Hirsh, 412-391-2005 or info@justactionllc.com

Cosponsored by the Pennsylvania Coalition for Constitutional Values, People For the American Way, the National Council of Jewish Women - Greater Philadelphia Section, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the Alliance for Justice.

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New Lawsuit Challenges Voter ID in Pennsylvania

This week, voting rights supporters in Pennsylvania filed suit against HB 934, claiming that it deprives citizens of their basic and fundamental right to vote.
PFAW Foundation

PA Passes ID Under Objections of 45 Groups and 13,000 Pennsylvanians

Photo ID looks set to become law under objections raised by Protect Our Vote, a coalition of 45 groups that has the support of 13,000 Pennsylvanians.
PFAW Foundation
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