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.)


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.


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.


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.

Michele Bachmann Has Big Plans For Her Future: 'I Intend To Have My Voice And My Thoughts As Far And Wide As I Possibly Can'

Appearing on Newsmax TV's "Midpoint" program today, Rep. Michele Bachmann told host Ed Berliner that she fully intends to play a significant role in public policy debates and the 2016 presidential election after leaving Congress at the end of her term, especially if Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination.

As the only Republican woman to ever participate in televised presidential debates and "the only woman Republican candidate who ever won a presidential contest," Bachmann asserted that "I occupy a unique space" in public sphere and therefore she intends to be "heavily involved in the 2016 race, in particular if Hillary Clinton is the nominee for president on the Democrat [sic] side."

Bachmann, of course, won the Iowa Straw Poll in 2011 which, as its name suggests, is nothing more than a nonbinding poll, as even the official website readily admits that "the Straw Poll results have no official or legal effect."

Nonetheless, Bachmann has big plans to "be in the national media," speaking around the country, appearing on radio and writing weekly columns and perhaps even a book.

"I intend to have my voice and my thoughts as far and wide as I possibly can," she pledged, "to bring in the perspective of the conservative movement in this upcoming race in 2016. It is the pivotal race in our lifetime and I wanna be involved":

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.”

Republicans Solve Problem Of The Personhood Amendment's Unpopularity By Lying About The Personhood Amendment

For an example of the dilemma that today’s Republican Party finds itself in when it comes to abortion rights and radical “personhood” laws, look no further than Mitt Romney.

After running as a pro-choice Republican in Massachusetts, Romney transformed into a “severely conservative,” anti-choice presidential candidate, then ultimately came full circle when he closed out his 2012 campaign with TV ads trumpeting his support for abortion rights in certain cases.

Perhaps Romney’s advisers figured out that the candidate’s opposition to abortion rights would prove unpopular among the general electorate. Exit polls in 2012 showed that 59 percent of voters supported legal abortion.

It turned out that Romney’s professed commitment to “get rid” of Planned Parenthood and pledges to support state and national “personhood amendments” — which would ban abortion in all cases and also outlaw common forms of birth control by giving personhood rights to zygotes — weren’t exactly winning positions.

Several Republican politicians in this election cycle have followed Romney’s lead by painstakingly trying to paint themselves as the real pro-choice candidates, despite having a long history of opposing abortion rights. Still others are flat-out denying that they support extreme anti-choice legislation like ‘personhood’ bills…even when they are on the record supporting them.

Take Cory Gardner, the congressman running for U.S. Senate in Colorado, for instance.

With the personhood amendment on the Colorado ballot for the fourth time this year, it must have been just a coincidence that Gardner renounced his support for the unpopular measure just three weeks after he announced his U.S. Senate bid. In his previous races for the U.S. House, Gardner boasted of circulating petitions in favor of the personhood amendment, and as a congressman he cosponsored a federal personhood bill.

Despite claiming that he is now a personhood opponent, Gardner remains to this day a cosponsor of the federal personhood legislation.

Instead of explaining the discrepancy, Gardner just claims that the personhood bill he is cosponsoring, the “Life at Conception Act,” simply doesn’t exist. As one journalist interviewing Gardner pointed out, he seems to be alone in that view: supporters and opponents of the personhood movement alike, including the authors of the bill in question, disagree with his unique reading of the bill.

“We don’t see how the Colorado initiative and the federal bill, which supporters in Congress describe as a ‘personhood’ measure, are different on this point,” reports, noting that even a spokesman for Personhood USA said “there’s no reason for [Gardner] to pull local support while he’s still 100 percent behind the federal amendment.”

Another personhood group, the National Pro-Life Alliance, similarly promotes [PDF] the “Life at Conception Act” because it “is legislation that, quite simply, would declare the unborn to be ‘persons’ under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution” and would ensure that “Roe v. Wade would be effectively reversed.”

When pressed on the issue in a debate, Gardner simply avoided the question.

As Gardner’s candidacy’s proves, sometimes it is easier to just make blatantly false statements about your position than to actually change it.

Taking a page from Gardner, Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst has also resorted to rewriting history about her record on personhood.

Ernst supported a personhood amendment in the Iowa legislature and recently committed to cosponsoring a federal personhood bill if elected. When called out by her Democratic opponent for backing a state personhood amendment, Ernst falsely claimed that it was merely a symbolic measure.

As Ed Kilgore writes, politicians like Gardner and Ernst are just trying “to weasel out of such positions the moment they become inconvenient.”

Other Republican Life at Conception Act cosponsors in the House, including Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Steve Daines of Montana, are also running for seats in the U.S. Senate. North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis also pledged to support a personhood amendment.

Tillis and Gardner, like other Republicans who are trying to come across as reproductive rights supporters, are now highlighting their support for the over-the-counter sale of birth control, which actual reproductive health activists note will actually make birth control more expensive.

Meanwhile, as personhood supporters these Republicans are backing laws that would ban several forms of contraception that they claim to want to make more accessible.

As Republicans face pressure from their anti-choice base to endorse radical “personhood” measures, they are faced with a choice: alienate staunch anti-choice conservatives or turn off moderates. Many, like Gardner and Ernst, are apparently finding that it’s easier to just lie to voters than to defend their views.

Beck: Don't Join The Military Because 'We Have A Chance Of Losing Our Country In the Next Two To Three Years'

On his radio program today, Glenn Beck answered some questions submitted by his listeners, including one from a parent of a son who wants to join the ROTC, which the parent opposes because America's "leadership is so corrupt," asking Beck if he would allow his own son to join the military.

"I wouldn't want my son joining the military now," Beck declared, saying that no matter who becomes the next president, America is going to implode.

"Starting Tuesday, until the inauguration of the next president," he said, "this is the most dangerous time in our nation's history."

"All it's gonna take is a Black Swan event and I think we could be in deep, deep trouble," Beck warned. "We have a chance of losing our country in the next two to three years":

Pat Robertson: This Halloween, Give Satan A Black Eye For Legalizing Abortion

Pat Robertson, who is no fan of Halloween, today urged viewers to mark the occasion by punching the Devil in the face.

“Just say, ‘I am free. On this Halloween I gave a black eye to Satan,’” he told viewers while promoting a booklet he wrote called “Angels, Demons and the End Times.” (Robertson had also just responded to a CBN story about an abusive Satanist household.)

Robertson told viewers that Satan is behind not only Halloween, but also abortion rights: “The Devil has tried to destroy people, he wants to kill babies. Why do you think we’ve got such an incredible culture of death in our country? Why do you think that we’ve killed over 50 million unborn babies? Who do you think is behind all that? This isn’t just human, it is demonic. Satan wants to destroy our babies. He wants to destroy our babies just like Pharaoh sent the word to destroy the Hebrew babies, and it’s the same thing all the way through.”

Pat Robertson: 'Dangerous' Ouija Boards 'Communicate With Demonic Spirits'

Today on “The 700 Club,” Pat Robertson denounced the use of Ouija boards after a viewer asked him about the new horror movie, “Ouija.”

“The spirit is causing that little needle — it goes around to letters and spells out words and so you feel like [it’s] some dead person, but actually it is communicating with demonic spirits,” he said. “It is a dangerous thing and I strongly urge people not to get involved in it.”

Previously, Robertson said that “Ouija boards aren’t harmless. Ouija boards are often time-directed by demonic spirits. There are various types of chants. The so-called TM Mantras are actually prayers in Sanskrit to various Hindu Gods who are in turn demons, and you are saying something you don’t understand when in essence you are praying to a devil to come to you.”

Head Of Alabama Christian Coalition Opposes Anti-Sharia Amendment: 'This Is A Tremendous Waste Of Effort'

When voters in Alabama go to the polls next week, one issue they will be asked to decide is whether the state constitution needs to be amended to outlaw Islamic Sharia law through Amendment 1, which would "prohibit the application of foreign law in violation of rights guaranteed natural citizens by the United States and Alabama Constitutions."

A similar amendment in Oklahoma was struck down as unconstitutional.

Normally, these sorts of efforts are nothing more than attempts to gin up right-wing activists by enshrining Christian privileges in states where Christians already dominate all levels of government. In fact, so obvious is this strategy and so needless is this amendment that even Randy Brinson, president of the Alabama Christian Coalition, has come out against it:

"This is a tremendous waste of effort. It's is a waste of time and it  costs money," Brinson said Thursday morning, talking with between seeing patients at his medical practice in Montgomery. "This just creates a whole new headache for people involved in foreign adoptions or who get married in another country. My frustration is that people -- good people -- get behind something like this just because they want to score political points with the Christian community. But it's redundant - you don't need to amend the constitution to address these issues. I just don't think they thought through this particular thing."


"I understand the sentiment behind this, but Sharia law is not going to be implemented in Alabama, it just isn't," Brinson said. "And this would just be another stigma for Alabama, another way of saying to other countries: 'We don't respect your laws.'"

"Alabama law - or laws from outside the state -- either comports with the law of the United States or they don't," Brinson said. "This is just silliness. It's all something that lawmakers can trumpet back to constituents that they're protecting Christian values, but they need to be working on other stuff."

Bradlee Dean: America Needs An Anti-Obama William Wallace

Right-wing activist Bradlee Dean is hoping for America’s own “Braveheart” moment, writing today in WorldNetDaily that an American version of William Wallace must emerge to fight President Obama’s “tyranny.”

Dean writes that just as the English monarchs abused their power over Scotland, Obama and his administration are becoming despots who must be “tried, convicted and brought to justice.”

What if you woke up this morning, opened up the newspaper or turned on the TV to your local news channel and saw this:

“The Obama administration has been found criminal and corrupt. Impeachment will take place this week, and all administrative officials who have continuously broken the laws of our constitutional republic will be tried, convicted and brought to justice.”

Would you not be shocked? But why is that? It’s because American citizens have fallen so far from the Bible, the U.S. Constitution and, of course, what our forefathers established that we think justice is impossible.

Yet, justice is what preserves our republic.

I am reminded of the true story of William Wallace – most of you know him as “Braveheart.” William was told by the “Nobles” of Scotland that it was impossible to defeat the tyrannical king of England and his minions (which held Scotland in captivity to their tyrannical ways). They were too many (which is completely opposite of America’s state), too strong in every way for Scotland … or so they thought.

This one man, William Wallace, knew more than the “Nobles” of Scotland. He knew that freedom was not a gift granted to them by mere men or a tyrant king, but freedom was a right guaranteed to every man by God, which has been summed up in our Declaration of Independence. Freedom was not a thing to be stripped away from the common people by a tyrant; Wallace knew that rights were granted by God.

The people of Scotland, outnumbered, outmatched, starving and without even the proper weapons to fight with, followed William Wallace, and eventually Robert the Bruce, into battle. Although it was a high cost to pay (namely, the life of William Wallace himself), they won their freedom and were delivered from the tyrannical king of England.

Now take that to America. The “Nobles,” or shall we say most congressmen and women, will not stand up against the crimes that have befallen “we the people” at the hands of this administration. They have titles and positions they don’t want to lose, much like the “Nobles” of Scotland in the day.

But the tyrannical king of England was not defeated by the “Nobles.” He was defeated by the people.

Justice doesn’t need to be something we only dream about. Justice is brought forth to establish righteousness because you are grateful for your blood-bought freedoms (Isaiah 51:4). America, it can be the reality we leave to our children, the way our forefathers left it unto us.

In our pledge we state, “With Liberty and Justice for All.” It doesn’t say justice for all unless you are the president of United States or an attorney general, or the Congress, does it? The word “Justice” applies to all and means all! If America fails to bring forth justice, rest assured tyranny will reign.

Right Wing Round-Up - 10/30/14

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