UA-43475823-1

The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Commission on Election Integrity Hears a Whopper

The Daily Escape:

DUMBO, NYC – photo by Kelly Kopp

President Donald Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity met Tuesday in New Hampshire, amid controversy generated by its vice chairman Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s unproven contention that illegal voting in NH swung the state’s US Senate and presidential elections in November 2016.

There is no evidence to support Kobach’s position, and there was no one bussed in from Massachusetts to vote in NH, as Donald Trump contended.

Clearly, the commission wants to make it as difficult as possible for certain Americans, in particular, poor, elderly, and young Americans to be able to vote without overcoming the kinds of hurdles we haven’t seen since the Jim Crow era.

Curiously, the commission will hear a proposal requiring a background check before a person can register to vote, using the same check as gun buyers.

John Lott, the president of the Pennsylvania-based Crime Prevention Research Center, and a Fox commentator, will present the concept during the meeting. Lott’s PowerPoint presentation, which was posted on the White House’s website in advance, would check for criminal history as well as immigration status. According to Lott, this would allow authorities to “check if the right people are voting”.

Lott, who published a book called “The War on Guns: Arming Yourself Against Gun Control Lies,” said that Democrats have praised using background checks for guns, and suggested they couldn’t oppose using the same system for voting when it’s already up and running.

Lott told the WaPo that Democrats have long said that the federal background check system doesn’t infringe on people’s ability to own a gun, so they shouldn’t have a problem using it to combat voter fraud. He thinks it’s a cool “gotcha” idea for the GOP.

In politics, there is no easier gig than pitching an idea to the shrinking GOP Base.

It’s an argument made by a guy who thinks the background check system doesn’t work. According to WaPo, Lott has repeatedly criticized the background check system as ineffective, arguing, that it “only makes life easier for criminals” and that the background check databases are “rife with errors.”

 WaPo quotes Adam Winkler, a constitutional law specialist at UCLA: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

The [Lott’s] idea is “patently absurd”…Given the previous criticism of the background check system by John Lott, and the fact that the structure of voting regulation is entirely different than the regulation of guns, it’s hard to believe this is a serious proposal.

WaPo also quotes Justin Levitt of Loyola Law School, who said that the selection of presenters at Tuesday’s commission meeting:

Seems to mirror the selection of commissioners — this is not the group you’d assemble if you were serious about real research into real solutions to real problems with the voting system.

Kristen Clarke of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law told NPR:

It’s a commission that is about promoting this false and dangerous narrative that vote fraud is something that’s widespread across our country, and we know that that’s just not the case.

The object of the exercise by Mike Pence, the commission’s chair and Kris Kobach the vice chair, is to make registering to vote difficult, exactly the opposite of what a democracy should support.

And they talk like these are reasonable proposals, put forth by responsible people.

The reality is that they are framing an argument that our elections cannot be trusted. And in the background, Pence, Kobach and company will come up with policies that exclude many Americans who otherwise would have the right to vote.

Facebooklinkedinrss

Saturday Soother – August 12, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Lisbon, Portugal 2016 – photo by Wrongo

Wrongo has written many times about vote suppression, including earlier this week. We now see that the GOP in Indiana (who control the place) are disenfranchising Democratic precincts, but not the Republican ones. IndyStar, a local paper in Indianapolis, reported:

From 2008 to 2016, GOP officials expanded early voting stations in Republican dominated Hamilton County…and decreased them in the state’s biggest Democratic hotbed, Marion County.

Maybe now that GOP JeffBo is our Attorney General, Republicans feel they no longer even have to be subtle about voter suppression. More from the IndyStar:

That made voting more convenient in GOP areas for people…And the results were immediate.

Most telling, Hamilton County saw a 63% increase in absentee voting from 2008 to 2016, while Marion County saw a 26% decline. Absentee ballots are used at early voting stations.

The paper acknowledges that population growth may have played a role, but Hamilton County Clerk Kathy Richardson, a Republican, told IndyStar the rise in absentee voting in Hamilton County was largely a result of the addition of two early voting stations, which brought the total to three.

More from IndyStar:

Other Central Indiana Republican strongholds, including Boone, Johnson and Hendricks counties, also have added early voting sites — and enjoyed corresponding increases in absentee voter turnout. But not Marion County, which tends to vote Democratic, and has a large African-American population.

During that same 2008-16 period, the number of early voting stations declined from three to one in Marion County, as Republican officials blocked expansion.

Indiana voted for Obama in 2008, and apparently, that was enough for the GOP.

More early voting stations for Republican precincts in suburban white Republican counties, fewer early voting stations for Democratic precincts in urban black counties. So is this willful rigging that Republican officials are engaging in? Seems like it’s a plan.

Fewer opportunities for early voting disproportionately affects those who don’t get the early voting opportunity.

The real message here is that Indiana is showing us another level of rigging of the voting system by GOP operatives. With gerrymandering and restrictive voting practices across this country, voter suppression is the real threat to our democracy, not the very few cases of voter fraud. The question is: How do we correct this, and build a system with accountability?

We have previously reported on voter suppression here, here, here and here.

This is yet another Wrongologist column for those people who say “both parties are the same, it doesn’t matter who you vote for”. Do you get it yet?

Timeout.  Let’s go somewhere to escape from the noise and the madness of the week.

Wrongo recommends Bluetooth over the ear headphones, and a VERY generous pour of Bushmills 21-year old Irish, matured in a mixture of Oloroso Sherry and Bourbon casks, before a two year marrying period spent in Madeira casks.

For those who cannot abide alcohol, just the headphones for you.

Now, listen to the Casta Diva prayer from the opera Norma by Vincenzo Bellini, performed by Anna Netrebko in 2007 with the Symphony Orchestra of Baden-Baden und Freiburg. This opera is regarded as a leading example of the bel canto genre. The soprano prayer Casta diva occurs in Act I:

The most prolific Norma was Maria Callas, who gave 89 stage performances of the opera.

Those who read the Wrongologist in email sent by the execrable Feedburner, can view the video here.

Facebooklinkedinrss

The DOJ Wants Infrequent Voters Off The Voting Rolls

The Daily Escape:

Bryce Canyon, 2001  – photo by Wrongo

From Mother Jones:

The Justice Department released an amicus brief in the case, currently before the Supreme Court, over whether Ohio can continue to remove “infrequent voters” who fail to cast a ballot over a six-year period. One of those voters, Larry Harmon, is a lead plaintiff in the lawsuit brought by Demos and the ACLU of Ohio. The 60-year-old software engineer and Navy veteran voted in 2008 and then returned to the polls for a local referendum in 2015, only to find that he was no longer registered, even though he hadn’t moved or done anything else to change his status.

Ohio has purged about 2 million voters from its rolls, including 1.2 million for infrequent voting. From the WaPo:

In a court filing late Monday, Justice Department attorneys took the opposite position from the Obama administration in a case that involves Ohio’s removal last year of tens of thousands of inactive voters from its voting rolls.

In their brief, government lawyers say they reconsidered the Ohio vote-purging issue after the “change in Administrations,” and they argue that the state’s actions are legal under federal law.

Ohio allows the purging process to begin when voters have not cast a ballot in two years. The person is sent a notice asking them to confirm their registration. If the voter does not respond and does not cast a ballot over the next four years, they are removed from the rolls.

But a federal appeals court ruled that Ohio had violated the National Voter Registration Act, a 1993 law that made it easier to register at the DMV and other public agencies and stipulated that voter-roll maintenance: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

…shall not result in the removal of the name of any person from the official list of voters registered to vote in an election for Federal office by reason of the person’s failure to vote.

Trump’s DOJ has decided that “use it or lose it” applies to your right to vote.

We are witnessing a steady erosion of voter rights that started with the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder. The Court struck down Section 4(b) of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA). That Section required states with a history of voting discrimination to get pre-approval from the Justice Department for any changes to voting qualifications or procedures.

Since the Shelby ruling, many states, including some that were formerly covered under the VRA, have instituted stricter voter identification laws and instituted voter roll purges. Ari Berman lists examples from the 2016 election — the first election without full protection of the VRA:

  • There were 868 fewer polling places in states with long histories of voting discrimination, such as Arizona, Texas and North Carolina.
  • In Wisconsin, 300,000 registered voters lacked strict forms of voter ID, and voter turnout was at its lowest levels in 20 years. This was particularly apparent in Milwaukee, where voting was down13%, where 70% of the state’s African-American population lives.
  • In North Carolina, black turnout decreased 16% during the first week of early voting because in 40 heavily black counties, there were 158 fewer early polling places.

The plan is this: First, make voting as complicated and inconvenient as possible and then, when people basically give up on voting, you drop them from the rolls for non-participation.

What harm is there in keeping a non-voter or irregular voter on the rolls? Voter impersonation happens about as often as winning the Power Ball lottery, so why not leave a name on the rolls until removal is substantiated? When you move from one state to another, and register to vote, no one has committed voter fraud. No one took Wrongo’s parents off the Florida voter rolls after they died. That wasn’t voter fraud either.

The false concern about voter fraud is a cloak for a determined effort to gut every improvement the country has made on voting rights in the past 50 years.

On to music. Glenn Campbell had an outsized influence on American music. His free and fluid mix of country, pop and light rock left a big mark in Nashville. Here is Campbell doing “Classical Gas”:

Few who knew Campbell only as the singer of “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Wichita Lineman” also knew that he was a very accomplished guitarist.

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

Facebooklinkedinrss

GOP Plans to Gerrymander the Electoral College

Donald Trump was the fifth candidate in our history to win sufficient votes in the Electoral College (EC) to become president after losing the popular vote. Now, Republicans are making an effort at the state level to change how electoral votes are apportioned to presidential candidates, from winner take all, to being allocated to the winner of each congressional district.

Republicans call this a modest tweak to the EC process. But it will make gerrymandering of congressional districts even more important to electing the president than it is to electing Members of Congress today.

How today’s system works:

In 48 states, (all except Maine and Nebraska) the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote in their state receives all of that state’s electoral votes. A state’s number of electors equals its number of US Representatives and Senators.

Although ballots list the names of the presidential candidates, when voters within the 50 states and Washington, DC vote for President and Vice President, they’re actually choosing electors proposed by the Parties in their state. These presidential electors then cast electoral votes for those two offices, so the EC elects the President or Vice President, not the popular vote.

Despite what you might think, the Constitution reserves the power to appoint electors to the states. Here is Article 2, Section 1; Clause 2:

Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector.

So it is clear that each state has the exclusive right to determine how their state electors are selected.

The proposed Republican “tweak”:

The Republican tweak apportions electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the vote in each congressional district. The two remaining electors would go to whomever wins the statewide vote. States considering moving to allocating electoral votes to the candidate winning in each congressional district include Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia – all have legislatures controlled by Republicans. Two, Virginia and Minnesota, currently have Democratic governors, so at this point, they could veto the proposed legislation.

After the 2010 census, 55% of all congressional districts were redrawn to favor Republicans, while just 10% were redrawn to benefit Democrats. In 2016, Trump carried 230 districts to just 205 for Hillary Clinton, even though Clinton won nearly 3 million more votes nationally. So if every state awarded electoral votes by congressional district, Trump would have still prevailed. And guess what? Mitt Romney would also have won in 2012, and George W. Bush would have won in 2000.

The tweak takes voting power away from cities and puts more in suburban and rural areas, making it more likely that a candidate with fewer votes over all could routinely win a larger share of electoral votes. And thanks in part to recent poor performance by Democrats, 32 States now have Republican-controlled legislatures.

Should we be talking about this at all? Debating whether to pass bills to reduce the value of an urban vote to a fraction of the value of other voters?

Sounds like a Republican paradise.

An advantage of the EC is that it tends to improve the winner’s margin of victory and thus the presidential mandate at the beginning of his/her term in office. Also, it ensures that candidates actually campaign in more states, rather than in fewer. Would anyone campaign in NH when they could garner many times more popular votes in a couple of counties in California? They do it today because NH’s four electoral votes can make a difference.

The president doesn’t represent congressional districts. The president represents all the people, which is why the ONLY reasonable reform to the EC is a nationwide popular vote.

The fact remains that Republicans have the ability to make this happen. Allowing statehouses to decide presidential elections will have undemocratic consequences. Keeping politicians from making the Electoral College subject to gerrymander is crucial.

To help us pause and reflect on this threat, here is Leonard Cohen with “Democracy” from his 1992 album, “The Future”, here performed in 2008 live in London:

Cohen said this about the song:

It’s a song of deep intimacy and affirmation of the experiment of democracy in this country. That this is really where the experiment is unfolding. This is really where the races confront one another, where the classes, where the genders, where even the sexual orientations confront one another. This is the real laboratory of democracy.

Let’s hope the experiment doesn’t fail.

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

Sample lyrics:
I’m sentimental, if you know what I mean
I love the country but I can’t stand the scene.
And I’m neither left or right
I’m just staying home tonight,
getting lost in that hopeless little screen.
But I’m stubborn as those garbage bags
that Time cannot decay,
I’m junk but I’m still holding up
this little wild bouquet:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Facebooklinkedinrss

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – January 29, 2017

“All of the true things that I am about to tell you are shameless lies.”Kurt Vonnegut.

Quoting from Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle” seems to catch the Trump zeitgeist. It was hard to focus on what the GOP and Trump were doing between the tweetstorms. So you could be forgiven for not noticing that Trump’s ban on immigration includes Green Card holders from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US. And Homeland Security says that’s really the policy. Legal residents holding the wrong passport who happened to be outside the US are now stranded. This includes students, business executives, and even a few US business owners. You can leave, but you cannot come back is the message of the day. Christians will be allowed in though, so here’s the best idea yet:

Trump builds a wall to keep Speedy out:

This is from Italy’s Matteo Bertelli. You can bet that in his next panel, Speedy jumps up on Trump’s head, and The Donald grabs a hammer…

Voter fraud is a yuuge problem only in the Orange Ahab’s mind:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Voter fraud? Or, voted for a fraud?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump wants at least one Chinese import:

Trump keeps his focus on the real enemies:

 

 

Facebooklinkedinrss

Saturday Soother – January 28, 2017

We’ve made it to Saturday, all the while trying to sort through the blizzard of executive orders issued by our Orange Overlord. As we cruise into the weekend, we need to reflect on Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s nominee for Attorney General. The Senate Judiciary Committee will probably vote on the nomination on Tuesday, after which it will go to the full Senate for a confirmation vote.

Wrongo agrees with Charlie Pierce:

At a moment like this one, it simply will not do to have someone in the attorney general’s office who was deemed too racist to be a federal judge 30 years ago. It will not do to have someone in the attorney general’s office who launched a dirty-tricks prosecution of voting-rights activists when he was a U.S. Attorney in Alabama. It will not do to have someone in the attorney general’s office who greeted the gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013 by noting that it was “good for the South.”

Pierce says that no (zero) Democrats should vote for Sessions:

There is no room for compromise or horse-trading. The Democratic Party should stand for the expansion of the franchise and for a greater ease in exercising it.

Voting rights will be at risk if Sessions is confirmed. The AG will follow Trump’s lead and focus on a “voter fraud” investigation in the big liberal states and urban areas that do not vote Republican. This is something the right wing has been doing for years. From what Trump said this week to David Muir on ABC, he believes that the problem exists only in places he didn’t win. He told Muir that every one of the alleged 2 million to 3 million illegal votes went to Hillary Clinton.

If it isn’t clear by now, this is a powerful new national campaign of voter suppression coming down the road to a polling place near you. We don’t know at this point who will be heading Trump’s “investigation,” or what form it’s likely to take, but Jeff Sessions is just the man for the job.

We could also tell our Senators that they should not vote to confirm Betsy DeVos and Tom Price, but both will probably get a few Dem votes. Wrongo isn’t arguing for complete resistance as the only response to Trump, but we can’t appoint Sessions.

Will even a single Republican Senator have the backbone to vote against the president’s hand-picked bigot? The prospects are not heartening.

Glad that’s off of Wrongo’s chest. Time to grab a cup of Bengal Spice Chai tea, and mellow out with the Saturday Soother. Today we are going acapella with the University of North Carolina Clef Hangers. They have been around for 35 years, and have released 17 studio-produced albums. Here are the Clef Hangers doing “You Never Need Nobody”, a song by the Brooklyn NY-based The Lone Bellow:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

Facebooklinkedinrss