As Courts Strike Down Discriminatory Voter ID Laws, RNC Delegates Cry ‘Voter Fraud’

CREDIT: KIRA LERNER | Milwaukee election commissioner Bob Spindell said he has seen no issues with his state’s voter ID law.

THINK PROGRESS

The cleaner the election, the better chance the Republicans have.

CLEVELAND, OHIO — As the Republican National Convention unfolded in Cleveland this week with the Republican Party officially calling for measures to make it harder for people to vote, two different courts across the country issued rulings easing those restrictions.

Federal judges this week ruled against voter identification laws in Wisconsin and then Texas, finding that they disproportionately impact minority voters and violate the Voting Rights Act. Those photo ID laws, which have become more prevalent across the country in the years since the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the VRA in 2013, are formally included in the GOP platform.

“We support legislation to require proof of citizenship when registering to vote and secure photo ID when voting,” the document reads. “We strongly oppose litigation against states exercising their sovereign authority to enact such laws.”

Despite evidence that voter fraud is virtually non-existent and that photo ID laws keep younger, low-income, minority voters from participating in elections, Republican delegates told ThinkProgress the two recent court decisions will hurt democracy and compromise elections.

“Why do we even have any sort of laws? Why do we have speed limits? Why do we have any keys on any doors?” Milwaukee election commissioner and delegate Bob Spindell asked. “We need laws in place because if the election is such, there’s no way really to go back afterwards and see what had happened, if somebody was legit or somebody was not.”

In the ruling this week, the Wisconsin judge found that the fears of voter fraud are not legitimate enough to warrant the suppressive laws. A Wisconsin study examining the 2004 election found just seven cases of fraud among the 3 million votes cast in the state’s 2004 election, and none were the kind of fraud that would be prevented by a voter ID law.

Nonetheless, Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) called the recent court ruling unfortunate and said it will allow Democrats to commit voter fraud.

“I find it interesting that the Democrats don’t care that you’ve got to present a photo ID to get medication, they don’t care about that, but they do care about photo ID for voting, which makes me wonder if they’re doing something wrong about the voting,” he told ThinkProgress from the floor of the RNC.

Also standing among Wisconsin’s delegation near the RNC arena stage, Spindell said Tuesday that he has been involved in the past several elections in Milwaukee and has seen “no problem whatsoever” with the state’s voter ID law.

“I don’t know of even one instance in the city of Milwaukee during the last couple of elections where there was a problem where somebody couldn’t have an ID or didn’t have an ID and couldn’t vote,” he said.

As ThinkProgress reported during the Wisconsin primary in April, Milwaukee students were forced to wait in long lines to register and cast ballots on election day, in large part because the state’s voter ID law does not accept student IDs. Across the state, non-white voters were more likely to request a free ID card and were more likely to be denied from the polls.

Noting that impact, the Wisconsin federal judge this week shot down the law because it would be “impossible or nearly impossible” for thousands of qualified voters to obtain a free ID card in order to cast a ballot. The ruling will allow Wisconsin citizens to vote without ID this November if they sign an affidavit attesting to their identity.

Spindell said that the acceptance of affidavits, coupled with Wisconsin’s allowance of same-day voter registration, will lead to people committing voter fraud. “You can just walk in with all sorts of IDs, whether it be a payroll check or any kind of ID,” he said. “What can happen is they can register and go vote, and there’s no way of checking on them into well after the election.”

Texas' delegation watches the RNC speakers.

Texas’ delegation watches the RNC speakers  CREDIT: KIRA LERNER

In perhaps an even more important decision for civil rights, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit handed down a decision Wednesday finding that Texas’ voter ID law violates the VRA. But instead of striking down the law, the appeals court left it up to the district court to decide how to move forward and whether or not the law should be in place during the general election.

If the court strikes the law down before November, Jim Lowder, a Texas delegate who serves as the GOP chairman in Amarillo, Texas, said that we can expect to see Democrats committing voter fraud.

“How many cases of Republican voter fraud have we had in the past several years? Virtually none,” he told ThinkProgress. “How many of Democrat voter fraud? There have been some. We’re not trying to go after anybody, but we need to do the right thing by everybody.”

As the Fifth Circuit noted this week, studies have found that Texas’ voter ID disproportionately hurts minorities — mainly Hispanic and black voters. Yet Republican lawmakers and delegates in Texas insist that the laws have no negative effects.

“I’ve worked in the polls,” Lowder said. “We have a real fair system. Anybody that tries to discourage someone else is not allowed to do so. I’m concerned about voter fraud, but I’m concerned that everybody that can legally vote can do so.”

A total of 33 states will have laws in place this year requesting or requiring voters to show some form of identification at the polls. As many advocates and reporters have noted, those laws have the ability to swing elections in favor of Republicans.

Some lawmakers, like Grothman, have even admitted that their purpose is to help Republicans win elections. From Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday, Grothman attempted to explain his admission that photo ID will help Republicans win in Wisconsin.

“I think the cleaner the election, the better chance the Republicans have,” he said.

Alice Ollstein contributed reporting.

As Courts Strike Down Discriminatory Voter ID Laws, RNC Delegates Cry ‘Voter Fraud’

Milwaukee election commissioner Bob Spindell | Credit: Kira Lerner

THINK PROGRESS

CLEVELAND, OHIO — As the Republican National Convention unfolded in Cleveland this week with the Republican Party officially calling for measures to make it harder for people to vote, two different courts across the country issued rulings easing those restrictions.

Federal judges this week ruled against voter identification laws in Wisconsin and then Texas, finding that they disproportionately impact minority voters and violate the Voting Rights Act. Those photo ID laws, which have become more prevalent across the country in the years since the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the VRA in 2013, are formally included in the GOP platform.

“We support legislation to require proof of citizenship when registering to vote and secure photo ID when voting,” the document reads. “We strongly oppose litigation against states exercising their sovereign authority to enact such laws.”

Despite evidence that voter fraud is virtually non-existent and that photo ID laws keep younger, low-income, minority voters from participating in elections, Republican delegates told ThinkProgress the two recent court decisions will hurt democracy and compromise elections.

“Why do we even have any sort of laws? Why do we have speed limits? Why do we have any keys on any doors?” Milwaukee election commissioner and delegate Bob Spindell asked. “We need laws in place because if the election is such, there’s no way really to go back afterwards and see what had happened, if somebody was legit or somebody was not.”

In the ruling this week, the Wisconsin judge found that the fears of voter fraud are not legitimate enough to warrant the suppressive laws. A Wisconsin study examining the 2004 election found just seven cases of fraud among the 3 million votes cast in the state’s 2004 election, and none were the kind of fraud that would be prevented by a voter ID law.

Nonetheless, Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) called the recent court ruling unfortunate and said it will allow Democrats to commit voter fraud.

“I find it interesting that the Democrats don’t care that you’ve got to present a photo ID to get medication, they don’t care about that, but they do care about photo ID for voting, which makes me wonder if they’re doing something wrong about the voting,” he told ThinkProgress from the floor of the RNC.

Also standing among Wisconsin’s delegation near the RNC arena stage, Spindell said Tuesday that he has been involved in the past several elections in Milwaukee and has seen “no problem whatsoever” with the state’s voter ID law.

“I don’t know of even one instance in the city of Milwaukee during the last couple of elections where there was a problem where somebody couldn’t have an ID or didn’t have an ID and couldn’t vote,” he said.

As ThinkProgress reported during the Wisconsin primary in April, Milwaukee students were forced to wait in long lines to register and cast ballots on election day, in large part because the state’s voter ID law does not accept student IDs. Across the state, non-white voters were more likely to request a free ID card and were more likely to be denied from the polls.

Noting that impact, the Wisconsin federal judge this week shot down the law because it would be “impossible or nearly impossible” for thousands of qualified voters to obtain a free ID card in order to cast a ballot. The ruling will allow Wisconsin citizens to vote without ID this November if they sign an affidavit attesting to their identity.

Spindell said that the acceptance of affidavits, coupled with Wisconsin’s allowance of same-day voter registration, will lead to people committing voter fraud. “You can just walk in with all sorts of IDs, whether it be a payroll check or any kind of ID,” he said. “What can happen is they can register and go vote, and there’s no way of checking on them into well after the election.”

Texas' delegation watches the RNC speakers.

Texas’ delegation watches the RNC speakers | CREDIT: KIRA LERNER

In perhaps an even more important decision for civil rights, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit handed down a decision Wednesday finding that Texas’ voter ID law violates the VRA. But instead of striking down the law, the appeals court left it up to the district court to decide how to move forward and whether or not the law should be in place during the general election.

If the court strikes the law down before November, Jim Lowder, a Texas delegate who serves as the GOP chairman in Amarillo, Texas, said that we can expect to see Democrats committing voter fraud.

“How many cases of Republican voter fraud have we had in the past several years? Virtually none,” he told ThinkProgress. “How many of Democrat voter fraud? There have been some. We’re not trying to go after anybody, but we need to do the right thing by everybody.”

As the Fifth Circuit noted this week, studies have found that Texas’ voter ID disproportionately hurts minorities — mainly Hispanic and black voters. Yet Republican lawmakers and delegates in Texas insist that the laws have no negative effects.

“I’ve worked in the polls,” Lowder said. “We have a real fair system. Anybody that tries to discourage someone else is not allowed to do so. I’m concerned about voter fraud, but I’m concerned that everybody that can legally vote can do so.”

A total of 33 states will have laws in place this year requesting or requiring voters to show some form of identification at the polls. As many advocates and reporters have noted, those laws have the ability to swing elections in favor of Republicans.

Some lawmakers, like Grothman, have even admitted that their purpose is to help Republicans win elections. From Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday, Grothman attempted to explain his admission that photo ID will help Republicans win in Wisconsin.

“I think the cleaner the election, the better chance the Republicans have,” he said.

Kira Lerner

20 Texas Private Colleges Are Opting Out Of State’s Campus Carry Law, Citing Safety Concerns

CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK

THINK PROGRESS

Trinity University announced that it would opt out of Texas’ campus carry law Thursday, making it the 20th private college to do so since the legislation passed in June of last year. Other private colleges opting out of the law include Austin College, South Texas College of Law, Southern Methodist University, and University of St. Thomas.

The law allows students to carry concealed handguns on campus and store handguns in dormitories. Trinity University President Danny Anderson released a statement on the decision, which read, “The safety of our students, faculty, staff, and visitors is our highest priority. A weapons-free environment is the best learning environment for a residential campus like Trinity University.”

The Texas Tribune tracks all of the private colleges’ positions on the campus carry law. Of the private colleges the publication tracks, 17 have not decided whether they will opt out and one college, Southwestern Adventist University, did not respond to the Tribune’s request. The president of Baylor University, Ken Starr, said he has “little doubt” the university will opt out.

The University of Texas, which had an enrollment of 50,950 students in 2015, created a task force to analyze how the university should respond to the law. The task force released a report in December recommending how handguns must be carried or stored, and says guns, whether carried in a handbag or a backpack, must be carried in a holster that covers the trigger and trigger guard area and that semiautomatic handguns have to be carried without a chambered round of ammunition. The report also says guns can’t be carried during a school athletic event or a disciplinary hearing, or on the premises of a K-12 school, such as the University of Texas Elementary School, laboratory, or patient care area. There is nothing the university can do about concealed carry in classrooms, however.

You must be at least 21 years old to obtain a license to carry, and The University of Texas estimates that fewer than 1 percent of its students have licenses to carry. Five-hundred students living in the university’s residential halls are 21 years old and older.

The conversation over whether guns should be carried on campus heated up again after ashooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon in October last year, which resulted in the death of nine people. Cable news show commentators said the college was a “gun-free zone,” even though the college actually did allow guns on campus if students had a valid concealed carry license.

A 2014 survey published in the Journal of American College Health shows that the majority of 401 college chief executives surveyed did not support concealed carry of guns on campuses, with 95 percent of respondents opposing it. In terms of how to prevent or intervene in a shooting, 91 percent of the executives said identifying potentially violent students would be helpful, and also supported mass text alerts, campus police presence, an active shooter plan, and video cameras.

One of those methods, making sure colleges have a police presence, or as they’re often called, “safety officers,” is available at the majority of schools, since over 4,000 police departments work in public and private colleges, according to a BuzzFeed interview with William Taylor, chief of police for the San Jacinto College in Texas and president of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.

A 2011-2012 U.S. Justice Department report shows 91 percent of public colleges have armed police officers. Only 36 percent of private colleges do. There was been a recent uptick in the percentage of private and public colleges that have officers who carry guns, from 68 percent in the 2004-2005 school year to 75 percent in 2011-2012.

However, this method has its detractors as well, with some advocates for equitable policing saying that campus police will racially profile students and act beyond their authority, a problem that is further exacerbated by a lack of transparency, as The Atlantic reported last year.

TEXAS: Where White Kids Open Carry, And Muslim Kids Get Arrested For Clock-making (IMAGES)

ADDICTING INFO

In the very literal sense, there is something very wrong with this picture. On one side you have two white children openly carrying firearms out in public, a public that doesn’t allow you to drink until 21, but will let kids carry guns. On the other side, a brilliant student, who happens to be Muslim, getting arrested because he was smart enough to put together his own clock. However, being Muslim, his Texas school thought it was a bomb, because yes, they are that narrow-minded and obviously Islamophobic.

TexasHypocrisy
TexasHypocrisy

How did the Irving, Texas school explain why they arrested Ahmed Mohamed after bringing in his clock — by claiming he broke the “Student Code of Conduct.” Apparently, Ahmed’s clock was a “suspicious item” — even though, clearly, it was a clock.

However, elsewhere in Texas, kids that aren’t named “Ahmed Mohamed” and don’t have brown skin, and aren’t Muslim, are allowed to carry rifles down the street. Which is hardly the “well regulated militia” our founders intended to rise up at the call of the government to repel invasions and suppress insurrections.

Guns are not toys, and they shouldn’t be carried about as some sort of “proof” that you are somehow a better American for letting your kids have the potential to harm themselves or others.

These two images, side by side, need to be etched into the mind of not just every Texan, but every American. What we are witnessing, to say it curtly, is sick. Some children being put on a pedestal and allowed to openly carry firearms as if they’re not a threat to the community, and then another kid, a bright, scientific-minded student, creates his own clock, and gets arrested.

A 14-YEAR-OLD, ARRESTED?! C’mon now. That’s some bullshit right there.

Thankfully, President Obama saw the error in Ahmed’s school, and the brilliance of Ahmed himself, and has since invited him to the White House. Encouraging the young man to continue on his scientific journey, instead of being arrested for it.

Let’s not pretend racism and Islamophobia aren’t alive and well in not just Texas, but all over the United States. It needs to stop, and it needs to stop now.

Featured image via Twitter/FreakOutNation

Texas Handgun Open Carry Bill Clears Legislature

TEXAS OPEN CARRY
Scott Smith, a supporter of open carry gun laws, wears a pistol as he prepares for a rally at the Capitol, Monday, Jan. 26, 2015, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Huffington Post

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas lawmakers on Friday approved carrying handguns openly on the streets of the nation’s second most-populous state, sending the bill to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who immediately promised to sign it and reverse a ban dating to the post-Civil War era.

Gun owners would still have to get a license to carry a handgun in a visible holster.

The state known for its wild west, cowboy history and some the nation’s most relaxed gun laws, has allowed concealed handguns for 20 years. Concealed handgun license holders are even allowed to skip the metal detectors at the state Capitol, as state troopers providing security assume they’re armed.

But Texas was one of only six states with an outright ban on so-called open carry, and advocates have fought to be allowed to keep their guns in plain sight. Cast as an important expansion of the Second Amendment right to bear arms in the U.S. Constitution, it became a major issue for the state’s strong Republican majority.

“We think of Texas being gun happy, but we didn’t afford our citizens the same rights most other states do,” said Rep. Larry Phillips, a Republican from Sherman, one of the bill’s authors.

The House gave final approval on a mostly party-line 102-43 vote, drawing gleeful whistles from some lawmakers. A short time later, the Senate passed it 20-11, also along party lines, with all Republicans supporting it and all Democrats opposing.

Within minutes of the bill passing, Abbott sent a Twitter message that he’ll sign it. “Next Destination: My Pen,” Abbot tweeted.

The bill passed after lawmakers made concessions to law enforcement groups, who had been upset by an original provision that barred police from questioning people carrying guns if they have no other reason to stop them.

The final bill scrapped that language, meaning police will be able to ask Texans with handguns in plain sight if they have proper licenses.

Before Friday’s vote, police groups had demanded that Abbott veto the bill if it wasn’t taken out.

Gun control advocates have argued that open carry is less about personal protection than intimidation. Gun rights groups have staged several large public rallies in recent years, sometimes at notable historical landmarks such as the Alamo, where members carried rifles in plain sight, which is legal.

The open carry debate also stirred drama at the Capitol early in the legislative session, when gun rights advocates confronted one state lawmaker in his office. The lawmaker, Democrat Poncho Nevarez, was assigned a state security detail and House members voted to make it easier to install panic buttons in their offices.

“This session has been an alarming show of politicking that caters to a gun lobby agenda,” Sandy Chasse with the Texas Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “As a gun-owning Texas mom, this is not the Texas I want for my family or community.”

Just like the current concealed handgun law, the bill requires anyone wanting to openly carry a handgun to get a license. Applicants must be 21, pass a background check and receive classroom and shooting range instruction — although lawmakers have weakened those requirements since 2011.

Texas has about 850,000 concealed handgun license holders, a number that has increased sharply d in recent years.

It also recognizes the concealed handgun licenses issued in more than 40 states, and license holders from those states will be allowed to openly carry their weapons in Texas once it becomes law.

“I have great faith in our concealed license holders that they will do the right thing and carry their gun appropriately,” said Sen. Craig Estes, the Wichita Falls Republican who sponsored the measure in that chamber.

Democrats such as Sen. Rodney Ellis of Houston said they fear violence on the streets.

“I hope we don’t have a host of Texans running around with a Rambo mentality,” Ellis said.

JIM VERTUNO (AP)

10 things you need to know today: March 23, 2015

Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Week

1.Singapore’s founding father dies at 91
Singapore founding father Lee Kuan Yew died Monday more than a month after being admitted into a hospital with pneumonia. He was 91. Lee served as prime minister from 1959 to 1990, and has been credited with turning the small island trading outpost into one of the wealthiest and least corrupt countries in Asia. Lee’s government became known for its authoritarian rule, including tough law enforcement and limits on protests. He said the heavy-handed tactics were necessary for stability.

Source: The New York Times

2.Cruz officially enters 2016 race for the White House
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) made his presidential candidacy official on Monday, announcing with a Twitter post and video that he will run for the Republican nomination in 2016. Other big-name candidates are openly considering running, but Cruz, a Tea Party favorite, was the first major candidate from any party to jump into the race officially. Cruz, 44, promised to lead “a new generation of courageous conservatives to help make America great again.”

Source: Fox News

3.McCain tells Obama to end his “temper tantrum” over Netanyahu
Republicans sharply criticized President Obama on Sunday for saying that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had complicated peace negotiations with Palestinian leaders by saying there would be no Palestinian state as long as he was prime minister. Netanyahu made the statement in a last-minute appeal to conservative voters ahead of his party’s surprisingly strong win in last week’s parliamentary elections. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Obama should end his “temper tantrum” and accept the result of Israel’s “free and fair democratic election.”

Source: New York Daily News

4.Supreme Court hears argument on Texas Confederate flag license tag
The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments Monday on whether the state of Texas can refuse to issue license plates featuring the Confederate battle flag. The Texas division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, backed by First Amendment advocates from the American Civil Liberties Union, says banning the plates is a violation of free speech. Texas counters that license tags, unlike bumper stickers, are government speech, so they should not include a symbol many see as racist.
5.Crowds line the streets for Richard III funeral
Richard III got a king’s funeral in England on Sunday, more than 500 years after his death at the Battle of Bosworth Field. The former king’s remains were excavated from a parking lot in Leicester in 2012 and identified. About 35,000 people, many tossing white roses symbolizing the House of York, lined the streets to watch the procession take the coffin from the University of Leicester to Leicester Cathedral. The casket was placed on public view until Monday. The notoriously brutal monarch will be reburied on Thursday.

Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

6.Durst heads back to New Orleans court
Real estate heir Robert Durst returns Monday to a New Orleans courtroom where his lawyers plan to demand his release on the grounds that his arrest was illegal. Durst, 71, has spent nearly a week in a prison mental ward, but he is to appear in a preliminary hearing on new weapons charges filed after he was picked up on a Los Angeles warrant accusing him of killing family friend Susan Berman in December 2000. Defense lawyers say the arrest was a stunt timed to coincide with the airing of an HBO documentary in which Durst appeared to incriminate himself.

Source: The Associated Press

7.Seven children killed in fire mourned in Brooklyn
Thousands of New Yorkers on Sunday joined a grief-stricken father to mourn seven Orthodox Jewish children killed in an overnight fire the day before. The blaze was believed to have been started by an untended hot plate left on to warm food on the Jewish day of rest. The children died within minutes. Their mother, Gayle Sassoon, 45, and a 15-year-old sister survived by jumping out of second-floor windows. “There’s absolutely nothing to say!” the father, Gabriel Sassoon, wailed.

Source: The New York Times

8.Soldiers brush off ISIS “hit list”
An purported ISIS “hit list” of 100 U.S. service members has emerged online, but three soldiers named on the list said they were not concerned about the threat. The list, which included personal information allegedly linked to the targeted soldiers, was posted on a website by the “Islamic State Hacking Division,” a previously unknown group. The post urged “lone wolf” ISIS supporters to kill the soldiers on the list.

Source: ABC News

9. Starbucks ends its brief campaign against racism
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on Sunday ended his company’s brief attempt tospark a national dialogue about race, by encouraging baristas to write “Race Together” on their customers’ cups. Schultz said in a letter to employees that the project was designed to be a brief “catalyst” for a long-term conversation about race. “While there has been criticism of the initiative — and I know this hasn’t been easy for any of you — let me assure you that we didn’t expect universal praise,” Schultz said.

Source: The New York Times

10.Virginia and Kansas fall as March Madness upsets continue
In the latest upsets of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, Michigan State, a regional No. 7 seed, beat the No. 2-seeded Virginia Cavaliers 60-54, and another No. 7 seed, Michigan State, knocked off Kansas 78-65 to advance to the Sweet 16. The Cavaliers also lost to Michigan State in 2014, that time in the Sweet 16. The loss came after Virginia won 30 or more games both seasons — the first such streak in the school’s history. Villanova on Saturday became the first No. 1 seed to fall.

Source: The Washington Post, The Associated Press

‘Exclusively For White People’ Stickers Found On Texas Businesses

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NBC News

TPM LiveWire

The offensive stickers said that a “Maximum of 5 colored customers/colored BOH staff accepted,” which, according to the paper is a reference to “back of house” restaurant operations. Above a City of Austin logo was a notice saying that the stickers were “sponsored by the City of Austin Contemporary Partition and Restoration Program.”

However, Austin Mayor Steve Adler said the stickers were not authorized or in any way sponsored by the city, in a statement released Wednesday and obtained by the Statesman.

“This is an appalling and offensive display of ignorance in our city,” Adler said.

According to the paper, the city determined that the six businesses on which the stickers were found were not complicit in the creation or distribution of the stickers. And several of the stores denied involvement over social media, the Statesman reported.

Outrage erupted on social media after an image of the sticker was first posted to Facebook by a user named Brianna Smith who was reportedly walking by one of the targeted stores.

News of the stickers also reached state Rep. Dawnna Dukes (D) who took to Facebook to denounce the offensive decals, the paper reported.

“Some jokes are not funny,” Dukes wrote. “If this is a joke at all, it is tasteless. … I will be damned if this will occur in my House District … in this historical black community or any community.”

According to television station WGN, the east side of Austin has undergone a large demographic shift as gentrification changes the neighborhood. However, it is a historically minority community, as Dukes noted.

Texas Voter Turnout Was Higher On Its First Day of Early Voting Than It Was In 2010

Say no to vote suppression
Image: The Nation

PoliticusUSA

Wendy Davis with help from groups that support her is leading the way in the people’s fight against vote suppression.

While Greg Abbott dedicates his efforts to disenfranchises hundreds of thousands of eligible voters in Texas, Wendy Davis is encouraging voters to exercise their franchise and Davis’ efforts are paying off.

Monday was the first day of early voting in Texas and according to figures released by the Secretary of State, voter turnout in the six largest counties were higher than the first day of early voting in 2010.

This is a direct result of the hard work and dedication by groups who support Wendy Davis. Led by Battleground Texas voter registration groups rolled up their sleeves and got to work registering millions of voters, many of whom are minorities. While Greg Abbott decided it better served his interests to disenfranchise these voters, Texans with the help of voter registration groups had a different idea.

So far, there have been no reports of problems at the polls.

No doubt, supporters of vote suppression laws will argue this proves that the laws in question do not and never were intended to suppress the vote. The fact is, people will be disenfranchised be it under the strictest voter ID law in the United States for reasons I and others have stated on numerous occasions.  While some states may offer “free voter ID” the costs involved in getting the documents needed to get that “free ID” still amount to an unaffordable poll tax.  Often Republicans will say the ID is “free” for people who can’t afford it, but fail to mention the costs that go with getting the ID needed to get the “free voter ID.”  Aside from the costs of those documents, it means taking time off work.  That means aside from the costs, voters are hit with the additional financial penalty of losing income.

The fact is, Republicans know it and some, are saying it.  Chris Christie said categorically that Republicans have to win gubernatorial elections so that they can control “voting mechanisms.”

Would you rather have Rick Scott in Florida overseeing the voting mechanism, or Charlie Crist? Would you rather have Scott Walker in Wisconsin overseeing the voting mechanism, or would you rather have Mary Burke? Who would you rather have in Ohio, John Kasich or Ed FitzGerald?

Rick Scott, Scott Walker and John Kasich have all been before the courts defending “laws” that amount to perpetrating a fraud on the public under the pretense that they care about stopping election fraud.

Republicans like to muddy the waters by suggesting that being a Republic and having honest, fair and open elections are mutually exclusive. The truth is that Republicans they are willing to throw free and fair elections under the bus because they can’t win by honest means.

It’s up to us to send Republicans a loud and clear message that rigging elections has consequences.  Stealing people’s votes will not be tolerated.

The groups led by Battleground Texas are showing us how it’s done.

Voter ID Law Struck Down in TX, WI

Gov. Rick Perry R-TX | Tom Pennington

The Daily Beast

Sorry Rick…

The Supreme Court blocked Wisconsin from implementing its new voter-ID law on Thursday, the same night that a federal judge in Texas struck down that state’s law requiring voters to produce government-issued identification before voting. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzalez Ramos, an Obama appointee, ruled that Texas’s law amounted to an “unconstitutional poll tax” intended to discriminate against Hispanic and black citizens. She said that although she found no “smoking guns” of racist intentions in the 2011 session in which the law was passed, the law’s sponsors “were motivated, at the very least in part, because of and not merely in spite of the voter-ID law’s detrimental effects on the African-American and Hispanic electorate.” A spokesman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said that the state will “immediately appeal” the ruling. The Supreme Court gave no reason for its ruling, but Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas dissented, arguing that they cannot block an appeals court unless it “clearly and demonstrably erred in its application of accepted standards.”

10 things you need to know today: October 3, 2014

An ambulance waits outside of the Dallas apartment where an U.S. ebola patient was staying.
U.S. journalist in Liberia is stricken with Ebola, Appeals judges uphold Texas abortion rule, and more

The Week

1. U.S. journalist in Liberia stricken with Ebola
An American freelance journalist working for NBC News in Liberia has been diagnosed with Ebola, the network said Thursday. The 33-year-old man, whose name is being withheld at his family’s request, began showing symptoms on Wednesday, one day after NBC hired him as a second cameraman for NBC News Chief Medical Editor and Correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman. The rest of the crew members, including Snyderman, are being monitored but have shown no symptoms of Ebola. [New York Daily News]

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2. Appeals judges uphold Texas abortion rule, forcing 13 clinics to close
A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that Texas can enforce a law requiring abortion clinics to be built according to the same standards as hospitals, effectively ordering 13 of the state’s 21 remaining abortion clinics to shut down immediately. The law had been struck down as unconstitutional in August and placed on hold pending appeals. Abortion rights activists said the latest decision “gutted Texas women’s rights” to safe abortion. State officials said it vindicated lawmakers trying to ensure that clinics are safe. [Los Angeles Times]

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3. 76 million JPMorgan Chase customers’ data exposed to hackers
A cyberattack on JPMorgan Chase that was disclosed in July exposed personal information from 76 million households, the company said in papers filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday. The information included names, phone numbers, and email addresses. Data from seven million small businesses also was compromised. JPMorgan said it found no evidence that the hackers had acquired account information, such as account numbers, passwords, or Social Security numbers. [USA Today]

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4. Health officials place Ebola patient’s family in isolation
Authorities have placed four relatives of Thomas Duncan, the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the U.S., in isolation after they allegedly failed to comply with an order to stay home. The apartment where Duncan stayed before he was admitted at a Dallas hospital still had not been cleaned, and sheets and towels had not been taken out, out of fear of contagion. Health officials are trying to find at least 80 people who might have come into contact with Duncan since he arrived on a flight from Liberia last week. [The New York Times]

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5. Turkey joins the coalition against ISIS
Turkish lawmakers on Thursday voted to authorize the country’s military to attack Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militants. Turkey also will let other members of the international coalition against ISIS use its soil. The decisions came as ISIS forces advanced to within a mile of the predominantly Kurdish Syrian border town of Kobani. “Most civilians have left the city, and any minute Isis will be inside Kobani,” said Rami Abdulrahman of the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. [The Guardian]

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6. Four suspects arrested in killing of 920 chickens during farm break-in
California authorities have arrested four teenage boys for the slaughter of 920 chickens at a poultry farm. Some of the birds were beaten to death with golf clubs during a break-in last month at a Foster Farms facility in Fresno County. One of the suspects, 18-year-old Gabriel Quintero, was charged with burglary and felony cruelty to animals. The other three — all juveniles — were not immediately publicly identified but were booked on the same charges. [Reuters]

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7. Hong Kong leader agrees to meet with democracy advocates
Fewer pro-democracy demonstrators showed up in the streets of Hong Kong on Friday, after the city’s Beijing-backed chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, agreed to meet with protest leaders. Thunderstorms and fatigue after a week of protests also reportedly contributed to the dwindling crowds, so it was unclear whether the crowds would grow again over the weekend. Leung, however, refused to resign, as protesters have demanded, or to guarantee that 2017 elections to pick his successor will be free of the Chinese government’s influence. [The Associated Press]

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8. Two suspects charged with killing two British tourists in Thailand
Two unidentified workers from Myanmar have been arrested for the murders of two British tourists on the resort island of Koh Tao last month. The bodies of David Miller, 24, and Hannah Witheridge, 23, were discovered Sept. 15 on the beach not too far from their hotel. Witheridge had been raped. Police said DNA evidence linked the two suspects from neighboring Myanmar, or Burma, to the crime scene. Thai police have pinned crimes on migrants in the past, but one official said they wouldn’t dare try “bringing in a scapegoat” in such a high-profile case. [CNN]

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9. Google threatened with $100-million lawsuit over leaked nude celebrity photos
Google responded on Thursday to the threat of a $100 million lawsuit for allegedly facilitating the posting of leaked nude photos of actress Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrities. A Hollywood entertainment lawyer representing affected celebrities sent Google a letter accusing it of not trying to remove the pictures from search results even though it knew they were stolen private property. Google said it had removed tens of thousands of photos from its websites within hours of being notified they were there. [The Hollywood Reporter, The Telegraph]

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10. Royals accuse paparazzi of harassing 14-month-old Prince George
Lawyers for Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, are threatening legal action against a photographer if he doesn’t “cease harassing” Prince George. The palace said in a statement that the paparazzi, Niraj Tanna, appears to have placed the 14-month-old royal baby “under surveillance” and monitored his daily activities to plot opportunities to snap photos to sell. Tanna’s lawyers say he is “fully entitled” to take pictures of George in a public park. [BBC News]