On today's BradCast, we're still trying to keep our eye on the ball, as Trump and the Republicans work to take away both health and voting rights even as the nation is otherwise consumed with new breaking news in the ongoing criminal investigations of Team Trump. [Audio link to show is posted below.]
First up today, a few comments on the news regarding Donald Trump, Jr.'s meeting with a Russian attorney during the campaign last year and the federal election laws he may have violated in the bargain. But, with everyone else in the world covering that story today, fewer are covering the ongoing plans by the Senate GOP to try and repeal the health care for millions of Americans in exchange for tax cuts for the wealthy, possibly as early as next week, according to a top Senate Republican. And, if not next week, shortly thereafter, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has now cancelled much of the August recess in hopes of jamming both ObamaCare repeal and a major tax cut scheme through Congress before Summer ends.
Similarly, with all of the noise regarding the incompetence and/or corruption of Team Trump, it's important to keep an eye on their ongoing efforts at voter suppression via Trump's so-called "Election Integrity" Commission which has already resulted in voters around the nation removingthemselves from registration roles for fear that Commission Vice-Chair and notorious "voter fraud" fraudster Kris Kobach will publicly release the personal information of registered voters, such as birthdate, social security number, military status, etc., as he recently promised in a letter to all 50 states seeking that data.
But, as Kobach has made a career out of pretending there is a massive voter fraud epidemic and threatening prosecution against voters for small and often inadvertent violations of the law, you'd think his Commission would follow the rule of law to the letter. That does not appear to be the case, however, as at least four different legal complaints, alleging violations of federal law, have already been filed against Kobach and the Commission over the past week, even as even more notorious GOP 'voter fraud' fraudsters are being quietly added to the Presidential panel.
THERESA LEE, staff attorney at the ACLU's Voting Rights Project, one of the groups which have filed legal complaints against the Commission, joins us to explain their lawsuit [PDF] charging multiple violations of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), how this Presidential Commission on elections is wildly different from those created in the recent past, and what it is that Kobach and friends are really up to under the sham Commission's pretext of combating 'voter fraud'.
"One of the main purposes of the Act was public accountability, the idea that if the government is getting advice, it should not be biased advice, and the public should know what's going into it," Lee tells me, describing the extraordinary imbalance of the Trump-Pence-Kobach Commission and the secrecy under which it has so far been operating.
Finally today, it's the return of the Green News Report with Desi Doyen after a week off over the holidays, and just in time for another heat wave across much of the country, embarrassment at the G-20, and both good news and bad in California...
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A deal announced today by Ohio's Secretary of State may help avoid some of the legal nightmares that plagued the Buckeye State's 2014 elections. While the legal settlement [PDF] restores some of the early voting access Republicans have been attempted, for years, to impose, it also leaves other rollbacks to voting reforms passed after the state's 2004 Presidential nightmare in place.
MSNBC's Zach Roth explains the agreement between Ohio's Republican Sec. of State and the ACLU, which had sued on behalf of the Ohio NAACP and League of Women Voters last year to block new GOP cuts to polling place access:
The deal, announced Friday morning between Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, and the ACLU, undoes some but not all of the damage to voting access caused by last year's cuts. It restores one day of Sunday voting and adds weekday evening hours, but lets stand the elimination of a week when Ohioans had been able to register and vote all in one day.
Both sides hailed the new agreement --- hopefully ending a years-long, roller-coaster legal battle --- as a victory for voters, though Roth added on Twitter that the deal, overall, seemed to be more of a victory for the GOP than for voting rights advocates. Elections expert Daniel Smith is a bit more optimistic about it today, noting that it's "a much bigger deal to have extended hours" and Sunday "Souls to the Polls" voting restored, even as the ACLU, for its part, concedes the settlement is "far from perfect"...
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A federal judge today ruled that cuts to early voting in Ohio must be restored in time for the November election. The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging a state law and directives that have dramatically slashed early voting opportunities in Ohio. The ACLU was in court last month to ask the judge to restore the cuts prior to full trial, in time for the midterm election.
"This ruling will safeguard the vote for thousands of Ohioans during the midterm election," said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project. "If these cuts had been allowed to remain in place, many voters would have lost a critical opportunity to participate in our democratic process this November. This is a huge victory for Ohio voters and for all those who believe in protecting the integrity of our elections."
Today's ruling restores the first week of early voting, often referred to as "Golden Week," in which voters are able to register and cast a ballot on the same day. It also restores evening early voting, as well as multiple Sundays.
The ruling includes a temporary injunction on the Republican-enacted state law and on additional new restrictions on voting hours implemented by its Republican Sec. of State John Husted, finding the regulations are in violation of both the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment, as well as Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act which bars racially discriminatory voting laws in all 50 states.
Berman notes, in regards to today's ruling, that "In 2012, 157,000 Ohioans cast ballots during early voting hours eliminated by the Ohio GOP" and that African-American voters in the state "voted early in person at a rate over twenty times greater than white voters," according to the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights.
The expansion of early voting in Ohio was implemented following the disastrous 2004 elections there when many voters --- largely in minority areas --- were forced to wait for 6 hours or more to cast a vote under restrictions implemented by then partisan Sec. of State and co-chair of Bush/Cheney '04 Inc., J. Kenneth Blackwell. The last ballot cast in the Buckeye State that year, when the state's electoral votes would determine the Presidency, was around 2am on Wednesday morning at Kenyon College, where some students had waited on line as much as 10 hours to vote.
The new GOP restrictions cut many of the additional voting opportunities instituted in 2005, which had otherwise led to a fairly smooth election under Democratic Sec. of State Jennifer Brunner in 2008, as she described to us during an exclusive interview in 2012.
Early Absentee voting numbers had doubled between 2004 and 2008 after the expansion of voting hours, as a quick glance at the numbers starkly demonstrates...
The old baseball adage that three strikes and you are out applies to Ohio's Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted and his underhanded effort to emulate his predecessor, the infamous J. Kenneth Blackwell (R), by preventing Early Voting for all over the last three days before the November 6, 2012 election.
That effort, to restrict voting in those days to active-duty military voters only, was first rejected by U.S. District Court Judge Peter Economus (strike one!) whose decision was upheld in all aspects by a three judge panel of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal --- strike two!
Now comes an order from the U.S. Supreme Court summarily rejecting Husted's eleventh hour request for a stay of Judge Economus' decision --- strike three!
When Brad Friedman interviewed the former Democratic Ohio Sec. of State Jennifer Brunner in mid-August, she explained how Husted's efforts to limit early voting were "clearly aimed at 'Souls to the Polls,'" the very successful effort by African-American churches to encourage their congregations to get out and vote on the Sunday before Election Day. During the 2008 election, nearly 100,000 largely Democratic-leaning voters cast their vote over that weekend.
Husted, who previously backed off an earlier effort to obstruct Judge Economus' initial order, filing an apology to the court in early September, has now issued a directive informing all County Election Boards "to open for early voting from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. on Nov. 3, 1-5 p.m. on Nov. 4 and 8 a.m.-2 p.m. on Nov. 5," according to the Chicago Tribune.
Contrary to the initial lie spun by the right wing echo chamber and by Mitt Romney himself, this case in no way impacted the right of military voters to cast Early Absentee ballots. To the contrary, it assured that all lawfully registered voters could do so.
This is a very clear victory for democracy.
UPDATE: The order [PDF] reveals that although Husted filed the application for a stay with Justice Kagan, she referred the request "to the Court," which, in turn, denied the stay without any dissents.
After having been told by two federal courts --- a U.S. District Court in late August and then a 3-judge panel on the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals just last week --- that the Ohio GOP's attempt to restrict Early Absentee Voting in the final three days before Election Day, for all but active-duty military voters, is an unconstitutional violation of voting rights, disproportionately effecting low-income and minority voters, the state's Republican Sec. of State Jon Husted is, nonetheless, appealing the rulings yet again.
This time, Husted is skipping an appeal to the full 6th Circuit and going directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In a statement issued today, Husted describes last week's ruling at the Appellate Court, upholding the lower court's ruling, as "stunning" and an "unprecedented intrusion by the federal courts into how states run elections." (Perhaps Husted was out of the country for Bush v. Gore in late 2000?)
At the core of Husted's complaint is the fact that, by overturning the GOP's restrictions on Early Voting for all but active-duty military, so that all eligible voters can vote during those days, Ohio's 88 county Boards of Election will once again be able to set their own hours for voting over those days. That, argues Husted (disingenuously, for reasons explained in a moment), will lead to a lack of uniformity across the state.
"This ruling not only doesn’t make legal sense, it doesn’t make practical sense," Husted says in his statement announcing his plan to appeal today. "The court is saying that all voters must be treated the same way under Ohio law, but also grants Ohio’s 88 elections boards the authority to establish 88 different sets of rules. That means that one county may close down voting for the final weekend while a neighboring county may remain open. How any court could consider this a remedy to an equal protection problem is stunning."
While Husted's remarks about the possibility of differing hours for Early Voting in differing Ohio counties, strictly speaking, are correct, they are also purposely misleading and, more to the point, entirely disingenuous...And Husted knows it...
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Friday that Ohio must make early voting during the three days before the election available to all voters if it's available to military members and voters who live overseas. The ruling upheld a lower court's decision.
"The State's asserted goal of accommodating the unique situation of members of the military, who may be called away at a moment's notice in service to the nation, is certainly a worthy and commendable goal," the court ruled. "However, while there is a compelling reason to provide more opportunities for military voters to cast their ballots, there is no corresponding satisfactory reason to prevent non-military voters from casting their ballots as well."
In short, the attempt by Ohio Republicans to keep Democratic-leaning voters, who turned out in droves to support Obama in 2008 on the final weekend before Election Day from voting, has failed yet again.
A 3-judge panel on the 6th Circuit of Appeals has upheld, as our legal analyst Ernie Canning describes it, "every aspect of" the lower court's ruling in August. The ruling comes as yet another stinging defeat for Ohio Republicans and Sec. of State Jon Husted (R) and their attempt to restrict voting rights in the Buckeye State. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling is available here [PDF].
This case began as an attempt by the Obama campaign and Democrats to restore voting rights removed by Republicans, for no reason other than to disenfranchise voters. It became widely public, as a blatant lie by the editor of Breitbart.com who lied about Obama attempting to keep military voters from being able to vote. It was then advanced by Fox "News" and even the Romney campaign who repeated the lie, and it all recently culminated in an apology to the court by Ohio's Secretary of State who had attempted to ignore the lower court's ruling which was ultimately upheld today.
Despite all of those embarrassments, and today's latest court victory, there remains a bit of wiggle room for the OH GOP if they still wish to attempt to keep voters --- or, as the Republican Party Chair and Election Board Commissioner of Franklin County (Columbus), OH put it, " the urban --- read African American --- voter-turnout machine" --- from exercising their right to vote during the final three days before the November 6th Presidential Election...
Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) has apologized to a U.S. District Court judge who ruled against him last week, after the Secretary appeared to have tried to undermine the court's ruling, pending an appeal by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The apology came in a motion today, after Husted was ordered by the judge to personally appear for a hearing next week.
In his ruling [PDF], Economus ordered the Secretary of State to restore Early Voting "on the three days immediately preceding Election Day for all eligible voters," just as it had been successfully implemented during the 2008 election, as the previous Sec. of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, described to us during a recent interview. At the same time, the judge had also instructed the Buckeye State's current Secretary to "direct all Ohio elections boards to maintain a specific, consistent schedule on those three days, in keeping with [Husted's] earlier directive that only by doing so can he ensure that Ohio's election process is 'uniform, accessible for all, fair, and secure.'"
In response, rather than issuing a directive with uniform hours for voting in those three days before the November Presidential election, Husted issued a Directive on Tuesday notifying the state's 88 county Boards of Election that they should not establish hours for voting in those days, as the state was filing an appeal in the case.
"Announcing new hours before the court case reaches final resolution will only serve to confuse voters and conflict with the standard of uniformity," Husted wrote in the Directive, adding, "I am confident there will be sufficient time after the conclusion of the appeal process to set uniform hours across the state."
This afternoon, after being summoned to court in response to that Directive, Husted rescinded it and the state filed a motion [PDF] apologizing for what was interpreted as him having attempted to place his own personal stay on Economus' order. "The Secretary apologizes to the federal district court for creating that misimpression and has rescinded [the] Directive," the state writes in the motion, which seeks an official stay on the ruling, pending the Sixth Circuit's expedited appeal...
The recent spate of federal court victories in favor of voting rights across the nation continued today, as a U.S. District Court judge in Ohio sided with Democrats and the Obama campaign, finding that the removal of in-person Early Voting for all voters on the final three days before Election Day in the Buckeye State was an "arbitrary" decision made by the state's Republican lawmakers and Secretary of State.
The removal of in-person Early Voting in those last three days before the election --- when some 100,000 voters had cast their votes in the state during the 2008 Presidential Election --- for all but active-duty military voters, is likely to "irreparably harm" the voting rights of "low-income and minority voters [who] are disproportionately affected by the elimination of those voting days," according to the ruling by U.S. District Judge Peter Economus [PDF].
The ruling is another major win for Ohio voters, as the judge ruled in favor of the Democratic complaint seeking a temporary injunction on the state's new voting restrictions.
Through a convoluted series of legislative actions by Republican state lawmakers and rulings by Sec. of State John Husted, which we detailed earlier this month, Ohio had restricted Early Voting on the final weekend before the Tuesday election to all but active duty military voters. We also explained in that same article how the Romney campaign --- based on a false assertion initially posited by the Republican propaganda website Breitbart.com and subsequently forwarded loudly by Fox "News" --- argued dishonestly that the Obama campaign was attempting to "undermine" and restrict voting rights of the military, which the GOP nominee described on his Facebook page as an "outrage".
In fact, as the very first paragraph of the Obama complaint [PDF] made quite clear, the Democrats were not attempting to restrict the rights of military voters, but, in reality, suing to "restore in-person early voting for all Ohioans during the three days prior to Election Day," including for some 900,000 veterans in the state whose rights had similarly been removed by the Ohio Republicans.
Today, the Democrats' argument prevailed in federal court, as Economus found that "Plaintiffs have a constitutionally protected right to participate in the 2012 election --- and all elections --- on an equal basis with all Ohio voters, including [active duty military] voters"...
The decision, which otherwise seems like common sense, comes in the wake of tens of thousands of provisional ballots going uncounted after the 2008 Presidential election thanks to a provision in Ohio law which discards such ballots, even in the case where a poll worker has improperly instructed a voter to cast his or her ballot in the wrong place.
The ruling is a defeat for Ohio's Republican Sec. of State who, after working towards inclusiveness and voting rights earlier in his tenure, seems to have taken a hard right turn in many of his decisions of late, as the Presidential Election nears.
A voter might line up to vote at the wrong table/precinct, for example, only to be told they weren't found on that precinct's voter rolls and, rather than be directed by the poll worker to the correct "precinct", instructed to cast a provisional ballot at that table instead. That vote, before Monday's ruling, under existing Ohio law, would go uncounted. Many of those provisional ballots were cast in predominantly Democratic-leaning counties.
The Enquirer warned in their report last month that "tens of thousands of ballots are likely to be disqualified" once again in the key swing-state, during the 2012 Presidential election unless the provision was changed, as recommended by state election officials after the 2008 election.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley, citing Bush v. Gore of all things, ruled against Ohio Sec. of State Jon Husted (R), whose spokesman responded: "We respectfully disagree with the judge's ruling and will likely appeal."
Marbley found that Husted's belief that such ballots should not be counted "belies a fundamentally misguided view that the state need not protect the right to vote of individuals who, for any number of reasons, are required to cast a provisional ballot"...
Brunner (author of the forthcoming Cupcakes & Courage) joined me on today's BradCast on KPFK/Pacifica Radio here in Los Angeles and offered some inside skinny on what she did in 2008 to help correct the 2004 disasters that plagued the state during that year's Presidential election debacle under her horrible predecessor, J. Kenneth Blackwell (R) --- who also served as co-chair for the Bush/Cheney re-election campaign while serving as the state's chief election official --- and what now seems to be going on under her successor Husted, as he limits Early Voting hours across the entire state, despite the great success it has been up until now for voters there.
She explained the constitutional powers of the Ohio Sec. of State and told me she believes the attempt by Republicans to shorten weekend Early Voting hours --- which were allowed as recently as this year's primary elections in Ohio --- was "clearly aimed at 'Souls to the Polls'," the effort by African-American churches to encourage their congregations to get out and vote on the Sunday before the election.
The result of all of this right now, as the former Secretary of State understated it during our conversation: "A bit of a donnybrook in Ohio."
I asked for her response to the remark by Doug Preisse, Chair of the Franklin County Republican Party and a member of the county's Board of Elections when he said he felt "we shouldn't contort the voting process to accommodate the urban --- read African-American --- voter-turnout machine." She said she felt that that --- and his response to Democrats' charge that Republicans are trying to suppress the vote is "bullshit, quote me" --- was all "very unfortunate."
"We're already in a rancorous climate, starting from Congress and the Presidential election on down," she said. "Why stir up the pot and pit voters against each other? Enough of that was done in 2008. There was so much political capital spent in 2008 on whipping up these fake allegations of voter fraud and now four years later, people realize --- what were there, ten cases around the country since 2000? --- this is so unnecessary."
"The bottom line is," she continued, "voting is not a partisan issue. It should never be a partisan issue. Having control of the rules is not political booty. It really should be a place where everyone walks into that room, they drop their partisan cloak, they stand up, they act like grown-ups, and they say 'Let's do what's fair, because our future depends on it.'"
All of that, and more, follows in today's BradCast...
No, the Obama Campaign is not attempting to keep military voters from voting, no matter how much the Romney Campaign and their surrogates in the media and on Fox "News" are willing to shamelessly lie about it for ugly partisan purposes at the expense of electoral democracy.
The whole story appears to have begun as little more than another hoax by the Andrew Breitbart scam artists and, as always, the mainstream corporate media have fallen for it, as if it's a legitimate story. So here's what's actually going on, since the MSM seems incapable of explaining to you.
Following the disastrous, partisan and arguably criminal oversight of the 2004 Presidential Election in Ohio by then Republican Sec. of State J. Kenneth Blackwell (in any other era in our nation's history, people would have gone to jail for what happened there), when a wildly and purposefully disparate distribution of voting machines led to Election Day voting lines of anywhere from 2 to 12 hours, mostly in Democratic-leaning jurisdictions, reforms were enacted to make it easier for all voters to cast their legal vote in the Buckeye State.
After the 2004 debacle, the law was changed in 2005 to allow for any voter to vote by absentee ballot, without an excuse, including by "early in-person absentee voting" at polling places in the weeks leading up to Election Day. Hundreds of thousands of Ohio voters took advantage of this new opportunity to cast their vote, helping to radically increase turnout, including during Early and Absentee voting in subsequent years:
In the 2008 election, in the three days prior to Election Day, some 93,000 voters in the state took advantage of their ability to cast a vote over the weekend just before the Tuesday election. Many of those voters, according to a University of Akron study of Early Voting in Ohio [PDF], were voters who might have trouble voting on Election Day, because they were working that day, or were elderly and unable to wait in long lines. African American churches encouraged voters to head to the early polls after church on the Sunday before the election, during a so-called "Souls to the Polls" effort.
This, Republicans legislators in Ohio determined, had to be stopped. And so they did. Or tried to, by passing HB 194, shortening the period of early voting for all Buckeye State voters, and adding other restrictions to make it more difficult for legal voters to cast their legal vote and have it counted.
The people of Ohio then rose up against HB 194 by turning in almost 100,000 more signatures than the number required to forestall the implementation of the new voting restrictions and to place the law --- which had passed on party lines by the Republican-controlled legislature before being signed by the state's Republican Governor John Kasich --- onto the November 2012 ballot, where the people could decide whether or not they wanted the new restrictions on voting rights.
But a funny thing happened on the way to that November 2012 Referendum. The state Republicans came up with a bit of a work around, at least for active duty military voters (who, we are told, tend to vote Republican, rather than Democratic). And while the Obama Campaign and fellow Democrats are busy trying to ensure that all voters, not just active duty military voters in Ohio get to enjoy Early Voting in those three days before the Election, the Romney Campaign has continued their extraordinary record of simply lying about everything.
That's not a partisan observation. That's just a fact. And for anyone in the media to suggest otherwise, in regard to this story, amounts to little more than journalistic malpractice at very best, and, more accurately, an insidious act of blatantly cynical partisanship disguised as "journalism" at the expense of the very core of our (small "d") democratic system of governance.
Such insidious acts of blatantly cynical partisanship disguised as "journalism" is, of course, what the folks at the late con-man Andrew Breitbart's website do best...
John's a pal, and one of the smartest guys in media. Period. Good hire, Al Gore! He was kind enough to stick around with us for the hour, as we were joined by Mark McCaffrey of the National Center for Science Education to discuss this week's bombshell: The Koch Brothers-funded(!) scientist and former climate change skeptic, Professor Richard Muller, coming out to confirm his recent findings that global warming is, in fact, "real" and that "humans are almost entirely the cause."
Worse, thousands of them, as the paper details, were disqualified due to no fault of voters...
Each election year, Ohio residents cast thousands of ballots that are not counted.
Despite efforts to simplify the state's voting to avoid widespread discarding of ballots, it could happen again in November's presidential race.
The Enquirer, during a weeks-long examination of the state's electoral procedures, found that voting - America's most precious right and the foundation for all others - is a fragile civic exercise for many Ohioans.
A confusing maze of state laws, administrative directives and court rulings on voting procedures, errors - by voters and poll workers alike - and other factors cause large numbers of ballots to end up in the electoral trash can every year, particularly in urban counties.
In Hamilton County alone, hundreds of votes are routinely disqualified in major statewide elections because they are cast in the wrong precinct, often only feet from the correct location. Hundreds more votes have been tossed out for another relatively minor miscue: voters' failure to seal an inner envelope containing their absentee ballot.
The report goes on to warn that, unless there are changes made to the state's election laws and procedures --- including the implementation of changes recommended by state election officials after the 2008 contest --- "tens of thousands of ballots are likely to be disqualified" in the key swing-state, once again, during the 2012 Presidential election...
The story for which The BRAD BLOG was awarded a 2010 Project Censored award for "Excellence in Investigative Journalism" is "censored" no more. From the February 2010 issue of Maxim hitting mag racks this week...
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) has won a substantive victory on behalf of the voters of Ohio --- perhaps hundreds of thousands of them --- via a court case filed in 2006, challenging a number of voter suppression tactics employed by the state's then Sec. of State, J. Kenneth Blackwell (R).
The victory may lead to the enfranchisement of "hundreds of thousands of voting-eligible low-income Ohioans" according to one of the attorneys involved in the case, yet it looks like Fox "News", Matt Drudge, and all of the other Rightwingers may have forgotten to post a thank you note to ACORN this week for their successful battle to strengthen the growth of democracy in the U.S....