By Jueseppi B.
On Thursday, California joined Hawaii, Vermont, Rhode Island, Maryland and New Mexico in calling for an amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The decision paved the way for an unprecedented increase in campaign spending by outside groups by ruling that limits on corporate or union spending on elections violates the First Amendment. According to California Assembly Member Bob Wieckowski (D), who introduced the bill calling for an amendment, the fight for reform is a challenge. “No one is underestimating how difficult it is, and justifiably so, to amend the Constitution,” he said. “But being silent is worse. Failing to speak out, to organize, to hold rallies and to take action would be much worse.”
On Monday, the Department of Justice and the Texas Legislature will square off in court over Texas’ contentious voter ID law. A three-judge U.S. District Court panel will hear the case, which could challenge the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Texas is one of nine states that must get any changes to their election law cleared by the DOJ under the Voting Rights Act due to a history of discrimination. Texas flunked the test; as Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas E. Perez wrote in his letter to the Director of Elections,“According to the state’s own data, a Hispanic registered voter is at least 46.5 percent, and potentially 120.0 percent, more likely than a non-Hispanic registered voter to lack this identification.”
The law, SB 14, requires voters to show one of a very narrow list of government-issued documents, excluding Social Security, Medicaid, or student ID cards. Gun licenses, however, are acceptable.
The DOJ found that Texas’s SB 14 will “disenfranchise at least 600,000 voters who currently lack necessary photo identification and that minority registered voters will be disproportionately affected by the law.”
As of the 2010 Census, non-Hispanic whites have become the minority in Texas, shrinking to 45.3% of the population from 52.4%, while Latinos accounted for 65% of Texas’s population growth over the past decade.
But Latinos are not the only people hurt by the restrictive bill. People who want to vote but don’t have an ID will have to pay a fee to get one, like Jessica Cohen, whose story ThinkProgress documented in November. After she lost her identification during a robbery, the only way to get a voter ID was to pay a fee to Missouri officials in order to obtain her birth certificate.
On Monday, Texas will defend the law as a necessary measure to prevent voter fraud. Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) argued that “Texas has a responsibility to ensure elections are fair, beyond reproach and accurately reflect the will of voters.” But the San Antonio Express-News reported that fewer than five “illegal voting” complaints involving voter impersonations were filed with the Texas Attorney General’s Office from the 2008 and 2010 general elections in which more than 13 million voters participated.
The Texas voter ID law isn’t the first the DOJ has had to combat. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder noted,
“The past two years have brought nearly two dozen new state laws and executive orders, from more than a dozen states, that could make it significantly harder for eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.”
As more states put in place strict voter ID rules, an AP review of temporary ballots from Indiana and Georgia, which first adopted the most stringent standards, found that more than 1,200 such votes were tossed during the 2008 general election.
During sparsely attended primaries this year in Georgia, Indiana and Tennessee, the states implementing the toughest laws, hundreds more ballots were blocked.
The numbers suggest that the legitimate votes rejected by the laws are far more numerous than are the cases of fraud that advocates of the rules say they are trying to prevent. Thousands more votes could be in jeopardy for this November, when more states with larger populations are looking to have similar rules in place.
Voter ID’s supporters justify them by claiming they are necessary to prevent voter fraud at the polls, but such fraud is so rare that someone is more likely to be struck by lightning than commit voter fraud. One study, for example, found just seven examples of voter fraud out of the three million votes cast in Wisconsin during the 2004 election, a fraud rate of 0.0002 percent. Similarly, the Supreme Court could only identify one example of in-person voter fraud in the past 143 years in a decision approving Indiana’s ID law in 2008. Even a Heritage Foundation expert arguing for voter suppression laws could not cite a single example of voter fraud during a TV interview on the subject. And as a 2007 report by the Brennan Center for Justice found, many allegations of individual voter fraud can be chalked up to clerical errors like typos in names or addresses.
So voter ID laws target no legitimate problem, but they are effective in skewing the electorate rightward. Voter ID laws disproportionately affect young, poor and minority communities. Indeed, in 2005, the sponsor of the Georgia law, Rep. Sue Burmeister (R-Augusta), defended the discriminatory effect, saying if black people in her district “are not paid to vote, they don’t go to the polls,” and that if fewer blacks vote as a result of the new law, then they were blocked from casting fraudulent ballots.
More than two dozen states have some form of a voter ID law, with 11 passing new rules over the past two years.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) has decided that the easiest way to cope with the number of uninsured people in his state — one out of every four Texans lacks an insurance plan — is to pretend that there is no problem at all.
Today, Perry announced that Texas would turn down millions in federal funding offered under the Affordable Care Act to expand the state’s Medicaid program, despite the 25 percent of Texanswithout insurance. But pressed by Fox News anchor Jenna Lee, Perry couldn’t come up with a good way to cover those who don’t have insurance in the state.
Instead, Perry danced around the question and argued that the government had misrepresented the quality of care in Texas in a recent report that ranked the state last. He went on to say that the Medicaid expansion isn’t about getting coverage for the people who need it — it’s about freedom:
LEE: So let’s talk about solutions then. According to a new federal government report, I know you’ve seen this, Texas has ranked last when it comes to health services provided by the state. I know your folks have come out and aggressively said, ‘Hey, this is not something that we necessarily agree with for obvious reasons.’ But the facts are one out of four Texans is without health insurance, one out of four Texans is on Medicare or Medicaid. The health crisis, the big cris for the country and for your state, what is the solution?
PERRY: Well, let me address this issue. You don’t have people come from all over the globe to the state of Texas for their health care. We’ve got some of the finest health care in the world whether it’s MD Anderson or UT Southwest, some incredible health care facilities in the country. So the idea that this federal government which doesn’t like Texas to begin with to pick and choose and come up with some data and say somehow Texas has the worst health care system in the world is just fake and false on its face. The real issue here is about freedom.
Perry’s opposition to the Medicaid expansion is for tragic the state’s uninsured, but it’s not surprising — he has previously said that there is “nothing in the constitution” that allows Medicaid to exist, and claimed “everyone in America has access to health care.” But despite his rhetoric, Perry is no stranger to using federal funds in the state.
In November, the governor took time off his failed presidential campaign to celebrate the expansion of MD Anderson, a multi-million medical center he regularly cites as exemplary, but one that is also the beneficiary of millions of dollars in federal grants.
The governor’s only other solution for helping those without insurance is to block grant the Medicaid program. But analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy priority found that block-granting Medicaid would lead to huge cuts in the program’s funding, a larger cost burden on health care providers and beneficiaries.
“BARACK” The Vote
Filed under: 2012 Election, Affordable Health Care Act, Causes, Court Room/Legal, DOJ, Economy, Education, Health, News, Politics, POTUS Obama, The White House, Willard Mitt Romney Tagged: | DOJ, Monday, San Antonio Express-News, Texas, United States, United States Department of Justice, Voter ID laws (United States), Voting Rights Act