Last week, the Clay and Pinellas County Supervisors of Elections’ offices told ThinkProgress that they had already removed names from the voter rolls on the basis of not responding within 30 days to letters demanding proof of citizenship. But after the Justice Department demanded Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) end his extensive purge of registered voters from the rolls because it was in violation of federal law, all 67 county supervisors announced they would suspend the illegal removals.
But what of the 14 voters in Pinellas County and the one voter in Clay County who had already been purged?
According to spokeswomen for both offices, the voters in question have all been reinstated. The data processing manager for Clay County noted that the one woman removed from the rolls had already been restored. It turned out she provided documentation to the office over the weekend proving her citizenship — yet another piece of evidence that the Scott administration’s list of “sure-fire non-citizens” was riddled with a gigantic number of errors.
While the decision by the county supervisors to halt the purge and reinstate the improperly removed voters represents a victory for the right to vote, the Scott administration has still not announced whether it will defy the Department of Justice and continue to purge voter rolls.
Last week, the judge presiding over George Zimmerman’s trial for the alleged murder of Trayvon Martin revoked Zimmerman’s bond because he failed to disclose $200,000 donated to him through a website. Earlier today, his legal team released a statement claiming that Zimmerman should be allowed to post a new bond because “in all other regards, Mr. Zimmerman has been forthright and cooperative.” The statement also suggests that part of the blame for Zimmerman’s misstatements rests on the many activists who worked to ensure that Zimmerman’s guilt or innocence would be evaluated by a court of law:
The audio recordings of Mr. Zimmerman’s phone conversations while in jail make it clear that Mr. Zimmerman knew a significant sum had been raised by his original fundraising website. We feel the failure to disclose these funds was caused by fear, mistrust, and confusion. The gravity of this mistake has been distinctly illustrated, and Mr. Zimmerman understands that this mistake has undermined his credibility, which he will have to work to repair.
At the point of the bond hearing, Mr. Zimmerman had been driven from his home and neighborhood, could not go to work, his wife could not go back to a finish her nursing degree, his mother and father had been driven from their home, and he had been thrust into the national spotlight as a racist murderer by factions acting with their own agendas. None of those allegations have been supported by the discovery released to date, yet the hatred continues.
Zimmerman was originally released on a $150,000 bond. It’s not clear yet whether the judge will allow him to pay a higher bond in the wake of his misstatements to the court.
But in court last week, one of Walker’s closest confidants contradicted the Governor’s claim that he’s been fully cooperative with the investigation, which has already claimed three of Walker’s former staffers and associates. The probe is aimed at locating government officials who engaged in a range of criminal activities while employed by Walker when he was Milwaukee County executive.
Tim Russell, an old Walker adviser who has himself been charged with felony embezzlement, told a local reporter that Walker has not been cooperative with the corruption probe. In fact, Russell’s information shows that Walker has been ‘stonewalling’ investigators. Esquire offers more detail:
The most significant turn of events came last week, on May 31, just as Walker and Barrett were preparing to debate that night, when Daniel Bice, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter who’s been an absolute bulldog on this investigation, published a damaging piece in which Bice said that, contrary to Walker’s repeated insistence that he had called for the John Doe investigation himself, the investigators on the case opened the investigation themselves after two years of stonewalling by Walker and his administration. Bice’s story was based on a document filed with the court in the Russell case. [...]
Tim Russell’s lawyer — and, therefore, Tim Russell — had made public damaging information about Scott Walker and undermined the whole ethical basis of the governor’s response to charges that he had misused his public office for private gain. It is not unreasonable to assume that this either was a warning shot — take care of me or you’re going down, too — or evidence that Russell already has rolled.
Russell’s might have “rolled,” as Esquire phrases it, because he knows it will lead to a significantly less harsh sentence for himself. But in light of the fact that tomorrow is Wisconsin’s recall election, the potential consequences are only growing for Scott Walker.
Michigan Supreme Court Allows Ballot Question, Detroit to Vote on Marijuana Legalization |
On Friday, the Michigan Supreme Court cleared the way for Detroit voters to determine whether or not marijuana should be legal. The Court denied an appeal from a February decision ruling that the Detroit Election Commission could not prevent a legalization proposal from appearing on the ballot. If the proposal is approved in August, it would be legal under Detroit city code for people over 21 to possess and use less than an ounce of marijuana on private property. The proposal does not change any federal or state laws prohibiting the use and possession of marijuana. The Detroit Election Commission has been trying to block the referendum from the ballot since 2010.
Former Gov. Don Siegleman (D-AL). Credit: Mike Disharoon
The Supreme Court today announced it will not hear an appeal by former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (D) challenging his 2006 bribery conviction. His lawyers at attempted to get the Court to rule that campaign donations could only be deemed bribes in the case of an explicit agreement between the candidate and the donor. No justices dissented from nor commented on the decision.
While the Supreme Court’s recent rulings in the Skilling and Citizens United cases have significantly de-fanged political corruption laws, this was a rare case where the Justices opted against wading further into those waters.
Man Critical of Cheney Can’t Sue Secret Service Agents Who Arrested Him |
The Supreme Court today unanimously decided that two secret service agents who allegedly arrested a man in retaliation for disparaging remarks he made about then Vice President Dick Cheney are entitled to qualified immunity. Steven Howards sued the two secret service agents following an event at a shopping mall in which Howards was overheard saying that he “was going to ask [the Vice President] how many kids he’s killed today,” and then telling Vice President Cheney that his “policies in Iraq are disgusting.” Howards also touched Cheney on the shoulder and was arrested and charged with harassment after lying to an agent about it. The harassment charge was later dropped. The Court reasoned that the agents were entitled to qualified immunity because no clear legal principle that barred their conduct.
When the Virginia legislature voted to classify abortion clinics as hospitals instead of doctors’ offices, organizations suddenly faced onerous new restrictions establishing standards about hallway widths and how many parking spots the clinics must have. Emergency regulations went into place on January 1, and now the Virginia Health Department has released its final proposed regulations. On June 15, the state Board of Health will vote on these new rules, which critics argue will force some of the Virginia’s 23 abortion providers out of business.
GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell’s office said in December that the “common-sense regulations will help ensure that this procedure takes place in facilities that are modern, safe, and well-regulated.” Women’s health advocates say it will add unnecessary architectural and building code regulations. The new requirements are expected to be similar to what has been in place since January:
The proposed regulations are similar to the emergency regulations, which are considered some of the toughest in the country. They regulate the size of exam rooms and hallways and the number of parking spaces; and address requirements for inspections, medical procedures and record-keeping.
Erik Bodin, of the department’s licensure and certification office, said some changes were made to conform to recent amendments to the informed-consent abortion law and to ensure that clinic employees who are legally mandated to report suspected child abuse comply with those requirements.
The Virginia Coalition to Protect Women is encouraging people to sign peititions against the new rules and to contact McDonnell and voice their opposition to the new rules.
The consistently anti-abortion governor has said that the law is “in the interest of health,” but the Virginia ACLU’s Katherine Greenier said the proposed regulations are politically driven and “medically irrelevant.” Depending on how the board votes on the proposed requirements, a legal challenge could be likely against the rules that would effectively limit women’s health care options.
Florida voters are not the only ones who should be worried about whether their state has erroneously purged them from the list of eligible voters; the state of Texas also has a voter purge policy that erroneously targets eligible voters. The Houston Chronicle reports that, in a two year period, 300,000 eligible voters were warned that they may be removed from Texas voter rolls. Texas voter registration rates are already among the lowest in the nation, and one out of every 10 Texas voters’ registration is currently suspended. The almost 1.5 million voters who are suspended could be purged if they fail to vote in two consecutive general elections.
Texas has responded to state and federal laws that require voter rolls be reviewed to remove duplicates and ineligible voters by creating an error riddled process:
[A]cross Texas, such “removals” rely on outdated computer programs, faulty procedures and voter responses to generic form letters, often resulting in the wrong people being sent cancellation notices, including new homeowners, college students, Texans who work abroad and folks with common names, a Chronicle review of cancellations shows….
[E]ach year thousands of voters receive requests to verify voter information or be cancelled because they share the same name as a voter who died, got convicted of a crime or claimed to be a non-citizen to avoid jury duty. Those voters receive form letters generated by workers in county election offices that “therefore may be more subject to error,” said Rich Parsons, a spokesman for the Secretary of State in emailed responses to the newspaper. Voters who fail to respond to form letters – or never receive them – get dropped.
In the two years between November 2008 and November 2010, over 300,000 valid voters were warned that they may be removed from Texas voter rolls. Eligible voters were threatened with removal most often because they failed to respond to generic form letters or because they were mistaken for someone else, which is even more worrisome given that there is a high incidence of voters sharing a name in Texas, particularly among Hispanics. Across Texas, 21% of voters who received purge letters later proved that they were eligible to vote.
In an interview with Chuck Todd on MSNBC’s The Daily Rundown this morning, Heritage Foundation senior fellow Brian Darling argued for the importance of Florida-style voter suppression laws in order to stop potential voter fraud. But when pressed by Todd to identify any actual examples of voter fraud, Darling appeared stumped:
DARLING: And there’ve been examples of voter fraud… in Florida. Look at ACORN.
TODD: Where is this voter fraud? I mean it is not this giant…
DARLING: We’ve had recent examples.
TODD: We’re talking about one or two people here, one or two people… and we’re not even a hundred percent sure.
DARLING: We just had a Michigan Congressman [Republican Thaddeus McCotter] resign… not run for re-election because he gathered signatures… his campaign gathered signatures that couldn’t be validated.
TODD: Yeah, but that’s a case of petition signatures being valid. I mean that’s a different law here.
DARLING: Yeah, but it’s very hard to catch voter fraud. Look at what James O’Keefe did. He walked into DC, he didn’t have any ID. One of his guy video…
TODD: Did he vote?
DARLING: No, he didn’t vote.
DARLING: He didn’t vote. But he asked for a ballot and they were gonna give it to him.
TODD: Right, but you’re actually proving the point here. That the fraud didn’t take place because they prevented it.
DARLING: But it’s very hard to catch the fraud. That’s why you have to do it before Election Day. If you try to do it on Election Day, you’ll never catch any of the fraud.
Watch the video:
Stricter voter ID laws would do nothing to stop candidates like McCotter from submitting invalid ballot petitions. Nor would they stop cases like the ACORN example, in which a few individuals plead guilty to submitting bogus voter registration forms in hopes of getting paid more for voter registration. In both instances, the existing laws proved more than sufficient to address the problems.
The one example of the sort of fraud these strict voter ID laws allegedly aim to stop that Darling could cite was conservative filmmaker and convicted law-breaker James O’Keefe. O’Keefe’s approach was to break a law intentionally to prove how easy it is to break a law and to then claim that the law is insufficient because he could break it. This strategy is similar to going into a convenience store, pretending to shoplift a candy bar, and citing that as evidence that the store needs to do a background check of every customer before they come into the store. And, as Darling concedes, even O’Keefe didn’t actually vote.
And, as ThinkProgress reported previously, in the one instance O’Keefe recently claimed to identify voter fraud, the two alleged non-citizens who he claimed should not registered voters both proved to be naturalizedcitizens.
It is very hard to catch voter fraud because it is exceptionally rare. In fact, studies have shown individuals are more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit it. People generally don’t commit voter fraud because they realize that it is immoral, because it is illegal and they fear being punished, and because it is an extremely inefficient way of affecting an election.
In writing the opinion of the court for the 5-4 majority in the Citizens United v. FEC, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that “that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” But a new tax-exempt outside group, named the North Carolina Judicial Commission, may put Kennedy’s assertion to the test.
According to the News & Observer, the group aims to raise unlimited sums of money from conservative and pro-business donors to re-elect state Supreme Court Justice Paul M. Newby this November. Newby, who is part of a 4-3 right-leaning majority on the court, faces a challenge from Sam Ervin IV, a judge on the state’s court of appeals and the grandson of the late Sen. Sam Ervin Jr. (D-NC).
Newby generated controversy when in 2005, he attended a rally for a constitutional amendment to prevent same-sex marriage equality while a sitting appeals court judge and when he wrote a 4-3 majority opinion that said a Durham couple could not sue an out-of-state company for predatory lending.
The article notes:
The new super PAC – officially known as an independent expenditure committee – is comprised of Republican heavy-hitters. Wealthy businessman and charter school entrepreneur Bob Luddy is the committee’s chairman. Tom Fetzer, former chairman of the state Republican Party, and I. Beverly Lake, a former chief justice of the state Supreme Court, serve on its board of directors.
Fetzer told the paper “Heading into this election, which is largely publicly financed, candidates have a limited ability to get their message out. I thought it was a good idea to set up an independent expenditure for Paul.”
The idea behind public financing for elections — especially state judicial elections — is that jurists should not be beholden to moneyed interests. But thanks to the loophole created by Citizens United, special interest groups can circumvent those limits and spend as much money as they can afford to push for the election of judges friendly to their cause. And if their efforts succeed, it is hard to believe the will be no “appearance of corruption” should a state justice decide a case in favor of a company or individual who helped back his or her re-election through a group like the North Carolina Judicial Commission.
Already facing a criminal probe into his nominating petitions, the re-election campaign for Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) came to an end on Saturday. The five-term Congressman and former presidential candidate failed to collect enough valid signatures to make the primary ballot and had previously considered a write-in campaign.
Seeking an open House seat in North Carolina, former U.S. Attorney George Holding (R) is refusing to talk about the John Edwards case he once prosecuted.
Former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline (R) has suggested that one of the two remaining state Supreme Court justices recuse himself from Kline’s disciplinary case, which stems from a controversial abortion clinic investigation during his tenure. Five of the seven justices have already done so.