The U.S. and other Western democracies have spent the better part of the last decade pushing for democratization across the globe. We have intervened in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya and supported countless other efforts with aid and ideas to press democratic ideals for the disenfranchised and oppressed. While this is undoubtedly a worthy cause, there are still instances when even democratic nations need our attention. What is currently happening in Mongolia is a sharp reminder that we cannot ignore nations that are burgeoning democracies who suffer from crippling democracy deficits. Former Mongolian President Nambaryn Enkhbayar is due to stand trial today on charges of corruption and of misusing property and government powers. He was arrested in a televised dawn raid in April where viewers saw Mr. Enkhbayar shoved into a van with a sack over his head. The charges, he says, are a complete fabrication.
The Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times”, might have been coined with the Greek people in mind. Not since the fall of the military junta in 1974 has there been such turmoil and uncertainty. It’s not physical turmoil (although there have been mild fisticuffs in my local bar) but conceptual, as voters prepare for the next elections on June 17th, following the totally inconclusive ballot last month. There is a series of dichotomies (after all, the Greeks invented the word). On one hand, in the bigger picture, is the right of the Greeks to self-determination; on the other are Greece’s international obligations, as members of the EU and debtors to the IMF. On one hand, many politicians and technocrats are saying Greece must be changed completely, while on the other Greek people want to go on being Greek. The greatest dilemma is the fact that Syriza (Radical Left) may well top the polls, having pushed Pasok into third place last month. Current predictions have Syriza at 27-30 per cent, with New Democracy (ND) on 23-27 per cent and Pasok limping badly on 12-15 per cent. Topping the poll on 30 per cent would give Syriza 90 seats, plus a bonus of 50 – a total of 140, just 11 seats short of an overall majority. Syriza’s leader, Alexis Tsipras, the new kid on the block, wants to repudiate Greece’s debts, reverse the austerity measures and nationalise the banks, yet – and here’s another dichotomy – he wants to stay in the euro, which might be fiscally impossible.
Is it “anything goes” now in America’s campaign finance system? John Edwards is acquitted of using campaign cash as hush money. There’s an explosion of high-dollar super political action committees in the presidential race. It’s all stoking criticism of revisions and regulatory loopholes in a system that was intended to keep better control of political money after Watergate. Loosening the law has made it easier for politicians to butt up against the legal line — if not cross it — and for wealthy Americans to influence who wins office, from the White House on down.
To grasp the clear and present danger that the current flood of campaign cash poses to American democracy, consider the curious case of Post Office Box 72465. It demonstrates that the explosion of super PAC spending is only the second-most troubling development of recent campaign cycles. Box 72465, on a desert road near Phoenix, belongs to a little-known group called the Center to Protect Patient Rights. According to reports by the Center for Responsive Politics and the Los Angeles Times, the center funneled more than $55 million to 26 Republican-leaning groups during the 2010 midterm election. Where is the money from? The Times found links to the conservative Koch brothers, yet because the center is a nonprofit corporation, it is impossible to know. Such groups must disclose how they distribute their money, not who donates to them.
You’ve got to feel bad for the rich and powerful in America. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a variety of big business groups say if Congress goes back to letting the American people know who is behind campaign attack ads, businesses will face the “palpable” threat of “retaliation” and “reprisals.” Former Federal Election Commission Chairman Bradley Smith warns in The Wall Street Journal that boycotts based on political beliefs — made possible by the public disclosure of campaign finance data — “endanger the very commerce that enriches us all.” Even the chief justice of the United States, John Roberts, apparently is being “intimidated” (Kathleen Parker), “pressured” (George Will) and “threatened” (Rick Garnett) by that most powerful force in America (law professor and New Republic legal editor) Jeffrey Rosen. On the right these days, the rhetoric is all about a liberal siege. Despite Republicans’ majority in the House, its filibuster power in the Senate, a sympathetic Supreme Court and the great power of business groups — the language of threats is pervasive. But look beyond the rhetoric and you can see what’s really going on: Those with power want to wield it without being accountable for their actions.
The 2012 presidential election looks like it could well be another squeaker, and if it is, a number of possible outcomes could produce national hand-wringing, finger-pointing, complaints of unfairness and anger, further dividing Americans and undermining confidence in our political system. A dozen years ago, Democrat Al Gore drew 540,000 votes more than Republican George W. Bush but lost the presidency when Bush carried Florida and won 271 electoral votes. There is no reason that couldn’t happen again, with President Barack Obama winning a narrow popular vote victory and losing in the Electoral College. Most of the same states are in play as were in 2000, and any close popular vote outcome raises the possibility of a split decision, especially because Obama is likely to “waste” large numbers of votes in carrying a handful of populous states. In 2000, six states delivered a plurality of at least 500,000 votes to one of the major party nominees. Five of those states — New York, California, Massachusetts, Illinois and New Jersey — went for Gore, while only one, Texas, went for Bush. Bush carried 30 states that year, while Gore won 20 states and the District of Columbia. Eight years later, in a relative blowout, 10 states delivered pluralities of at least 500,000 votes for one of the nominees. Obama won nine of those states (the five above plus Michigan, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Washington), while Texas gave Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) a huge win. McCain won only 22 states that year to Obama’s 28 (plus D.C.), though the Democrat also won one of Nebraska’s electoral votes by carrying the state’s 2nd district.
As we enter the final stages of the 2012 presidential election, the campaign finance landscape has changed considerably from past elections. While a few of the rules remain the same, the opportunity for the very wealthy — including corporations and labor unions — to play a dominant role has increased exponentially. Individuals are still limited to donating $2,500 per election, and corporations and unions are still forbidden to donate directly to candidates (although that prohibition may well be the next shoe the Supreme Court drops). Unions and corporations can still sponsor political action committees, which can accept contributions up to $5,000 a year from a union’s members or a corporation’s shareholders and executives. And those PACs can still donate a maximum of $5,000 to a candidate in each election cycle. But those PACs are now totally overshadowed as political funders in the post-Citizens United era. The landscape has changed in two fundamental ways.
This past March, standing outside a Shell station in Mellen, Wis., in the state’s far north, Mike Wiggins Jr. told me about a series of dark and premonitory dreams he had two years earlier. “One of them was a very vivid trip around the North Woods and seeing forests bleeding and sludge from a creek emptying into the Bad River,” Wiggins said. “I ended up at a dilapidated northern log home with rotten snowshoes falling off the wall. I stepped out of the lodge, walked through some pine, and I was in a pipeline. There was a big pipe coming in and out of the ground as far as I could see. “I had no idea what the hell that was all about,” Wiggins continued. But he said the dream became clearer when a stranger named Matt Fifield came into his office several months later and handed him his card. Wiggins is the chairman of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, and Fifield, the managing director of Gogebic Taconite (GTac), a division of the Cline Group, a mining company based in Florida. He had come to Wiggins’s office to discuss GTac’s desire to build a $1.5 billion open-pit iron-ore mine in the Penokee Hills, about seven miles south of the Bad River reservation. The proposed mine would be several hundred feet deep, roughly four miles long and a half-mile wide; the company estimated it would bring 700 long-term jobs to the area. Fearing contamination of the local groundwater and pristine rivers, Wiggins told Fifield he planned to oppose the mine. He didn’t know at the time that the company’s lawyers would be working hand in hand with Republican legislators to draft a bill that would weaken Wisconsin environmental law and expedite the permitting process.
By again tinkering with Pennsylvania’s two-month-old voter-ID law, Gov. Corbett’s administration only makes it more obvious that the hastily imposed statute is as flawed as it is unwarranted. Each time state officials relax requirements for voters to document their identity — as they did last week, for the second time — they call into question the paper-thin reasoning of Corbett and Republican legislators who say they supported the law to thwart a specific type of voter fraud that they could not prove. The governor and his aides, including state elections chief Carol Aichele, insist that the requirement to show government-issued photo identification is needed to prevent what is a virtually nonexistent problem in the state — voter impersonation. Yet there they were last week, announcing that the state would waive the mandate that voters must present a birth certificate when applying for a nondriver state ID card to comply with the voter-ID rules. Won’t that just make it easier for their supposed legion of phantom vote-fraud perpetrators to do their dirty work?
The Supreme Court is expected to respond in June to a Montana Supreme Court decision upholding the state’s Corrupt Practices Act, which bans corporations from making political expenditures from their general treasuries. American Tradition Partnership, a nonprofit group, and co-petitioners sued for a declaration that the act violates their freedom of speech. They contend the Citizens United decision so clearly invalidates the Montana law that the justices should reverse the state ruling without oral argument. Montana, however, makes a sound and compelling argument that Citizens United, which struck down a federal ban on independent spending in political campaigns by corporations and unions, does not bar it from fighting political corruption with a carefully tailored campaign law. The Supreme Court should quickly uphold the state ruling, or hear oral argument before making a decision.
Editorials: Egypt Elections – a Choice Between Islamic Dictatorship and Military Authoritarianism | allAfrica.com
For the next and final round of presidential elections, Egyptians are being asked to choose between an Islamic or military dictatorship both claiming legitimacy through the ballot box. Egypt may be following one set of democratic procedures, but it is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a transition to democracy, irrespective of who becomes the next President. Elections are only one element of democracy, and to reduce democratic practice to what happens at the polling station is highly problematic. We need to ask ourselves what the conditions are that have influenced people’s choices? And to what extent did these restrictive conditions influence their choices? Have they been offered money or in-kind goods for their vote? Have they been given misinformation that amounts to deception about the different candidates? To what extent are people being mobilized along religious lines? Are you on God’s side or not?
Hours after the official results are announced in Egypt’s first-ever competitive presidential election, Ihab Badawi, a 28-year-old lawyer, is standing amid a throng of protesters in Tahrir Square. He holds aloft a cardboard placard bearing the smiling faces of the top two candidates—Mohamed Morsi and Ahmed Shafik—crossed out with a pair thick black Xs. Traffic snarls around the crowd as he echoes chants rising above the cacophony of angry car horns. “We do not accept this outcome,” Badwai says. “We are here to send a clear message to the military council and the rest of the corrupt ruling regime: the Egyptian people will not be silent.” Less than two miles away, a group of protesters breaks into and vandalizes Shafik’s campaign headquarters in the residential district of Dokki before setting it ablaze. Demonstrations erupt in other cities across the country, including Alexandria, Port Said, Ismailia and Suez. In the wake of the first round of Egypt’s landmark presidential election, the country is as polarized as ever, with two candidates sitting on opposite poles of a divide that has characterized Egyptian politics for decades.
Last week, in a case closely watched around the country, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that a key section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act was constitutional. But it also exposed the fault lines that will likely push the case to the Supreme Court, posing one of the gravest threats to a provision in the Act that has been used most recently to force court review of voter ID laws in Southern states. In a 2-1 decision in the case of Shelby County v Holder, the justices upheld Section 5 of the Act, an embattled component of the landmark civil rights measure which requires all or part of 16 states — nine in the South — to get federal approval before making major changes to elections.
Strangely enough, the 2012 presidential campaign, expected to be the dirtiest in modern memory, may end up being relatively clean. That’s because both sides agree that the economy is the central issue and that sideshows like the Reverend Jeremiah Wright aren’t persuasive for voters. Karl Rove and Larry McCarthy, the creator of the infamous Willie Horton ad, think harsh personal attacks against President Barack Obama will backfire, and they’re offering more subtle messages of economic disappointment instead. Even economic assaults can boomerang nowadays. Newark Mayor Cory Booker, an otherwise strong Obama supporter, dealt the Obama campaign a blow last weekend on NBC’s “Meet the Press” when he said he was “nauseated” by an Obama ad lambasting Mitt Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital LLC. The president’s defense of the ad, in which he said “there are folks who do good work” in private equity, was too complicated to be effective. The controversy surrounding the Bain ad and a proposed Wright ad from a super-PAC backed by Joe Ricketts, the billionaire founder of TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. (AMTD), suggests that when “paid media” in the presidential race ventures out-of- bounds, “free media” will exact a penalty. (House and Senate races are another story.)
Articles on the Voting Rights Act are increasingly being filed in the “obituary” section, even though it’s less than 50 years old. Last week, a U.S. Court of Appeals decisionruled against Shelby County, Ala., which challenged the constitutionality of VRA’s Section 5. A three-judge panel ruled 2-1 that it was still constitutional, but the dissenting judge, Senior Circuit Judge Stephen F. Williams, asked some tough questions that will need to be resolved before the Supreme Court inevitably looks at it again (In 2009, SCOTUS punted on this issue, but expressed serious skepticism about Section 5’s vitality.) Wrote Judge Williams in his dissent:
*Why should voter ID laws from South Carolina and Texas be judged by different criteria … from those governing Indiana? A glimpse at the charts shows that Indiana ranks “worse” than South Carolina and Texas in registration and voting rates, as well as in black elected officials. This distinction in evaluating the different states’ policies is rational? *
South Carolina and Texas are “covered jurisdictions” under Section 5, while Indiana, which has a worse voting record, is not. As Williams pointed out, none of those three states are among the top ten worst offenders on voting rights. So the coverage formula needs to be reconsidered, Williams concluded. The coverage formula of Section 5 is the ankle bracelet for Southern states and counties (and a few Northern counties) that have been placed on house arrest for repeated voting rights violations, mostly throughout America’s Jim Crow era. States like Alabama, Texas and South Carolina want courts to take that ankle bracelet off.
People who say there shouldn’t be such a fuss over the Texas voter ID law are so sweetly naive. It’s no big deal, they say. We get asked to show a driver’s license all the time, from when we write a check or pay for something with a credit or debit card to when we check in at the doctor’s office. We do it without a second thought to show we are who we say we are. We’ve always been far more willing to provide information about ourselves to the phone company or a 16-year-old grocery store clerk than we have been to give that same information to the government. And the helpful volunteer poll worker asking for an ID, nice lady that she is, symbolizes government just as the president and Congress do. But voting is so important. Shouldn’t we be willing to go the extra mile to protect the integrity of the ballot box from people, even though they may be few, who would misrepresent themselves and deliver a candidate some dishonest votes? Maybe. That’s what a panel of judges from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has been asked to decide. A trial date has been set for July 9.
With a single word yesterday, David Cameron seized an opportunity that could work wonders to restore his battered fortunes. That word was: ‘Yes.’ He had been asked if he would give an undertaking not to succumb to the diktat from the European Court of Human Rights, demanding that prisoners should be given the right to vote. Further, would he stand up for the sovereignty of Parliament and the British people by upholding the huge Commons vote in support of the blanket ban?
A federal appeals court in Washington has upheld a key part of the Voting Rights Act, one that requires states and localities with a history of discrimination against minorities to “pre-clear” changes in their election procedures with the Department of Justice or a federal court. The reasoning behind the 2-1 ruling is persuasive; Chief JusticeJohn G. Roberts Jr.and other members of the Supreme Court should exercise judicial restraint by refusing to reconsider it. In an earlier, 2009 decision, the chief justice recognized that Congress has the power to enforce the 15th Amendment’s guarantee of a right to vote. But he warned ominously that the pre-clearance requirement in Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, and the formula under which states were subjected to it, raised “serious constitutional questions.
The chances to remake American law—and maybe American society—are stacking up for the Supreme Court. Next month, the Justices will render their verdicts on the Affordable Care Act and on the Arizona immigration law. The fate of affirmative action in university admissions will likely be determined by the Roberts Court in its next term, and now another blockbuster appears headed for the Justices as well. The future of the Voting Rights Act—probably the Great Society’s greatest landmark—will almost certainly be in the Court’s hands next year. The heart of the Voting Rights Act is its famous Section 5, which essentially put the South on perpetual probation. In rough terms, the law requires the states of the old Confederacy (as well as a few smaller areas outside the South) to submit any changes in their electoral law to the Justice Department for what’s known as “pre-clearance”—to make sure that the changes don’t infringe on minority voting rights. Before Section 5, states and municipalities could simply change their rules—about everything from the location of polling places to the borders of district lines—and dare civil-rights activists to sue to stop them. It was a maddening, and very high-stakes, game of whack-a-mole. As a result of Section 5, though, the Justice Department monitored these moves and made sure there would be no backsliding on voting rights.
A little-known measure — we first editorialized against it in January — sailed through the legislative process in this statehouse session with little fanfare and less debate. It was designed, with the best intentions, to clear up a significant problem with Colorado’s ballots. The Colorado Constitution states: “All elections by the people shall be by ballot, and in case paper ballots are required to be used, no ballots shall be marked in any way whereby the ballot can be identified as the ballot of the person casting it.” The problem is that because of overlapping municipal districts — a fire district here, a local business improvement district there, a town board election and schools — it is conceivable that some ballots could be traced back to specific voters. Not likely, but certainly possible, and that flies in the face of the state constitution.
Racial discrimination in voting is “one of the gravest evils that Congress can seek to redress,” Judge David Tatel wrote in a crucial ruling on Friday upholding the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act. In extending the law in 2006, Congress did just that, after reviewing racial bias in the nine states and parts of several others that have deep histories of discrimination. These “covered jurisdictions” had long been required by Section 5 of the law to get permission from the Justice Department or a federal court before making any changes to their voting rules. Congress found that discriminatory practices were still persistent and pervasive in those jurisdictions, and that the preclearance requirement remained necessary. In his 2-to-1 majority opinion for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Judge Tatel explained that Congress’s judgment, supported by a legislative record of more than 15,000 pages and 22 hearings, “deserves judicial deference” because of the weight of the evidence. The ruling upheld a forceful decision by a federal district judge that reached the same conclusion in 2011.
Miami knows plenty about corrupting elections. We did a fine job of it in 1997. Maybe those leading the state’s bungled crusade to “protect the integrity of Florida elections” should have asked the experts. The Florida Division of Elections seems to harbor some paranoid notion that hordes of illegal immigrants have been descending on the polls and subverting the electoral process. It’s a peculiar premise, given that Florida’s sure-enough legal citizens hardly bother. In January, 87 percent of Miami-Dade’s voters ignored the charter-reform election. Perhaps we should encourage illegal immigrants to vote just to lend our government some semblance of a participatory democracy. Unhappily, illegal immigrants seem even more apathetic than the legal electorate. The state did manage to conjure up a list of potentially illicit voters by comparing voter registration lists against citizenship information compiled by Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Anyone ever subjected to the whims of the DHSMV office can guess how well that little experiment worked out.
I suffer fairly severely from what psychologists call “empathic embarrassment”: I find it agonising to the point of physical discomfort to watch other people making fools of themselves. Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat often had me writhing and cringing on behalf of his victims – even, troublingly, when his victims were spouting horrible bigotry. I’m really not proud of this. It’s an annoying problem. And lately, it’s been particularly disconcerting to find that the person prompting me to cover my face with my hands is the notorious “conservative provocateur” James O’Keefe III. O’Keefe, of course, is the rightwing prankster who helped bring down Acorn and was then convicted in connection with a sting at the offices of Louisana Senator Mary Landrieu. But with the significant exception of the ambush of Acorn, there’s something epic – almost worthy of awed respect, if it didn’t make me cringe so much – about how astonishingly inept he is at “punking” the liberals he despises.
Editorials: Suppressing the student vote? New residency rules could affect Wisconsin’s recall election | The Daily Page
The voter ID law passed last spring by the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature was widely criticized for requiring that voters show a driver’s license or other form of photo identification at the polls. These provisions are now under two court injunctions by judges who found that the photo ID requirements likely discriminate against minorities, the poor and the elderly. Meanwhile, it is the bill’s new residency requirements, largely lost in the controversy over photo ID, that are much more likely to keep students away from the polls in the upcoming June 5 recall elections for governor, lieutenant governor and four state Senate seats. Turnout among students, a voting bloc traditionally thought to favor Democrats, was already low in the May 8 recall primary. The new rules require that voters live at an address for 28 days before being eligible to vote. Dorm leases for 6,900 students at UW-Madison end May 20, and many of the other students living off campus will leave for the summer around the same time. Do the math and the dilemma is clear: There is no time to reestablish residency to vote June 5.
“Third parties are like bees,” the intellectual historian Richard Hofstadter wrote in 1955. “Once they have stung, they die.” It’s an aphorism that aptly describes the anti-slavery and anti-immigrant parties of the mid-nineteenth century, the Populists and Progressives who ushered out the Gilded Age, as well as more recent third-party standard bearers, from George Wallace to Ross Perot. All of these movements and figures influenced American politics dramatically, before fading away and leaving the basic two-party duopoly intact. Of late, though, our potential third parties have been skipping the stinging part and going straight to the dying. This was true of Unity ’08, the much-ballyhooed attempt by former Democratic and Republican politicos to put up an independent alternative to Barack Obama and John McCain. Despite enjoying a wave of free publicity and boasting Sam Waterston of “Law & Order” as their spokesman, the Unityers never even came close to conjuring up a plausible candidate or platform, and their movement fizzled out amid attempts to entice an unwilling Michael Bloomberg into the lists.
Editorials: Is Campaign Disclosure Heading Back to the Supreme Court? – Don’t expect to see Karl Rove’s Rolodex just yet | Rick Hasen/Slate Magazine
The news this week that a federal appeals court has refused to block a lower court ruling requiring the disclosure of more funders of campaign ads has campaign finance reformers tasting their first victory in a long time. “It’s the first major breakthrough in overcoming the massive amounts of secret contributions that are flowing into federal elections,” Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21 told the Los Angeles Times. But don’t expect to see Karl Rove’s Rolodex just yet. Crossroads GPS and other groups have found that raising money from donors who don’t want to be disclosed is good for business, and they’ve got a few ways to keep the unlimited money poured into campaigns secret yet. And before you get too excited it’s worth considering that the Supreme Court could well help them keep their secrets in 2012, even though the court has so far been a big supporter of disclosure laws.
Since 1974, federal campaign finance law has required the disclosure of campaign donors and spenders. Opponents of disclosure have long argued that at least some disclosure is unconstitutional under the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech and association, because compelling someone to reveal the names of those funding political speech will chill vigorous participation in politics. As I’ve explained, the Supreme Court rejected that constitutional challenge in the 1976 campaign finance case, Buckley v. Valeo. Confronted in that instance with a law that required disclosure of even very small contributions, the court held that the disclosure laws were justified by three important government interests: First, disclosure laws can prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption. Second, disclosure laws provide valuable information to voters. (A busy public relies on disclosure information more than ever.) Third, disclosure laws help enforce other campaign finance laws, like the ban on foreign money in elections. But the court has repeatedly said that if someone could demonstrate a real threat of harassment, they could be exempt from the disclosure laws.
Editorials: Americans Elect meets reality: third-party effort may be viable — just not now | Doyle McManus/latimes.com
What happens if you start a political party and nobody comes? Six months ago, a newfangled third party burst onto the scene, full of hope and promise. It was called Americans Elect, and it sought to give voters a choice many said they were looking for: “centrist” candidates who could break the partisan gridlock paralyzing Washington. In its founders’ heads danced visions of middle-of-the-road candidates who could transform American politics: Hillary Rodham Clinton, Colin Powell, Michael Bloomberg, Jon Huntsman Jr. Wealthy donors invested millions in a fancy website for an Internet primary, signed up 420,000 would-be “delegates” and got on the ballot in 29 states. Newspaper columnists, including me, pondered what effect it might have on the election. Then the grand idea collided with reality.
“There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today. Why should we disenfranchise people forever once they’ve paid their price?” — Bill Clinton
Despite the propaganda being advanced by the government, the purpose of voter ID laws is not to eliminate voter fraud and protect the integrity of elections. Rather, their aim is to silence and suppress as many American voters as possible and increase the already widening chasm between the electorate and our government representatives. In fact, voter ID laws are the icing on the cake when it comes to public officials shutting Americans out of the decision-making process, silencing dissent, and making sure that those in power stay in power and have the last word on government policy. In other words, voter ID laws are the final step in securing the American corporate oligarchy, the unchallenged rule by the privileged and few.
A wave of Republican-sponsored laws restricting who can and cannot vote may mean that fewer Democrats, especially those who are low-income or minorities, vote in the 2012 presidential election. Since the beginning of 2011, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, and West Virginia have passed, or have plans to pass, restrictive voting laws. More than 70 percent of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency will come from these states, the Brennan Center reported in March. Republican lawmakers argue that the laws are necessary to prevent voter fraud, but fewer than 100 people have been charged with voter fraud in the past five years, according to the Washington Post. In 2011, former President Bill Clinton condemned the laws for disenfranchising Democrats, describing them as “the disciplined, passionate, determined effort of Republican governors and legislators to keep most of you from voting next time.There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the other Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today,” he said.
Sometimes, a few votes make a huge difference. Just ask Rick Santorum. In January, Rick Santorum won the Iowa caucuses, but, because of vote counting and tabulation errors, Mitt Romney was declared the winner. In the two weeks before the error became clear, Romney’s campaign gained momentum, while Santorum’s withered. Unfortunately, the same problem – or worse – could easily occur in Massachusetts. This year, voters will choose the president, and control of the US Senate may come down to the race shaping up between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren.