Voting machines are so 20th century. Shouldn’t we able to vote on our smart phones by now? Here’s where a cornerstone of American democracy runs smack dab into the limits of computer science, say experts. Internet voting is “completely not ready for prime time. The security and reliability issues are significant,” says Marc Rotenberg, of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a non-profit in Washington D.C. Despite that, about 3 million Americans will be eligible to vote online this election, according to Verified Voting, a non-profit that promotes election accuracy, transparency and verifiability. Most are members of the armed services who are deployed overseas. According to Dan Wallach, an expert on electronic voting system and professor of computer science at Rice University, no Internet voting systems are secure. “It turns out to be really hard to build a network system that’s hard to break into.” JPMorgan, Target and Home Depot have learned that lesson, and they have far more money and expertise available to them than local election officials, Wallach says.
Elections are just around the corner, and yes, there is an app for that. But it won’t vote for you. In a buzzing and ringing world, technology has become an integral part of society, where almost anything can be done with the press of a fingertip. But when voting is involved, things get a little tricky. With more than a million apps in the Google Play store and 900,000 apps in the Apple Store, users can download a variety of voting and polling apps. Several states, including Tennessee and Louisiana, have released voting apps that are free or can be purchased in the Apple and Android store for smartphones. New Hampshire is developing its own app for the midterm elections. Voters can’t cast ballots with these apps, but they can use them to find polling locations, ask for absentee ballots, look at sample ballots and more.
Candidates from Alaska to Iowa are preparing legal teams in case tight election battles go into overtime, potentially prolonging the battle for Senate control indefinitely. New voting laws in some states, razor-thin margins in others and high stakes nationwide have increased the likelihood of recounts and challenges that could drag on for weeks or even months. It’s a prospect that has both parties preparing for any contingency, mobilizing an army of staff and volunteers in their dozen top battleground states to watch for legal violations on Election Day and be prepared to fight legal battles afterwards. With six of the GOP’s top-targeted races down to margins of less than a point, both parties say any state is ripe for a post-election legal battle. Marc Elias, national Democrats’ go-to election lawyer, said he’s gearing up for issues everywhere. “I am prepared for any of the competitive states. I don’t have the luxury of knowing whether it’s gonna be a good night for the Democrats and therefore Kentucky and Georgia are close or a bad night and the close races are in Colorado and Iowa,” he said.
National: Today’s voting freakout: noncitizens are coming to steal your election | Los Angeles Times
With only a few days left before election day, pretexts for panic over the sanctity of the ballot box are dwindling down to a precious few. Two political scientists from Virginia’s Old Dominion University have done their part, with an article on the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage politics website asserting that control of the Senate could be “decided by illegal votes cast by non-citizens” on Tuesday. The column by Jesse Richman and David Earnest is based on their longer paper in the journal Electoral Studies. Their methodology already has been challenged by other political scientists who argue that Richman’s and Earnest’s statistical sample doesn’t warrant their conclusions. That hasn’t kept some right-wing pundits from using it as a justification for the wholesale restrictions on voting imposed by Republican state governments across the nation. That’s because the Old Dominion researchers conclude that the noncitizens at issue tend to skew Democratic. Breitbart.com’s headline was “Study: Voting by non-citizens tips balance for Democrats.” RedState’s was “Study: Illegal votes can determine elections; Voter ID not sufficient.” Keep your eye on that RedState headline for a clue to how the study, as meager as it is, will be misused in the voter ID wars. What Richman and Earnest say isn’t that Voter ID is “not sufficient”; they say it’s not effective. In fact, they call it “strikingly ineffective” at stemming non-citizen voting.
f you really think about it, who among us hasn’t been accused on television of coddling child molesters? A few years ago, in the spirit of Halloween, we created an “Evil Men in Black Robes” Halloween Spooktackular, pulling together some of the worst in scary judicial election attack ads. Well, they’re baaaaack, and some of them are worse than ever. This time it’s not just the judicial candidates literally inhabiting the pockets of special interests (although we do have a creepy pocket judge again), but also sitting judges accused of coddling child molesters, rapists, and more. In 39 states, some or all judges must face some kind of election—often a partisan one. These races used to be about as interesting to watch as Bingo night. But now, it’s all Law and Order, and all the time. The ads are scarier than the shows they interrupt.
Nevada’s election chief says the state’s much-ballyhooed new system for electronically delivering absentee ballots to troops and other citizens overseas isn’t an “online” voting system, even if it offers those abroad the option of emailing marked ballots to county clerks. But his boss, Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller, described the system differently in testimony to Congress last year, boasting that it would allow voters abroad “to request, mark and deliver a ballot to their county without the need of a printer or a scanner.” The office of Pentagon Inspector General John Rymer is taking a hard look at systems like Nevada’s to see whether they’re violating a prohibition on the use of Defense Department grant dollars to create online voting systems, a spokeswoman for Rymer told McClatchy. The prohibition was spurred by concerns that those systems are vulnerable to hackers. Republican Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina, the chairman of a House Armed Services subcommittee on military personnel, and the panel’s ranking Democrat, California Rep. Susan Davis, wrote Rymer last June requesting “a full and thorough investigation” to determine whether they’re designed to return votes electronically. So far, the inspector general’s office said, Rymer has ordered only an “assessment” of whether grant recipients are skirting the rules – a review not previously disclosed. At Wilson’s and Davis’ request, the inspector general’s office also is examining how an obscure Pentagon unit, whose task is to facilitate absentee voting overseas, spent $85 million in research funding from 2009 to 2013, Rymer’s office said.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court upheld a move by Texas lawmakers to implement voter identification checks at polls during the midterm elections this November. “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a six-page dissent saying the court’s action ‘risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters,’” reports Adam Liptak for The New York Times. “The law, enacted in 2011, requires voters seeking to cast their ballots at the polls to present photo identification like a Texas driver’s or gun license, a military ID or a passport,” he explains. “Those requirements, Justice Ginsburg wrote, ‘may prevent more than 600,000 registered Texas voters (about 4.5 percent of all registered voters) from voting in person for lack of compliant identification.’” At the heart of the voter-ID debate is the specter of voter fraud. Right-leaning pundits have expended hours upon hours of airtime persuading viewers of its widespread existence and insidious growth. “Voter fraud will occur” during the 2014 midterm elections, claims Hans von Spakovsky, writing for The Wall Street Journal. “Many states run a rickety election process, lacking rules to deter people who are looking to take advantage of the system’s porous security. And too many groups and individuals — including the N.A.A.C.P., the American Civil Liberties Union and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder — are doing everything they can to prevent states from improving the integrity of the election process.” “Democrats want everyone to vote: old, young, white, black, Hispanic, Asian, citizen, non-citizen,” Mona Charen writes at National Review. “Voter-ID laws, passed by 30 states so far, are efforts by legislatures to ensure the integrity of votes. Being asked to show a photo ID can diminish several kinds of fraud, including impersonation, duplicate registrations in different jurisdictions, and voting by ineligible people including felons and non-citizens,” she says.
As Americans prepare to vote Tuesday in dozens of tight elections, the two major political parties and interest groups across the ideological spectrum already have lawyered up for potential problems at the polls or with election results. On Election Day, armies of partisan attorneys and poll watchers will be at the ready at voting sites and in war rooms in almost every state, scrutinizing nearly every aspect of the voting process and prepared to spring into action if they see something that could adversely impact their candidate or cause. “The parties are well lawyered up,” said Richard Hasen, a University of California, Irvine, law and political science professor and the author of “The Voting Wars: From 2000 to the Next Election Meltdown.” “It’s a tactic and a tool. It’s like an arms race.”
On Monday, October 27, eight activists with Moral Monday Georgia occupied the office of Georgia GOP Secretary of State Brian Kemp, holding signs that read “Let Us Vote.” There are 800,000 unregistered African-American, Hispanic and Asian eligible voters in Georgia. This year, the New Georgia Project registered 85,000 of them. After the applications were submitted, Kemp subpoenaed the group’s records and accused them of voter registration fraud. It turned out that only 25 of the forms were fraudulent and the group was required by law to turn them in regardless. Despite the scant evidence of voter fraud, 40,000 new voter registration applications have yet to be processed in the state, according to the New Georgia Project. Civil rights groups sued Kemp and voter registration boards in five heavily populated urban counties, but on Wednesday a Fulton County judge dismissed the lawsuit. It was the latest court decision restricting voting rights this election year.
National: An estimated 5.9 million voting-age Americans won’t be able to vote next Tuesday | The Washington Post
Next Tuesday, tens of millions of Americans will take to the polls to vote on everything from ballot issues to federal, state and local representation. But millions of voting-age adults will be sitting this one out. An estimated 5.85 million Americans won’t be able to vote due to prior felony convictions, according to an estimate from the Sentencing Project, a criminal justice nonprofit think tank. Of those, roughly 44 percent are estimated to be felons who live in the 12 states that still restrict voting rights after sentences have been served, a practice that excludes as many as 1 in 10 voting-age residents of Florida, the state with the highest rates of felon disenfranchisement. Such policies have a disproportionate impact on blacks, restricting the vote for roughly 1 in 13 voting-age blacks nationwide.
The Federal Election Commission voted earlier this year to allow political candidates and committees to accept donations in bitcoin. But a week before Election Day, candidates who accept the popular virtual currency reported that their total bitcoin donations were small to nonexistent, though they remained optimistic about the currency’s political future. Candidates who have entered the Wild West frontier of accepting bitcoin donations said they have been unable to turn bitcoin into a major fundraising strategy — yet. Blaine Richardson, an independent House candidate running in Maine’s 2nd District, reported that he didn’t get any bitcoin contributions at all. “I think there is a future for it, but we just may be ahead of the curve right now,” he told The Huffington Post.
In a buzzing and ringing world, technology has become an integral part of society, where almost anything can be done with the press of a fingertip But when voting is involved, things get a little tricky. With more than a million apps in the Google Play store and 900,000 apps in the Apple Store, users can download a variety of voting and polling apps. Several states, including Tennessee and Louisiana, have released voting apps that are free or can be purchased in the Apple and Android store for smartphones. New Hampshire is developing its own app for the midterm elections. Voters can’t cast ballots with these apps, but they can use them to find polling locations, ask for absentee ballots, look at sample ballots and more. The D.C. Board of Elections released its free app that can answer questions about the Nov. 4 election. “It’s a great trend for elections offices to be putting these kinds of tools out there. Not only does it help voters, but it can also ease some of the burden on calls coming in at busy times for finding polling places,” Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting, said. Her group provides voting information and wants to make sure technology is adopted carefully.
Liberal and conservative groups are mobilizing armies of poll watchers to battle over the enforcement of voter ID laws on Election Day. The Democratic Party has more to lose if turnout is low on Nov. 4. Liberals want to ensure that the young, black and Latino voters who form a key part of the party’s electoral base are not kept from the polls. Conservatives insist that they just want to uphold the integrity of the electoral process by making sure that all votes cast are legitimate. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has state directors stationed across the country for its Voter Expansion Project. They help train poll workers, and work with local election officials to clarify how laws will be implemented. “This has been a really big effort,” DNC spokesman Michael Czin said.
Both the Republicans and the Democrats are preparing for some tough races that could go all the way to recounts, by hiring armies of election lawyers. According to Bloomberg Politics, the Republican National Lawyers Association is training upwards of 1,000 lawyers in a series of 50 sessions leading up to election day, to deal with any legal issues that should come up on November 4. This is in addition to the legal teams held by national party committees and the thousands of volunteer lawyers, from advocacy groups and lobbying firms, that are ready to step in if the need arises. The Democrats meanwhile, have a full time staff of trained lawyers focusing on poll access across 23 states. The DNC is requiring that their poll workers use mobile app “incident trackers” to quickly communicate with state party directors about anything that takes place on election day that could effect the way people vote – from broken ballot counters to bad weather, as well as more nefarious instances of potential vote tampering. These apps will then allow party leaders to send out mass emails to registered voters about possible changes in voting places or extended voting hours.
Millions of voters — about 1 in 5 — are expected to vote absentee, or by mail, in November’s midterm elections. For many voters, it’s more convenient than going to the polls. But tens of thousands of these mail-in ballots are likely to be rejected — and the voter might never know, or know why. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission found that in 2012 more than a quarter of a million absentee ballots were rejected. The No. 1 reason? The ballot wasn’t returned on time, which in most states is by Election Day. Sometimes it’s the voter’s fault. Others blame the post office.
Unlike most Election Days, this one has a decent chance of ending without a clear winner. Blame the excruciatingly tight races around the country that could lead to recounts, the two potential runoffs that may dictate control of the U.S. Senate, and the Supreme Court for taking action on state voting laws just weeks before Election Day. But one thing is clear: an army of lawyers is readying for kind of battle not witnessed since Florida in 2000. The weeks and months leading up to this year’s midterms have meant a mix of heavy preparation, equally heavy anxiety and a lot of waiting for a subset of the legal community. In an ideal world, their services will never be needed. In a worst case scenario, their skills may determine the trajectory of the U.S. government for years to come.
National: Republicans in tight midterm races use election rules changes to increase odds | The Guardian
In 2007 Charlie Crist, the then Republican governor of Florida, astonished political friend and foe alike by putting a stop to what he saw as the state’s iniquitous practice of withholding the vote from released prisoners. He announced that non-violent former felons who had done their time would automatically have their right to vote restored to them. It was no small affair. In Florida, 1.3 million people have prior felony convictions, making this a very sizeable chunk of a total eligible electorate of 11 million. Former felons are disproportionately drawn from poor and minority communities, and as such, if they vote at all, they tend to lean Democratic, making the decision by a Republican governor all the more remarkable. But it didn’t last long. Four years later, Crist’s successor as governor, the Tea Party favourite Rick Scott, made a point of reversing the decision. That could prove crucial on 4 November for Florida’s GOP candidates, not least for Scott himself, who is in a bitter fight for re-election, with polls putting him neck-and-neck with his challenger – none other than Charlie Crist, now standing as a Democrat.
As the chairman of the Republican Governors Association and the self-appointed surrogate-in-chief for the Grand Old Party’s candidates for the top jobs in states across the country this fall, Chris Christie has plenty of reasons to want embattled governors like Florida’s Rick Scott and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker to be reelected. Yes, yes, Christie says he wants to stop talking about raising the minimum wage. Yes, he wants to “start offending people” — like school teachers and their unions. But that’s not all; the governor of New Jersey has another goal. Among the reasons he mentions for electing Republican governors, says Christie, is a desire to put the GOP in charge of the “voting mechanism” of likely 2016 presidential battleground states such as Florida and Wisconsin and Ohio. In a speech to the US Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform this week, Christie acknowledged a fact that politicians often avoid: the governor of a state, particularly a governor with allies in the legislature and key statewide posts, can play a big role in deciding how easy or how hard it is for working people, minorities, seniors and students to vote. The governor, who despite his many scandals still seems to imagine himself as a 2016 Republican presidential prospect, described the gubernatorial — and presidential — stakes to the friendly crowd.
Republicans are poised to gain next month from new election laws in almost half the 50 U.S. states, where the additional requirements defy a half-century trend of easing access to the polls. In North Carolina, where Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagan’s re-election fight may determine the nation’s balance of power, the state ended same-day registration used more heavily by blacks. A Texas law will affect more than 500,000 voters who lack identification and are disproportionately black and Hispanic, according to a federal judge. In Ohio, lawmakers discontinued a week during which residents could register and vote on the same day, which another judge said burdens lower income and homeless voters. While Republicans say the laws were meant to stop fraud or ease administrative burdens, Democrats and civil-rights groups maintain they’re aimed at damping turnout by blacks, Hispanics and the young, who are their mainstays in an increasingly diverse America. Texas found two instances of in-person voter fraud among more than 62 million votes cast in elections during the preceding 14 years, according to testimony in the federal case. “You’re seeing the use of the election process as a means of clinging to power,” said Justin Levitt, who follows election regulation at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “You have more states passing laws that create hurdles and inconveniences to voting than we have seen go into effect in the last 50 years.”
Voters going to the polls in Texas starting this week will have to show one of a few specific forms of photo ID under a controversial new law upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court over the weekend. The Texas law — along with 15 other voter ID laws passed since 2010 — was billed as a way to prevent people from impersonating eligible voters at the polls. But voter ID laws don’t address what appears to be a more common source of voter fraud: mail-in absentee ballots. A FRONTLINE analysis of voting laws nationwide found that only six of the 31 states that require ID at the polls apply those standards to absentee voters, who are generally whiter and older than in-person voters. And two states with strict photo ID policies for in-person voters — Rhode Island and Georgia — have recently passed bills that allow anyone to mail in a ballot. Voter fraud generally rarely happens. When it does, election law experts say it happens more often through mail-in ballots than people impersonating eligible voters at the polls. An analysis by News21, a journalism project at Arizona State University, found 28 cases of voter fraud convictions since 2000. Of those, 14 percent involved absentee ballot fraud. Voter impersonation, the form of fraud that voter ID laws are designed to prevent, made up only 3.6 percent of those cases. (Other types included double voting, the most common form, at 25 percent, and felons voting when they were prohibited from doing so. But neither of those would be prevented by voter ID laws, either.)
National: The Supreme Court Eviscerates the Voting Rights Act in a Texas Voter-ID Decision | The Nation
In 1963, only 156 of 15,000 eligible black voters in Selma, Alabama, were registered to vote. The federal government filed four lawsuits against the county registrars between 1963 and 1965, but the number of black registered voters only increased from 156 to 383 during that time. The law couldn’t keep up with the pace and intensity of voter suppression. The Voting Rights Act ended the blight of voting discrimination in places like Selma by eliminating the literacy tests and poll taxes that prevented so many people from voting. The Selma of yesteryear is reminiscent of the current situation in Texas, where a voter ID law blocked by the federal courts as a discriminatory poll tax on two different occasions—under two different sections of the VRA—remains on the books. The law was first blocked in 2012 under Section 5 of the VRA. “A law that forces poorer citizens to choose between their wages and their franchise unquestionably denies or abridges their right to vote,” wrote Judge David Tatel. “The same is true when a law imposes an implicit fee for the privilege of casting a ballot.” Then the Supreme Court gutted the VRA—ignoring the striking evidence of contemporary voting discrimination in places like Texas—which allowed the voter ID law to immediately go into effect. “Eric Holder can no longer deny #VoterID in #Texas after today’s #SCOTUSdecision,” Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott tweeted minutes after the Shelby County v. Holder decision. States like Texas, with the worst history of voting abuses, no longer had to approve their voting changes with the federal government. Texas had lost more Section 5 lawsuits than any other state.
A last-minute order by the U.S. Supreme Court allowed Texas to apply its strict voter-identification law for the Nov. 4 midterm elections, but bigger battles over state ID requirements loom ahead of the 2016 presidential race. Voter ID cases from Texas and Wisconsin reached the high court in recent weeks, and they produced opposite results. The justices on Saturday said Texas can use its law for now, a blow to the Obama administration and civil-rights groups that challenged the requirements. On Oct. 9, the high court put Wisconsin’s law on hold, a move that blocked late changes to the state’s midterm election rules. Neither case has been resolved beyond next month’s elections, and the Supreme Court hasn’t decided the legality of either law. The court was acting on emergency requests made as Election Day nears, rather than ruling on the merits. If the high court takes up either case later on, it could provide the justices with an opportunity to clarify which kinds of voter-ID requirements are acceptable across the nation.
A few states have turned to independent or arms-length commissions to limit political influences when redrawing congressional and legislative districts. The Supreme Court, however, is hearing a case from Arizona that could jeopardize the future of these commissions. Commission supporters point to more competitive contests and new faces replacing incumbents as evidence of reduced gerrymandering, the deliberate drawing of often misshaped districts to benefit one party or the other. In California, a 14-member citizen panel of Republicans, Democrats and people who are not affiliated with either party redrew the state’s 53 congressional and 120 legislative maps in 2012. The realignment of political boundaries produced some of the most competitive congressional races in decades. Fourteen House incumbents either lost their seats or opted not to run under the new lines. Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, New Jersey and Washington also have set up commissions to redraw district boundaries after the new census every 10 years. A handful of others have formed panels to redraw only state legislature seats.
The Supreme Court sure looks like it’s fine-tuning the rules for the 2014 election. Over the past three weeks, the justices gave Ohio the green light to cut early voting by a week, let North Carolina end same-day voter registration and blocked Wisconsin from implementing a new voter ID law. And the justices could soon face another request, one that asks them to step in to block a Texas voter ID law from being enforced in next month’s elections. Despite the flurry of high court rulings, many legal analysts and some judges say the Supreme Court’s actions are less about broad voting rights principles than telling federal judges to butt out, particularly so close to Election Day. In each of the cases where the justices acted, lower federal courts had issued orders that would have changed the rules for elections just weeks away, potentially causing confusion among voters and election officials.
Another day, another ruling about who can vote in elections that are just around the corner. Thirty-four states have some form of requirement that voters show identification to be able to cast their vote at the polls, but several of the laws are facing legal challenges by voters who say the rules are unconstitutional. In October alone, five courts issued rulings over laws in three different states. Their findings may seem incongruous but taken together, they maintain each state’s status quo, at least for now. The most recent ruling involves Arkansas. The state legislature overrode a veto by Governor Mike Beebe in 2013 to pass a law requiring voters to provide photo ID at the polls. Four residents, represented by two nonprofit organizations, challenged the rules. This week the Arkansas Supreme Court unanimously upheld a circuit court ruling that the ID requirement violates the state constitution, a ruling that immediately prevented the new requirements from taking effect. Because the challenge was to a state law, this is the final word on the matter unless the U.S. Supreme Court takes the case. Early voting in Arkansas—without mandatory ID—will start on Monday.
National: Election Day chaos: Control of the Senate may hang on recounts, runoffs, and independent candidates. | Slate
Election Day is coming and it’s likely to stick around. The question of which party will control the Senate may very well not be decided on Nov. 4. Republicans look like they will have a good night, but there are so many close races—at least 10—and so many unpredictable factors in at least four of those races, that with recounts, independent candidates, and runoffs, the process could drag into next year. Here, in rough order of delay, are the possible outcomes and how long they could keep us all bollixed up. Let’s say the GOP wins five of the six seats it needs to regain control of the Senate and then one of the independent candidates in South Dakota or Kansas wins. Whether Democrats or Republicans control the upper chamber would then be determined by which party that independent decided to pick. Greg Orman of Kansas has said he would caucus with the clear majority, but in this case there wouldn’t be one. Given that he ran as a Democrat and Republicans are pounding him pretty hard in his race, he’d probably stick with the Democrats. South Dakota independent Larry Pressler has said he will be “a friend of Obama,” which suggests he’d probably stick with the Democrats too, though he’s the bigger long shot to win at the moment. Still, the leaders of both parties should probably have emergency gift baskets at the ready. The president would no doubt be called in to lobby, or perhaps Democrats would have one of their Hollywood backers make the pitch. On the Republican side, the Koch Center for Cowboy Poetry seems like a natural to round out South Dakota’s tourist offerings. Senate leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell might put together a short list of choice committee assignments to offer.
With three weeks left before Election Day, officials and voting rights advocates in Texas are still wrangling in court over the state’s controversial and restrictive new voting law. Any day now, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to say whether the Texas voter ID law should be implemented on Election Day or not. The Supreme Court could step in as well. Should the appeals court — and possibly the Supreme Court — side with the law’s supporters, the law will be reinstated before the midterms, keeping more than 608,000 registered voters that don’t have the required ID from voting. If the courts side with opponents of the voter ID law and put it on hold for the time being, the law’s supporters argue it would inject “doubt where for 15 months, and three statewide elections, there had been certainty.” The Texas case is just one of several ongoing disputes over controversial voting laws that could have an impact at polling places on Nov. 4.
National: Whites are more supportive of voter ID laws when shown photos of black people voting | The Washington Post
Sixty-seven percent of white Americans support voter ID laws, according to a new University of Delaware study of 1,436 U.S. adults. But when the voter ID question was accompanied by a photo of black people using a voting machine, white support for voter ID laws jumped to 73 percent. That six-percentage-point difference is modest but statistically significant. The images made no difference to black and hispanic voters’ preferences, although the authors note the sample sizes for those groups were considerably stronger. Among white voters, “the resulting increase in support for the laws happens independently of — even after controlling for— political ideology and negative attitudes about African Americans,” researcher David C. Wilson said in a release about the study. Many white Americans think racism is basically over, and some believe that racism against whites is actually a bigger problem than racism against blacks. But results like these show that racism is still very much active at the subconscious level.
Is the Federal Election Commission a dysfunctional agency deaf to voters fed up with loophole-riddled campaign finance rules? Or is it a newly revived organization making unprecedented moves to invite a wide-ranging public debate over its regulations? The answer may be both. In a fit of productivity on Oct. 9, the FEC managed to outrage its critics, thrill political party leaders, send election lawyers scrambling and break out once again into public bickering. It was an abrupt departure from the months and even years of partisan deadlock that have rendered the FEC incapable of settling even the most routine enforcement disputes. Advocates of political money restrictions have long decried the FEC’s paralysis, but they are even more irate now that the agency has finally sprung into action. Most controversial was the FEC’s move to essentially double the maximum that donors may contribute to the Republican and Democratic National Committees. The Campaign Legal Center’s Larry Noble called it a “disgraceful and activist decision” at odds with federal law.
In a rational world, the debate over voter ID laws would be ended by the eloquent, incisive and angry opinion issued late last week by U.S. Circuit Judge Richard A. Posner of Chicago in a case concerning Wisconsin. But this isn’t a rational world. So not only will the debate continue, but Posner’s opinion failed even to sway his fellow judges on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. The court split 5-5 on Posner’s request for an en banc — that is, full court — rehearing of the Wisconsin case, in which a three-judge panel already had cleared the state’s ID law to go into effect for next month’s election. That meant Posner’s request was turned down and his opinion was in the nature of a dissent. As it happens, the Supreme Court has stepped in and suspended the Wisconsin law, probably invalidating it for the upcoming polls. But Posner’s 30-page dissent, laid out in his typical lucid and direct manner, is as exacting an examination as you’re likely to find of why voter ID laws are corrupt and iniquitous, and why their usual rationale — to combat voter fraud — is a lie.