The state with the prettiest name already thwarting felony restoration amendment

When Floridians by a sixty-five percent margin voted on an amendment in November automatically restoring voting rights to hundreds of thousands of former felons, I hope they foresaw the catastrophe. No way would the Florida GOP allow almost a million former felons, most of whom are people of color, back on the voting rolls without a fight. The adverb in my first sentence matters; the amendment was, unusually, crystalline in word and intent, mandating an automatic restoration.

To Governor-elect Ron DeSantis and his colleagues, however, “automatic” is a point of view. At an elections conference a couple weeks ago, the state said it has, according to the Tampa Bay Times, “stopped transmitting documents counties use to remove convicted felons from the rolls.” Legislators need more time. Indeed, DeSantis has already said he wants the legislature to write “implementing rules,” which means a two-month delay until the session opens in March. Election supervisors are fuming:

All this talk about the legislature is baffling to elections supervisors and civil rights groups, who say the amendment was designed to be self-executing. The state Supreme Court unanimously approved the amendment’s language as clear and specific, saying voters could understand that the point was to “automatically” restore the affected population’s voting rights.

“I don’t think you need the legislature,” Manatee County election supervisor Mike Bennett told TPM.

A self-described “strong Republican” who tried to enact felon rights restoration during his 12 years in the state Senate, Bennett called himself an “advocate” for Amendment 4. As Bennett noted, the Senate Ethics & Elections Committee won’t have its first meeting until March, and any proposed measures will then have to pass the House, the Senate, and be approved by DeSantis.

“That process will take more time whereas if the secretary of state’s office handled it and came up with the definitions and clarifications, they could do it much faster,” he said.

Without uniformity and guidance, the possibility exists that men and women who show up to vote will, ye gods, fall into the GOP trap of committing voter fraud:

“On January 8 people are going to be coming to my office trying to register to vote,” Bennett said. “And I want them to be able to register to vote but I don’t want them to commit another crime accidentally.”

For the percentage of my readers who believe in the new federalism, the results look inevitable: counties with Democratic mayors will move quickly to answer the will of voters, while counties with Republican ones will stop short of outright defiance. Advocates of the new Confederacy will always find support.

From the annals of early voting lore

Ninety minutes ago, walking into my regional library and early voting location to pick up a copy of an Olivier bio, a well-chosen Cuban mulatto no older than 21 or 22 wearing a Vance Aloupis shirt asked if I’d voted.

“I hope you voted Republican.”

“Sure didn’t,” I said.

“I thought you wanted bipartisan solutions. To make this country great.”

“I don’t. I want to be as partisan as possible.”

His mouth fell open and he walked away. Clearly this wasn’t in the scripted responses he expected.

Life is made of small victories.

Good luck, North Carolina

If you don’t like the effect, George Clinton said, don’t produce the cause:

In a bid to aggressively prosecute illegal voting, the Justice Department has sent sweeping subpoenas to 44 counties in North Carolina requesting all of their recent voting records. State election officials say the move will overwhelm their resources and prevent them from preparing for early and absentee voting for the November midterms. And civil rights advocates worry that eligible voters will be intimidated and deterred from voting as the administration amplifies its prosecutions of immigrants it says voted illegally….

…Civil rights groups say the fraud charges and new subpoenas could intimidate eligible voters, particularly immigrants, into staying home in November. They compared the request for the voting records to a June 2017 request by Trump’s now-defunct election integrity commission for sensitive voter data from all 50 states. “They couldn’t get it done that way so now they’re doing it this way,” said Allison Riggs, vice president of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, a voting rights group based in Durham. “It’s a massive fishing expedition. The scope of it is stunning.”

Coming after a federal court’s decision that there is “insufficient time” before the November midterms to redraw the state’s gerrymandered map, common sense would conclude that the Trump administration and its Justice Department will use its full powers to demolish voter turnout.

Good luck, North Carolina.

The continuing war on voting rights: the Husted case

This is bad. John Roberts, who cut his teeth in the Reagan Justice Department writing briefs and memos arguing for the gutting of voting protections, realizes his career ambitions. In a majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, the U.S. Supreme Court supports Ohio’s efforts to purge voters from rolls after failing to vote. The case, Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, involved the state’s right to do so after voters failed to return a card signifying a change of address. Continue reading

Rick Scott and vote suppression


Now that Governor Rick Scott has announced a Senate challenge to William Henry Harrison confidante Bill Nelson, his record as an opponent of voting rights should hand Florida Democrats a victory. The Miami Herald compiled a dandy list of Scott’s systemic efforts to rid himself of black and college-age voters:

▪ The state ordered Pinellas County in 2013 to stop the use of remote sites as a convenience for voters to submit mail ballots, but Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark defied the order and the state backed down.

▪ Scott’s Division of Elections blocked a request by the city of Gainesville to use the student union at UF as an early voting site in 2014, saying it was not a government-owned community center. The site was not used.

▪ Judge Walker in 2016 struck down a state law that rejected mail ballots if a voter’s signature on the ballot envelope did not match a signature on file. In a state with millions of older voters, the judge said the rule “categorically disenfranchised thousands of voters.” They can now update their signatures.

▪ Scott refused to extend the voter registration deadline in 2016 after ordering evacuations due to Hurricane Matthew. The Democratic Party filed suit and won a six-day extension.

The judge in that case also was Walker, who called Scott’s logic “poppycock” and said: “No right is more precious than having a voice in our elections.”

Pin these items on your fridge with magnets. Couple this fact sheet with the news yesterday that a federal judge declared grifter/Kansas secretary of State Kris Kobach in contempt of court and I can feel the ground shifting as far as public awareness goes about this longterm GOP project to disenfranchise.

Racism? What racism?

The imbecility of the president shouldn’t blind us from the awfulness promulgated by the less incompetent forces in his administration, namely Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III. During his confirmation hearings, he looked aggrieved that anyone would consider him a racist. Behold:

The Trump administration is directing the Justice Department to explore whether it can sue institutions of higher education over affirmative action policies that the White House deems discriminatory against white applicants, The New York Times is reporting.

The Times based its report on a document that it obtained.

The internal announcement to the Justice Department’s civil rights division puts out a call for lawyers interested in working on a new project focused on “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions,” the Times reported.

Supporters and detractors of the project told the Times that the project was clearly going after programs that benefit black and Latino students and other groups.

It’s almost as if installing a racist in the Justice Department increases the chances of the enactment of racist policies.

Meanwhile a bipartisan foundation completed its survey of how Americans voted in November 2016. The results should surprise no one:

Forty-nine percent of Democrats thought it was important for people who want to call themselves American to have lived here most of their lives, and 47 percent believed being born here was important. In contrast, 63 percent of Republicans weighed spending one’s life here or being born here heavily. Among those who supported Mr. Trump in primary votes, those numbers rose to 69 and 72 percent.

The role of religion in American identity revealed another divide. A third of Democrats and just more than half (56 percent) of Republicans thought being a Christian was important to being an American. Within G.O.P. primary voters, Mr. Trump’s voters once again stood out. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of his primary supporters thought being a Christian was important to being an American.

Yet white people only voted for Donald Trump because coal jobs are vanishing.

Wisconsin could’ve decided 2016

Since the Reagan era if not before, the GOP has two functions: reducing taxes on the rich and preventing minorities from voting. If Priorities USA’s report is to be believed, voter suppression worked in Wisconsin:

According to federal court records, 300,000 registered voters, nine percent of the electorate, lacked strict forms of voter-ID in Wisconsin. A new study by Priorities USA, shared exclusively with The Nation, shows that strict voter-ID laws, in Wisconsin and other states, led to a significant reduction in voter turnout in 2016, with a disproportionate impact on African-American and Democratic-leaning voters. Wisconsin’s voter-ID law reduced turnout by 200,000 votes, according to the new analysis. Donald Trump won the state by only 22,748 votes.

Ari Berman, whose Give Us the Ballot remains one of the essential political histories of the last ten years, cautions readers against taking the report, not subjected to peer review, as gospel. But the numbers startle. From the report:

The lost voters skewed more African-American and more Democrat. For example, Wisconsin’s 2016 electorate was 6.1% more Republican, and 5.7% less Democrat, than the group of ‘lost voters’. Furthermore, the WI electorate was 3.7% more White and 3.8% less African American than the group of ‘lost voters.’ This analysis suggests that the 200,000 lost voters would have both been more racially diverse and have voted more Democratic.

I was going to post this news but the Beltway has a way of squeezing my corset tighter…

Look. Richard Nixon might’ve won in 1960 had the ballot boxes in Cook County revealed that Chicago had lined up behind him, but I know he lost the election because the black vote swung to John F. Kennedy, whereupon it remained with the Democratic Party until the present day. Why? He didn’t call Coretta Scott King after Alabama, having decided it had had enough of her husband, jailed him. Eisenhower had easily won the black vote. On such pivots is destiny decided. Democrats are still reckoning with ALEC.

Sunday morning read

Surveying the coming storm, Jonathan Chait looks to millennial voters to save us from the worst of conservatism:

Voters under 30 disapprove of his performance by margins exceeding two-to-one. My recent magazine story describes Trump’s strategy of dividing the country along racial lines, in a way that would allow his party to claim an ever-growing share of the white vote. But the issues Trump hopes to use to attract younger whites to him instead repel them. “In the CNN survey, about three-fourths of white millennials opposed the border wall and about three-fifths rejected the temporary seven-nation immigration ban,” explains Ron Brownstein. “In the Pew survey, both millennials overall and young whites were also more likely than any other age group to say the United States benefits from increasing racial and ethnic diversity, more likely to say they personally knew a Muslim, and least likely to say American Muslims were sympathetic to extremism.”

The power of ethnonationalism, which I tried to communicate in the story, is that it manipulates the most base and emotionally accessible ideas about politics. But that power is also a source of danger to the party that tries to weaponize it: If it backfires, it activates equally powerful emotions against it. And while the fight to preserve the American ideal from Trump’s ethnonationalism is hardly assured, there is every sign it will backfire.

The problem, however, is that these conclusions, which look okay to me, presuppose turnout in elections, especially midterm elections when mad dog conservatives who don’t believe in government are on ballots.

Turning attention back to the rockets’ red glare last Thursday evening, I found Bill Maher, a man not himself known for saying dumb shit in a smug manner, blasted the press’ sycophantic coverage:

“Even the liberals were all over this last night. Everybody loves this fucking thing. Cable news loves it when they show footage of destroyers firing cruise missiles at night. It’s America’s money shot.”

And in Indonesia two men having sex is enough of a crime to warrant a hundred lashes with a cane:

The men – aged 23 and 20 – were reported to the police on March 29, Marzuki said. He added that the men had “confessed” to “being a gay couple.” This was supported, he said, by video footage taken by a resident showing one of the men naked and distressed as he calls for help on his cellphone. The second man is repeatedly pushed by another man who is preventing the couple from leaving the room.

Under the code, sex out of wedlock is punishable by up to 100 strokes of the cane. An earlier version of the code did not regulate punishment for gay sex.

Happy Sunday!

‘We’re going to create one big death panel in this country’

It’s getting hot!

But most of the people in the crowd wanted to be heard, loud and clear, on a litany of issues. One woman said she could not understand how Mr. Ross could oppose the presence of undocumented immigrants, given that the district was dependent on agriculture. “It’s so detrimental to our identity as a state and to the economy,” she said before disappearing into the crowd.

Back in Tennessee, a number of those facing [Marsha] Blackburn were rallied by the local branch of Indivisible, a national movement started by Democratic activists. The group had held two meetings to discuss which issues to raise.

One of the organizers, Elizabeth TeSelle, a university administrator, disavowed the Tea Party comparison. She said Indivisible supporters were not seeking to push moderate Democrats further to the left, or to oust them by running more extreme candidates against them in primaries. “My concern is what the Tea Party ended up spawning was Trump,” Ms. TeSelle said.

Ms. Blackburn, one of Mr. Trump’s high-profile supporters in the House of Representatives during last year’s campaign, defended him on nearly every issue raised by critics.

One man called Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, “a notorious white nationalist.” Ms. Blackburn replied, “My interactions with him have all been fine.”

A high school senior, Taylor Ayres, asked how she could support Ms. DeVos, “someone who doesn’t have real knowledge in the education field.” Ms. Blackburn said coolly, “She is going to do a fine job.”

Chuck Grassley of Iowa got an earful too:

“I’m on Obamacare. If it wasn’t for Obamacare, we wouldn’t be able to afford insurance,” said Chris Peterson, a farmer from Grassley’s state. “With all due respect, sir, you’re the man that talked about the death panel. We’re going to create one big death panel in this country if people can’t afford insurance.”

The remark was a reference to Grassley’s claim when the law passed that a provision of the law that analyzed the economic benefit of drugs for Medicare was akin to a “death panel,” a claim that was widely debunked.

“Don’t repeal Obamacare — improve it,” the constituent added.

Meanwhile Republicans in at risk districts seek smaller, less, uh, in person venues, like my congressman Carlos Curbelo:

In an email Tuesday, Curbelo said he’s held plenty of public events during his past two years in Congress; he just thinks the hundreds of protesters turning up at congressional events in recent weeks are only interested in causing trouble.

“I’m holding tele-town hall meetings that maximize constituent participation by providing greater access. I’m also constantly meeting with constituent groups throughout the district and will continue doing so,” the Miami Republican told The Hill.

What these events portend is unclear. I tend to think Donald Trump’s popularity with his voters is unshaken; he’s done what he set out to do, according to them. It’s possible these voters may throw out their Republican congressman but still support Trump. But Democrats gotta start somewhere.

Reassurances for the nervous of heart

First, from Florida, where the Hispanic wave continues to impress. My home county:

In Miami-Dade, voters have headed to the polls in record numbers: Through Friday, 648,000 voters already cast ballots — a sign that the total turnout for this presidential election will likely surpass that in 2012. That year, more than 879,000 voters cast ballots in both early and Election Day voting.

And while the razor thin margin of how many Democrats and Republicans have voted so far shifts from day to day, the tally favored the Democrats in Saturday morning reports.

Both sides have declared that they have the decisive edge heading into the final weekend before Election Day.

A normal response, perhaps the Trump campaign’s most normal response.

I turn next to Jon Ralston, doing exemplary work in Nevada:

Trump’s path was nearly impossible, as I have been telling you, before what happened in Clark County on Friday. But now he needs a Miracle in Vegas on Election Day — and a Buffalo Bills Super Bowl championship is more likely — to turn this around. The ripple effect down the ticket probably will cost the Republicans Harry Reid’s Senate seat, two GOP House seats and control of the Legislature.

How devastating was it, epitomized by thousands of mostly Latino voters keeping Cardenas market open open in Vegas until 10 PM? This cataclysmic:

—-The Democrats won Clark County by more than 11,000 votes Friday (final mail count not posted yet), a record margin on a record-setting turnout day of 57,000 voters. The Dems now have a firewall — approaching 73,000 ballots — greater than 2012 when Barack Obama won the state by nearly 7 points. The 71,000 of 2012 was slightly higher in percentage terms, but raw votes matter. The lead is 14 percentage points — right at registration. You know what else matters? Registration advantages (142,000 in Clark). Reminder: When the Clark votes were counted from early/mail voting in 2012, Obama had a 69,000 vote lead in Clark County. Game over.

Then longtime GOP operative Stuart Stevens glances at the Trump campaign’s schedule and, well, snorts.


I wrote about the smell of flop sweat the other day: Kerry in 2004, the reek of putrefying corpses on the McCain bus in 2008; Williard Romney was so deeply in denial, thanks to MOBY 49 or whatever he called the software tabulation program that was supposed to render the Google Machine obsolete, that he forgot he even had sweat glands.

Finally, Ned Raggett studies the Twitter tea leaves on two other swing states and notes developments so obvious that of course Joe Scarborough missed them. Pennsylvania first:

It is one of four states without early voting. Nothing has been counted. Ergo, appearances as morale boosters/GOTV drivers earlier would be essentially wasted; if anything, if she had spent more time there during the campaign, that would be seen as a massive concession of weakness. So: turn on the big guns at the end in the state where it matters (the other non-early voting states — New Jersey, Connecticut and New York itself — are all locks; no point in visiting.) She’s doing three visits in three days; I don’t have the agenda but I would assume it’s probably two Philadelphia visits, including the slam-bang finale with her husband and both the Obamas on Monday night, and one Pittsburgh one — a concentration on the state’s two biggest cities, understandably.

Let me add: Pennsylvania — like Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, and New Hampshire — also boasts a competitive Senate race. That’s why Clinton has visited so often, not because she hasn’t gotten those states “nailed down.”

The standard caveats apply. But lookin’ good.

The rarity of ‘impersonation fraud’

With a federal judge ordering an extension of voter registration deadlines in my home state, expects to hear more complaints about fraud, especially if it looks like Donald J. Trump will go down in flames, as is likely. Richard L. Hasen offers an overview:

One should never say voter fraud is non-existent. In fact, it happens occasionally with absentee ballots and I’ve long said we need more action to stop it. I’ve also said we need to clean up voter registration rolls to stop registration fraud. What is extremely rare and has not affected any election we know of since the 1980s is impersonation fraud, the kind of fraud state voter ID laws are meant to stop. Yet Republican laws that make it harder to register and vote generally don’t go after absentee ballot fraud but are instead targeted almost exclusively to measures making it harder for those likely to vote Democratic to register and vote.


There’s no doubt a racial element to all of this. When Trump talks of voter fraud in “certain areas” (code word for voting by minorities, with the fix put in by local labor unions), he’s talking about impersonation fraud.

Remember the Black Panthers? FOX News got high ratings in the aftermath of Barack Obama’s first election for airing clips of how the organization purportedly intimidated (white) voters.