ABA Expresses “Grave Concern” Over Obstruction of Judicial Nominees

Last week, Senate Republican leaders sharply escalated their obstruction of judicial nominees, saying they will block all votes on all circuit court nominations until after the election. Yesterday, Bill Robinson, the president of the nonpartisan American Bar Association, condemned this decision in no uncertain terms in a letter to Senate Democratic and Republican leaders.

Amid concerns that the judicial confirmation process is about to fall victim to presidential election year politics through the invocation of the "Thurmond Rule," I am writing on behalf of the American Bar Association to reiterate our grave concern for the longstanding number of judicial vacancies on Article III courts and to urge you to schedule floor votes on three pending, noncontroversial circuit court nominees before July and on district court nominees who have strong bipartisan support on a weekly basis thereafter.

Robinson specifically mentioned several of the circuit court nominees who have been needlessly caught up in this trap, including William Kayatta of Maine (to the First Circuit), Robert Bacharach of Oklahoma (to the Tenth Circuit), and Richard Taranto (to the Federal Circuit). Republicans have no legitimate basis to block a vote on them.

[They] are consensus nominees who have received overwhelming approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee. [Kayatta and Bacharach] have the staunch support of their Republican senators. Richard Taranto, nominated to the Federal Circuit, enjoys strong bipartisan support, including the endorsement of noted conservative legal scholars. All three nominees also have stellar professional qualifications and each has been rated unanimously "well-qualified" by the ABA's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary.

Although not specifically mentioned in the letter, it is also important to schedule a vote on Patty Shwartz, a highly qualified mainstream nominee for the Second Circuit from New Jersey who has the bipartisan support of her Democratic home-state senators and her Republican governor, Chris Christie.

As for the so-called "Thurmond Rule" that Mitch McConnell falsely claims calls for the Senate to simply stop voting on any and all circuit court nominees, the ABA president writes:

As you know, the "Thurmond Rule" is neither a rule nor a clearly defined event. … With regard to the past three election years, the last circuit court nominees were confirmed in June during 2004 and 2008 and in July during 2000. In deference to these historical cut-off dates and because of our conviction that the Senate has a continuing constitutional duty to act with due diligence to reduce the dangerously high vacancy rate that is adversely affecting our federal judiciary, we exhort you to schedule votes on these three outstanding circuit court nominees this month.

Every American deserves their day in court. The American people know it. The American Bar Association knows it. If only Senate Republicans agreed.


Activists and People For Protest Karl Rove and American Crossroads

Today, in the scorching D.C. summer heat, activists marched over two miles from the “Take Back the Dream Conference” to rally outside of the offices of Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and his super PAC American Crossroads. Crying out, “Karl Rove can’t buy my vote” and “Whose democracy? Our Democracy!” activists made their voices heard throughout the city, and protested not only Karl Rove and his nefarious networks, but an electoral system that disenfranchises the disenfranchised, and empowers the empowered.

People For’s Diallo Brooks spoke at the rally, and encouraged activists to continue fighting for a just society. “This is about preserving our democracy, that is why we are here!” he cried out to the audience, and not losing his sense of humor, concluded, “Stay cool in the heat, yall!”



PFAW Panel on Constitutional Amendment at Take Back the Dream

At this week’s “Take Back the American Dream” conference, Representative Keith Ellison, Missoula City Councilman Jason Weiner, Rev. Barry Hargrove, and Maryland State Senator and Constitutional Law Professor Jamie Raskin joined PFAW’s Marge Baker for a panel discussion entitled “Overturning Citizens United: A Movement Mandate,” to discuss the growing grassroots momentum at the local, state and federal levels for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s flawed 2010 decision.

The standing-room only audience heard about a groundbreaking statewide ballot initiative in Montana calling for overturning the Citizens United decision by amending the Constitution, as well the pending Supreme Court decision on whether to hear the Montana State Supreme Court case giving the high court the opportunity to reconsider its decision. Panelists discussed the underlying need for amending the Constitution as the only effective way to reverse the harm caused by the Supreme Court in Citizens United. As put by Jamie Raskin, who is also a PFAW Senior Fellow, “For the sake of ‘We the People’ and our democracy, all corporate money is foreign money.”

The panel examined how this fight has galvanized the progressive movement as a whole, from jumpstarting voter registration drives to increasing general interest in politics and civic engagement.


Waking up from the Nightmare

Although the DREAM Act seemed to remain a dream after being blocked by Senate Republicans in 2010, the Obama administration has recently taken steps to make staying in the United States a reality for thousands of young undocumented immigrants.

Last Friday, President Obama announced a new policy directive to allow undocumented immigrants under the age of 30 to apply for a two-year, renewable work permit if they met an array of criteria, including arriving to the United States before the age of 16, and are in high school, graduated from high school, or were honorably discharged from the armed forces. The plan doesn’t grant amnesty or a road to citizenship; but as the president stated, it is a “temporary solution” and “the right thing to do.”

This decision will positively impact up to 800,000 law-abiding, hard-working Americans who have until now lived in constant fear of deportation. One such DREAMer is 26 year-old Mohammad Abdollahi, who immigrated to this nation at the age of three from Iran. His family’s visa soon expired and was not renewed. Not only has Mohammad had to live the majority of his life in fear of deportation, but the price of being sent back to Iran was incredibly high. Mohammad is openly gay and due to Iran’s policy of capital punishment towards gay individuals, his deportation could be a death sentence.

With his life literally on the line, and running out of options, Mohammad became one of the first students to come out as undocumented in an attempt to pressure congress to pass the DREAM Act in 2010. Although the act didn’t pass, he hasn’t given up the fight. When President Obama made this historic announcement last week, Mohammad was occupying an Obama re-election office in Deerborn, Michigan as a symbolical plea directed towards the president to take action. This change in policy ends this nightmare for Mohammad and so many other DREAMers like him.

In his address in the Rose Garden, President Obama stated, “We are a better nation than one that expels innocent young kids.” Sadly, it seems many Republicans in Congress don’t share this value. After the announcement, Republican House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith of Texas claimed, "President Obama's decision to grant amnesty to potentially millions of illegal immigrants is a breach of faith with the American people…It also blatantly ignores the rule of law that is the foundation of our democracy.”

Not only is Rep. Smith just flat wrong to claim that the plan grants “amnesty,” he appears to believe that the foundation of our democracy requires ridding our nation of young, productive and patriotic members of society. Republicans should wake up and embrace this change as an opportunity to finally be a part of a more permanent solution.


Context for the Effects of Citizens United

The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision is commonly criticized by good government advocates because it has led to countless wealthy individuals and corporations making unlimited contributions in unprecedented amounts to groups attempting to sway electoral outcomes, often anonymously. As a result, those with means are able unfairly amplify their voices above that of average Americans.

To appreciate the magnitude of the ruling’s anti-democratic effects, it is important to consider the sheer amount of money that it takes to be a player in the Super-PAC game.

Sheldon Adelson, one of the world’s richest men with a far-right personal political agenda, plans to contribute upwards of $71 million in this election cycle, according to the Huffington Post. He is so determined to unseat the president that, after sinking $21.5 million on Super PACs supporting Newt Gingrich’s failed run, he is ready to refocus his efforts and spend similarly astronomical sums to support groups in favor of Mitt Romney and Republican congressional candidates.

His influence is real – $71 million can buy a lot of TV advertising, and ads funded by Super PACs and 501c4 groups can be particularly nasty because they are not officially “accountable” to a candidate. Average Americans, even those who can afford to contribute toward their preferred candidate, simply cannot compete on this scale. According to a friend of Adelson, “We think ‘$100 million, wow!’ But it’s a meaningless amount of money to him.”

In an interview with Forbes, Adelson acknowledged the reality that his extraordinary wealth allows him to influence elections in ways he otherwise couldn’t, in ways which ordinary Americans cannot. He doesn’t even think it’s a good thing, but that hasn’t stopped him: "I'm against very wealthy people attempting to or influencing elections," he said. "But as long as it's doable, I'm going to do it."

The only way to make hijacking our elections no longer “doable” is with a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. To anyone without a spare $100 million, the need couldn’t be clearer.


Sen. Menendez to GOP: "Get Back to Work"

In response to Senate Republicans' sharp escalation last week in obstructing circuit court nominees, New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez has some simple advice for his colleagues: "Get back to work."

Last Wednesday, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that his party would block confirmation votes on all circuit court nominees, regardless of their qualifications, despite their overwhelming bipartisan support (including that of home state Republican senators), and heedless of the damage done to individuals and small businesses in areas without enough judges to ensure fully functioning courts. This distortion of what he calls the "Thurmond Rule" leaves highly qualified circuit court nominees who should have been confirmed a long time ago in a trap set by Republicans.

Sen. Menendez one of the senators whose states will be harmed by this effort to keep appellate courtrooms from fully functioning. He is calling on the GOP to "get back to work on judicial nominees." He focuses on Patty Shwartz, a nominee from New Jersey with broad bipartisan support from that state's elected officials, but also notes the other jurists who have been unjustly targeted.

The Republican move would block Judge Patty Shwartz, who was nominated to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and supported by Menendez, Senator [Frank] Lautenberg and Governor [Chris] Christie, as well as Richard Taranto for the federal circuit, William Kayatta for the First Circuit Court of Appeals and Robert Bacharach for the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

"It is ridiculous that Republicans are arbitrarily blocking all judicial nominees from this point forward," said Menendez. "With sky-high vacancies on the bench, how can Republicans stop working on nominations only six months into the year? I call on those Republicans who have joined with Democrats in the past to come forward and help get us back to work. These highly qualified judges deserve an up or down vote on the Senate floor now."

Which Republicans is he hoping might move beyond partisanship and do their jobs? Perhaps Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, who claim to despise bitter partisanship and who support William Kayatta, one of the sabotaged nominees. Perhaps Scott Brown, who is desperately trying to convince the people of Massachusetts (which, like Maine, is in the First Circuit) that he has not "gone Washington" and abandoned them. Perhaps Tom Coburn, who has called his leader's decision "stupid" and who (like fellow Oklahoman Sen. Jim Inhofe) supports Robert Bacharach's pending nomination.

Will any Republican senators heed their colleague's call to get back to work?


Purge sparks three lawsuits in Florida

Since Florida Governor Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner refused to comply with a Department of Justice warning to stop their sweeping effort to purge voters from the rolls, the DOJ has filed a suit against the state, contending the purge violates the National Voter Registration Act.

Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General, DOJ:

The Department of Justice has a shared interest with all states in ensuring that all eligible citizens have the opportunity to register and vote. […] It appears that Florida has initiated a new program for systematic voter removal, which may ultimately target more than 180,000 registered voters. […] Your program has critical imperfections, which lead to errors that harm and confuse eligible voters.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of another complaint against the state – this one filed by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the American Civil Liberties Union - denouncing the purge for unfairly targeting Hispanic voters, who make up 61% of the people identified on the list but only 14 % of registered Florida voters.

Bob Kengle, Co-director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law:

Florida is flouting federal laws designed to protect voters from precisely this kind of action. The right of every citizen to have their voice heard at the ballot box is being threatened. The Lawyers’ Committee will continue to tirelessly fight any effort to make full-fledged Americans second-class citizens.

Howard Simon, Executive Director, ACLU of Florida:

It seems that Governor Scott and his Secretary of State cannot speak without hiding what they mean in political spin. They mislead Floridians by calling their illegal list purge ‘protecting citizen's voting rights.’ This is precisely why Congress has re-enacted, and why we continue to need, the Voting Rights Act – to prevent state officials from interfering with the constitutional rights of minorities. We now look to the courts to stop the Scott administration from assaulting democracy by denying American citizens the right to vote.

Many of the 67 Florida counties have since ceased the program, but Scott and Detzner aren’t backing down, filing their own suit against the Department of Homeland Security. Not only are they defending their efforts, but also claiming the federal agency is required to give access to its Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program records to identify ineligible voters.

Florida now joins Texas among states that are challenging the federal government over voting laws in court.

For more information, be sure to check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report (and more) by PFAW Foundation.

PFAW Foundation

Republicans Announce Elevation in Obstruction of Judicial Nominees

Yesterday, Senate Republicans announced that they will no longer consent to confirmation votes for any appellate court nominees until after the election, invoking the so-called Thurmond Rule. While they claim they are acting consistently with previous practice in presidential election years, the facts show otherwise.

As Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy said today:

This shutdown is consistent with what the partisan Senate Republican leadership did in 1996 and again at the end of President Clinton's presidency, and can be contrasted with how Democrats acted in 1992, 2004 and 2008.

The Republicans' announcement directly affects four circuit court nominees who have been cleared by the Senate Judiciary Committee and are waiting for a yes-or-no vote. However, there would not be this many awaiting votes but for Republican obstruction: They have forcefully been preventing the Senate from scheduling a vote. Those who created the current backlog of lower court nominees now seek to profit from their obstruction by invoking the "Thurmond Rule."

This is a sharp turnaround from when George W. Bush was president and Republicans controlled the Senate. At this point in his presidency, Bush's confirmed circuit court nominees got a floor vote 31 days after committee approval. But now, by withholding their consent to floor votes, Senate Republicans have forced President Obama's confirmed circuit court nominees to wait more than four times as long. They have forced a similar fourfold delay on district court nominees, as well. As a result, they have created a needlessly large backlog of 17 pending nominations. And while they are now trying to appear cooperative by allowing one or two votes a week (generally in order of how long a nominee has been waiting for a floor vote), the past delays and obstruction have brought a number of highly qualified nominees to this artificial deadline.

Qualified nominees to the Third Circuit (Patty Shwartz) and Federal Circuit (Richard Taranto) have been languishing since March, and a First Circuit nominee (William Kayatta) has been denied a floor vote since April. Under precedent from the Bush era, all three should have been confirmed long ago.

The fourth currently pending circuit court nominee – Robert Bacharach for the Tenth Circuit – was approved by the Judiciary Committee by voice vote on June 3. Yet in the last presidential election year, the committee approved two of President Bush's circuit court nominees even later than that (June 12, 2008) and confirmed them two weeks later (June 24).

Shwartz, Taranto, Kayatta, and Bacharach are all highly qualified nominees. In fact, all four received the highest possible evaluation from the American Bar Association, with unanimous panels finding them well qualified. Three cleared the Judiciary Committee with overwhelming bipartisan support. Two come from states with Republican home state senators (Maine and Oklahoma), and have received the strong support of those elected officials. In fact, Sen. Tom Coburn has said it would be "stupid" to deny Robert Bacharach a vote.

But it's not "stupid." Republicans know exactly what they are doing to the American court system and the millions who depend on it for justice. They just don't care.

UPDATE: Ian Millhiser at Think Progress has written a good piece on the so-called Thurmond Rule. He notes the numerous circuit court judges confirmed in presidential election years between this day and Election Day for Presidents Carter through George W. Bush. He writes:

[T]he supposed ban on late term confirmations does not exist, and it has never existed except arguably during the Clinton presidency, when then-Judiciary Committee Chair Orrin Hatch (R-UT) routinely played Calvinball with the Senate’s rules in order to keep President Clinton’s judges from being confirmed


ALEC's Desperate PR Strategy

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has created damage-control web site, “I Stand With ALEC,” asking people to submit a letter to members of ALEC’s Private Enterprise Board and member legislators in support of the ultra-conservative, secretive organization. The form letter is here:

Stand With ALEC

Dear [Decision Maker],

As our economy continues to struggle, the need for strong leadership that promotes free markets and free enterprise is more crucial than ever. It's through limited government and a stronger private sector that we can create jobs and grow our economy. As a member of ALEC, I expect you to work on these types of solutions.

But I've seen in the news that these values, and groups that support them, are under attack by extremists. Groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are important defenders of these free market ideals. You should know that this is exactly the kind of organization I expect you to work with. Don't let extremists sway you any other way.

It is through free-market, limited government and pro-growth principles that we can get the states and whole nation back on the right track. As a customer, I'll be watching closely to ensure that you represent those views in your decisions.


[Your Name]

[Your Address]

[City, State ZIP]

After the massive outrage sparked by revelations that ALEC’s Public Safety and Elections Task Force was responsible for the proliferation of “Stand Your Ground” laws in the wake of the death of Trayvon Martin, ALEC tried to disavow that committee and claimed that it was “refocusing [its] commitment to free-market, limited government and pro-growth principles.”

ALEC’s portfolio of harmful policies goes much farther than that, including model bills that disenfranchise voters, destroy public education, block access to healthcare, damage the environment, weaken public safety and harm working families. So far, 19 corporations, 4 non profit organizations and 54 state legislators have left the organization for these reasons.

If ALEC thinks it can repair its reputation by asking the American people to send reassuring letters to its members, it should think again. A petition drive and phone campaign led by People For the American Way Fundation, Color of Change and other organizations has already directed over 500,000 signatures and calls to ALEC’s corporate members demanding that those companies end their ALEC memberships immediately. The American people have already spoken on this one, and they don’t stand with ALEC.

PFAW Foundation

Citizens United Continues to Stack the Deck

Two short paragraphs from a Wall Street Journal article about billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson’s political contributions vividly illustrate the damage to democracy done by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision:

Mr. Adelson has told friends that he intends to give at least $100 million to conservative causes and candidates this election cycle. He contributed some $250,000 to Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who just won against a labor union-forced recall election there.

But he has also told his friends and colleagues that he would prefer to keep his contributions under wraps in order to avoid controversy, and will likely focus donations mostly on non-profits affiliated with political PACS, which don’t have to disclose the names of donors. He is expected to donate to the conservative non-profit Crossroads GPS, which was founded by Republican strategist Karl Rove, a longtime friend of Mr. Adelson, according to Republican fundraisers.

The article was prompted by recent revelations that Mr. Adelson donated $10 million – the largest amount single donation so far – to a super PAC supporting Mitt Romney.

Adelson is credited for single-handedly keeping Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign afloat (for a while, at least), and he has long been pressured by Republican fundraisers to support Mr. Romney. Thanks to Citizens United, one very wealthy individual has the power to donate unlimited amounts to super PACS that are unaccountable to the public. And, as is the case with special interests who try to use their enormous wealth to skew elections, Adelson would prefer to keep his activities a secret so no one even knows who’s buying the race. Thanks to Citizens United, he can do exactly that.


Johnson & Johnson Leaves ALEC

This afternoon, Johnson & Johnson announced that it would discontinue its membership in ALEC, making it the 19th corporation to do so.

The running tally of organizations and legislators leaving the American Legislative Exchange Council, as of today:

• Corporations: 19

• Non-profits: 4

• State Legislators: 54

ALEC’s agenda is as secretive as it is extreme, but the American people are sending a loud and clear message that legislation drafted by corporate lobbyists has no place in our statehouses.

PFAW President Michael Keegan said the following after Johnson & Johnson’s announcement:

“The extreme ALEC agenda harms all of us on a daily basis. It’s disturbing that so many American companies still have a hand in advancing legislation that suppresses the right to vote, impedes access to health care, weakens public education and jeopardizes public safety. I commend the persistence of the hundreds of thousands of activists who have demanded accountability from corporations supporting the ALEC agenda. Johnson & Johnson’s departure from ALEC is a big victory, and the other corporate funders who have yet to leave ALEC should take note.”

PFAW Foundation

Hurwitz Finally Confirmed By Voice Vote

Yesterday, more than three months after a bipartisan majority of the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nomination of Andrew Hurwitz to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Senate Republican filibuster was finally ended in a 60-31 cloture vote. Today, the Senate voted to confirm him, and the method of the confirmation shows how without principle the obstruction has been.

Hurwitz was confirmed by voice vote, the method generally used to show overwhelming support. Contentious issues of importance are generally done by roll call vote, so each senator can have their position formally on record. So after blocking a highly qualified state supreme court justice with bipartisan support for three months and claiming that he is unqualified to be a district court judge, Senate Republicans decided that it wasn’t important enough to cast a vote against his confirmation.

Perhaps they want to devote their energies to blocking the 17 other qualified nominees waiting for a floor vote.


Another Day, Another Filibuster

Yet again, Senate Republicans have forced a vote to end their unwarranted filibuster of a qualified judicial nominee nominated by President Obama, a filibuster that was ended by a 60-31 vote this evening. Arizona Supreme Court Justice Andrew Hurwitz has been nominated to serve on the severely understaffed Ninth Circuit, a vacancy in desperate need of filling so the court can serve the people in nine western states.

It is those millions of Americans who are hurt the most when qualified nominees willing to serve their country are blocked for partisan reasons. The Ninth Circuit has far more cases per three-judge panel than any other circuit in the nation. These cases involve employment discrimination, contract disputes, civil rights, consumer protection, immigrant rights, and a host of other issues. While we may not hear much about most of these cases, they are of vital importance to the individuals and businesses involved. When final resolution of their cases is delayed because there aren't enough judges to hear cases expeditiously, ordinary Americans pay the price.

Since Senate Republicans' well publicized shaming in March, when their unwarranted filibuster of 17 district court nominations was widely condemned, they have improved in generally allowing “regular order,” where confirmation votes are cast each week that the Senate is in session. However, because they have so gummed up the works for more than three years, there is an enormous backlog of pending nominations that are awaiting confirmation votes. Allowing one or two a week does not effectively address that backlog, especially since the Judiciary Committee continues to approve nominations and send them to the Senate floor.

What appears to be grudging cooperation is really cementing the obstruction: This evening, there are 18 pending nominees waiting for a Senate confirmation vote, exactly the same number as two months ago.

It is in this light that this second Ninth Circuit filibuster in the past month must be seen. Justice Hurwitz has received the highest possible evaluation from the nonpartisan panel of the American Bar Association that analyzes the qualifications of judicial nominees. His former law clerks have submitted a strongly supportive statement highlighting his mastery of the law, his deliberate approach to interpretation, and his evenhandedness the bench. His qualifications have been recognized by his two Republican home state senators, John McCain and Jon Kyl. The Judiciary Committee approved of his nomination with the unanimous Democratic and significant Republican support. Yet a number of Senate Republicans not only plan to vote against him when the confirmation vote is held (possibly as early as tonight), but they tried today to prevent that vote from ever happening.

When former electoral opponents Barack Obama and John McCain join the Judiciary Committee's Al Franken and Tom Coburn in recognizing that a nominee is highly qualified, it is hard to take seriously those on the fringe who claim he is an extremist.


Allen West's "American Way'

Congressman Allen West (R-FL) is out with a new ad this week. Set to soaring, dramatic music, the Congressman tells the story of his upbringing and how describes how his father gave him the opportunity live the American Dream. He runs through typical Republican talking points calling for tax cuts and slashing services, and laments the failings of Washington. It’s standard campaign-ad fare, and he concludes by stating “I’m just getting started; that’s the American Way.”

However, West’s record suggests that his notion of the “American Way” is rather at odds with the Constitution’s promise of freedom and equality for all.

The First Amendment guarantees the freedom of religion for all Americans, and Article VI of the Constitution states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” But West thinks that Representative Keith Ellison (D-MI), a practicing Muslim, represents the "antithesis of the principles upon which this country was established." He also harbors some vehemently anti-Islamic ideas.

America is a country that values free speech and open debate. Yet West has a habit of resorting to calling his colleagues who disagree with him Communists. Liberals, he said, can just “Get the hell out of the United States of America.” 

Freedom of the press doesn’t seem to be high on his list either. He once called for censoring American news agencies for publishing information about the government’s activities.

West believes America is a land of opportunity – something to which he owes his own success – but “equality” and “fairness” somehow fly in the face of liberty. Marriage equality, he says, is not only un-American but will destroy society as we know it.

Congressman West may have produced a slick ad, but the agenda he pushes in Congress would increase inequality, harm working families, destroy core constitutional liberties and cripple Americans’ ability to address pressing problems through government. That’s not the American Way.


Confusion, purge lead to low turnout in Texas primary

Last May, Texas Governor Rick Perry signed SB 14 into law. An ALEC award-winner himself, Governor Perry had the support of several ALEC members and others who pushed the legislation. Together they made Texas a photo ID state.

Then the DOJ issued an official objection that stopped the law from going into effect, saying that it disproportionately affects Hispanic voters. Not only is Texas defending the law but Attorney General Greg Abbott has amended the state’s complaint with a direct challenge to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The AG has also dropped his objection to taking depositions from state lawmakers.

Though it remains tied up in court, the effects of the law have already been felt statewide, especially surrounding the May 29 primary. KSAT:

The turnout for early voting was meager, some say because many are confused about what kind, if any, identification is needed to cast a ballot.

Many lawmakers and elected officials called the situation a "crisis" and said they are concerned people are getting the wrong message about voting in the Texas primary.

"I spoke with a senior citizen who said she may not vote because she was confused," State Rep. Sylvester Turner said.

In reality, voters need only have proved residency by showing their registration card, driver’s license, passport, or utility bill.

A voter purge similar to that occurring in Florida is also thought to have contributed to the low turnout. Houston Chronicle:

State and federal laws require the nation's voter rolls be regularly reviewed and cleaned to remove duplicates and eliminate voters who moved away or died. But across 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.

Click here for more information, and be sure to check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation.

PFAW Foundation