Chris Kromm – LikeTheDew.com http://likethedew.com A journal of progressive Southern culture and politics Wed, 14 Nov 2018 14:35:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 http://likethedew.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/cropped-DewLogoSquare825-32x32.png Chris Kromm – LikeTheDew.com http://likethedew.com 32 32 New battle over voter ID in the South http://likethedew.com/2013/03/12/new-battle-over-voter-id-in-the-south/ http://likethedew.com/2013/03/12/new-battle-over-voter-id-in-the-south/#comments Tue, 12 Mar 2013 19:16:06 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=49879

voterIDiocyIt’s like 2011 all over again.

It was two years ago that, after Republicans claimed big gains in state legislatures across the South and country in the 2010 mid-terms, lawmakers made a national push for changes to voting laws, with one of the most controversial being restrictive bills requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls.

Now, with the 2012 elections behind them, state GOP leaders have again pledged to make voter photo ID a priority this year. But has the debate — and public sentiment about voter restrictions — changed this time?

States leading the push in 2013 include Arkansas, where Republicans won over the state legislature in 2012 and a House panel advanced a voter ID bill this week, and North Carolina, where a Democratic governor’s veto staved off an ID bill in 2012, but newly elected GOP Gov. Pat McCrory has signaled he’ll support a looming measure.

In February, Virginia lawmakers reversed course from a law passed last year that allowed voters to use a utility bill, pay stub, bank statement, government check, or Social Security card as acceptable identification at the polls. A bill passed by the Virginia legislature eliminates those as acceptable forms of voter ID — although it leaves alone student ID cards and concealed gun permits — and now heads to GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell’s desk.

Despite these aggressive moves, there’s evidence that the debate over voter photo ID is different this time around. The media, which at times seemed to be caught flat-footed in the early stages of the voter ID debate, has since done in-depth reports documenting the laws’ disproportionate impact in African-American communities and among young black and Latino voters.

The U.S. Department of Justice also delivered widely publicized blows to voter ID laws in Mississippi, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin, blocking or delaying their implementation until after the 2012 elections due to concerns about their disproportionate impact on the electorate.

And it didn’t help the cause when Republican operatives in Florida acknowledged that the issue of voter fraud was largely a “marketing ploy” to boost GOP votes, or when in June 2012 a Republican state official said that “voter ID is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania,” suggesting the law was driven by purely partisan motives.

Civil rights and voting advocates say that bad publicity about the impact of voter ID and other restrictions helped boost voter turnout among African Americans in 2012. It also appears to be chipping away at public support for voter photo ID laws, at least in communities that would be most affected.

For example, in Texas — where media scrutiny of voter ID has intensified over the last year — support for the measure has plummeted among African-Americans, according to a recent analysis by Joshua Blank in the Texas Tribune:

In February 2011, an overwhelming 63 percent of black respondents agreed that voters should be required to present a government-issued photo ID to vote (along with 80 percent of whites and 68 percent of Hispanics). When we asked the question again in our October 2012 survey, during the heart of the campaign season, those numbers had dropped precipitously among blacks, to 33 percent.

Support among whites and Latinos has stayed high, although Blank notes that polls tend to undercount low-income voters who would be most affected by the laws.

These divisions are important to remember when voter ID proponents point to polls, as North Carolina’s conservative Civitas Institute recently did, that claim to show the public “overwhelmingly supports” voter ID restrictions.

As with most polls, it largely depends on how the issue is framed. As David Wilson of the University of Delaware found in a series of surveys in 2012, support for voter ID was high — unless the question introduced a comment that some people fear the laws could keep eligible voters from casting a ballot. Wilson also found that supporters of voter photo ID laws were more likely to harbor negative sentiments about African Americans.

Even more striking, Wilson’s research suggests the public remains poorly informed about the entire issue: As of mid-2012, 42 percent thought that voter fraud was “common” or “somewhat common” in U.S. elections, despite the lack of any convincing evidence this is true.

In many cases, voters weren’t even aware of their state’s voter ID laws. When asked if their state required photo ID at the polls, 69 percent of those who said “yes” actually lived in states without a photo ID requirement — suggesting that some voters may already be wrongfully keeping themselves from voting if they don’t have a photo ID card.

Clearly, if there is to be an informed debate about voter ID, the public needs access to more and better information about the issues at stake.

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The racist roots of ‘right to work’ laws http://likethedew.com/2012/12/15/the-racist-roots-of-right-to-work-laws/ http://likethedew.com/2012/12/15/the-racist-roots-of-right-to-work-laws/#comments Sat, 15 Dec 2012 16:16:25 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=46940 becoming the 24th state to pass "right-to-work" legislation, which allows non-union employees to benefit from union contracts. While Michigan's momentous decision has received widespread media attention, little has been said about the origins of "right-to-work" laws, which find their roots in extreme pro-segregationist and anti-communist elements in the 1940s South.]]>

This week, Republican lawmakers in Michigan — birthplace of the United Auto Workers and, more broadly, the U.S. labor movement — shocked the nation by becoming the 24th state to pass “right-to-work” legislation, which allows non-union employees to benefit from union contracts.

While Michigan’s momentous decision has received widespread media attention, little has been said about the origins of “right-to-work” laws, which find their roots in extreme pro-segregationist and anti-communist elements in the 1940s South.

States with right-to-work laws in green. (Wikipedia.)
States with right-to-work laws in green. (Wikipedia.)

The history of anti-labor “right-to-work” laws starts in Houston. It was there in 1936 that Vance Muse, an oil industry lobbyist, founded the Christian American Association with backing from Southern oil companies and industrialists from the Northeast.

As Dartmouth sociologist Marc Dixon notes in his fascinating history of the period [pdf], “The Christian American Association was the first in the nation to champion the ‘Right-to-Work’ as a full-blown political slogan.”

Muse was a fixture in far-right politics in the South before settling into his anti-labor crusade. In his 1946 book “Southern Exposure,” crusading journalist Stetson Kennedy wrote:

The man Muse is quite a character. He is six foot four, wears a ten-gallon hat, but generally reserves his cowboy boots for trips Nawth. Now over fifty, Muse has been professionally engaged in reactionary enterprises for more than a quarter of a century.

As Kennedy described, these causes included opposing women’s suffrage, child labor laws, integration and growing efforts to change the Southern political order, as represented in the threat of Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Muse’s sister and associate at the Christan American Association, Ida Darden, openly complained about the First Lady’s “Eleanor Clubs” saying they (as related by Kennedy):

…stood for “$15 a week salary for all nigger house help, Sundays off, no washing, and no cleaning upstairs.” As an afterthought, she added, “My nigger maid wouldn’t dare sit down in the same room with me unless she sat on the floor at my feet!”

Allowing herself to go still further, the little lady went on to say, “Christian Americans can’t afford to be anti-Semitic, but we know where we stand on the Jews, all right.

The Association also suspected Catholics — which Dixon notes caused the downfall of their crusades in neighboring Louisiana.

But for far-right conservatives like Muse, as well as industry groups like the Southern States Industrial Council, labor — including black labor — posed an especially dangerous threat in Texas. Thanks to a burgeoning wartime economy, along with labor organizing drives spearheaded by the Congress of Industrial Organizations and, to a lesser extent, the American Federation of Labor, unions were rapidly growing in Texas. After hovering around 10 percent of the workforce during the 1930s, union membership exploded by 225 percent during the next decade.

Muse and the Christian American Association saw danger. Not only were the unions expanding the bargaining power — and therefore improving the wages and working conditions — of working-class Texans, they also constituted a political threat. The CIO in particular opposed Jim Crow and demanded an end to segregation. Unions were an important political ally to FDR and the New Deal. And always lurking in the shadows was the prospect of a Red Menace, stoked by anti-communist hysteria.

Working in concert with segregationists and right-wing business leaders, Muse and the Association swiftly took action. Their first step in 1941 was to push an “anti-violence” bill that placed blanket restrictions on public union picketing at workplaces. The stated goal was to ensure “uninterrupted” industrial production during World War II, although Texas had the fewest number of strikes in the South, and the law applied to all industries, war-related or not.

Their success with the “anti-violence” bill spurred Muse and the Christian American Association to push for — and pass — similar laws throughout the South. Mississippi adopted an anti-violence statute in 1942; Florida, Arkansas, and Alabama passed similar laws in 1943. It also emboldened them to take on a much bigger prize: ending the ability of labor groups to run a “closed shop,” where union benefits extend only to union members.

In 1945, the Christian American Association — along with allies cemented in earlier anti-union legislative battles, including the Fight for Free Enterprise and the vehemently anti-union Texas Lt. Gov. John Lee Smith — introduced a right-to-work bill in Texas. It passed the House by a 60 to 53 margin, but pro-New Deal forces stopped it in the state senate. Two years later, thanks to a well-funded campaign from the Association and industry — and internal divisions between the craft-oriented AFL and the more militant CIO — Texas’ right-to-work bill was signed into law.

While working to pass right-to-work legislation in Texas, Muse and the Association took their efforts to Arkansas and Florida, where a similar message equating union growth with race-mixing and communism led to the passage of the nation’s first right-to-work laws in 1944. In all, 14 states passed such legislation by 1947, when conservatives in Congress successfully passed Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act, enshrining the right of states to pass laws that allow workers to receive union benefits without joining a union.

Civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., who saw an alliance with labor as crucial to advancing civil rights as well as economic justice for all workers, spoke out against right-to-work laws; this 1961 statement by King was widely circulated this week during Michigan’s labor battles:

In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone…Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights.

Interestingly, 11 years later, Kansas also passed a right-to-work law, with the support of Texas-born energy businessman Fred Koch, who also viewed unions as vessels for communism and integration. Koch’s sons Charles and David went on to form the Tea Party group Americans for Prosperity, which pushed for the Michigan right-to-work measure, and is now advocating for states that already have such laws, like North Carolina and Virginia, to further enshrine them in their state constitutions.

And what about Muse? According to the Texas State Historical Association:

Muse died on October 15, 1950, at his Houston home, where his efforts with the Christian Americans had originated. At the time of his death he was working on a right-to-work amendment to the federal Constitution.

UPDATE: An earlier version of this story inadvertently cut off two important credits. HAT-TIP: Mark Ames at NSFWCorp who wrote about the same issue, especially for quotes from Stetson Kennedy’s Southern Exposure (the inspiration behind the Institute’s award-winning journal of the same name.) Other valuable sources on the civil rights/labor connection include Michael Honey’s Southern Labor and Black Civil Rights, Michael Boston’s Labor, Civil Rights and the Hughes Tool Company and Barbara Griffith’s The Crisis of American Labor: Operation Dixie and the Defeat of the CIO.

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From Clinton to Castro: Democrats’ Southern strategy reaches out to both older and newer South http://likethedew.com/2012/09/06/from-clinton-to-castro-democrats-southern-strategy-reaches-out-to-both-older-and-newer-south/ http://likethedew.com/2012/09/06/from-clinton-to-castro-democrats-southern-strategy-reaches-out-to-both-older-and-newer-south/#comments Thu, 06 Sep 2012 21:34:17 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=42025 Wednesday night, reporter John Frank tweeted that North Carolina delegates to the Democratic National Convention were sharing high-fives after former President Bill Clinton's epic 45-minute address. No surprise there: Clinton's tour-de-force was a huge hit with Democrats of all flavors in Charlotte and nationally.

But the speech also had a specific goal: to help sell President Obama and the Democratic brand to whites -- including Southern whites -- who have been an increasingly challenging demographic for the party.

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Barack Obama & Bill Clinton at the Democratic National Convention - Charlotte photo by Kris Krug via the kk+ flickr photostreamWednesday night, reporter John Frank tweeted that North Carolina delegates to the Democratic National Convention were sharing high-fives after former President Bill Clinton’s epic 45-minute address.

No surprise there: Clinton’s tour-de-force was a huge hit with Democrats of all flavors in Charlotte and nationally.

But the speech also had a specific goal: to help sell President Obama and the Democratic brand to whites — including Southern whites — who have been an increasingly challenging demographic for the party.

A pre-convention Gallup poll found Bill Clinton has a 63 percent approval rating among whites, compared to just 43 percent for Barack Obama. And as Richard Harpootlian, a Democrat from South Carolina told the Associated Press, “[Clinton] resonates with Southern white folks dramatically,”

Kevin Alexander Gray, a civil rights activist also from South Carolina, compares Clinton’s role with appealing to white voters to how Democrats used to deploy the Rev. Jesse Jackson when trying to mobilize African-American voters. “They used Jackson to ‘vouch’ for white Democrats to black audiences,” Gray told Facing South. “Clinton is vouching to whites for Barack Obama.”

“Bubba’s” mission of appealing to whites, including whites in battleground Southern states, exists in delicate balance with another key goal of this week’s convention: to win over the increasingly diverse South of the future.

San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro photo by Texas Public Radio via their texaspublicradio flickr photostreamA leading symbol of the emerging South was Julian Castro, the 37-year-old mayor of San Antonio who addressed the convention a day earlier. A former aide to George W. Bush said Castro has “a very good chance of becoming the first Hispanic president of the United States.”

Castro’s speech also scored high marks, speaking to the newer-immigrant experience in states like Texas, which gained four Congressional seats and Electoral College votes after the 2010 Census.

Like other Southern states — which now make up one-third of the nation’s Electoral College — Texas owes its growing political clout to growing Latino, African-American and urban communities; two-thirds of the Lone Star State’s growth over the last decade came from Latinos alone.

The strong focus on key women leaders — from Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood and the daughter of former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, to First Lady Michelle Obama — also speaks to a growing crack in the GOP’s Southern white base: white women voters.

In 2008, Obama actually did better with white men — 41 percent of white male voters, according to exit polls — than white women (39 percent), in part due to Gov. Sarah Palin being VP on the GOP ticket. But overall, Obama exploited a 13-point “gender gap” to win the presidency.

As NBC News points out, Obama’s current advantage among women voters in Southern battleground states is well below that: 11 percent in North Carolina, seven percent in Virginia and just five percent in Florida.

But with the Republican Party associated with cuts to women’s health programs — and tarred with the inflammatory statements of Rep. Todd Akin and Rush Limbaugh — Democrats see an opportunity to win over women, of all races.

Will the Democrats’ two-tier Southern strategy — striving to reach both an Older South and Newer South — work? That remains to be seen. But given that neither Obama or Romney leads by more than three points in polls of voters in Florida, North Carolina and Virginia, it’s clear they’ll need both Souths to win.

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GOP Convention: Anti-government message a tough sell in Florida http://likethedew.com/2012/08/25/gop-convention-anti-government-message-a-tough-sell-in-florida/ http://likethedew.com/2012/08/25/gop-convention-anti-government-message-a-tough-sell-in-florida/#comments Sat, 25 Aug 2012 13:33:42 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=41750 This week Republicans revealed the theme of their national convention in Tampa, Fla., which kicks off on Aug. 27: "We Built It."

A GOP press release says the message pays homage to those who "achieve their dreams within the free enterprise system," but it's also a jab at President Obama.

It also fits the anti-government views of Republican VP pick Rep. Paul Ryan, who famously makes uber-libertarian Ayn Rand "required reading" for his staff and interns because of the impact it's had on his own thinking.

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The Tampa Bay Times Forum, home of the 2012 Republican convention, created by a public agency and largely funded with taxpayer dollars.This week Republicans revealed the theme of their national convention in Tampa, Fla., which kicks off on Aug. 27: “We Built It.”

A GOP press release says the message pays homage to those who “achieve their dreams within the free enterprise system,” but it’s also a jab at President Obama.

It also fits the anti-government views of Republican VP pick Rep. Paul Ryan, who famously makes uber-libertarian Ayn Rand “required reading” for his staff and interns because of the impact it’s had on his own thinking.

But in Florida, bashing the public sector can be a hard sell. If anything, the Sunshine State’s economy is a testament to the lingering significance of government in delivering jobs and services.

Start with the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the arena where Republicans will gather next week. As reported by Media Matters, the Forum was built in 1996 by the Tampa Bay Sports Authority, a public agency founded in 1965. Most of the money to build the arena came from public sources; according to one estimate, government dollars accounted for 62 percent of the hockey stadium’s budget.

On top of that, the city of Tampa has already spent $2.7 million on a host of beautification projects. According to the Associated Press, “New trees, shrubs and flowers are sprouting up everywhere.” Then there’s the security detail previously reported in Facing South: Tampa police received a $50 million grant from Congress to pay for radios, bicycles, even an armored vehicle, not to mention the 4,000 officers on the ground.

DEPENDENCE ON DEFENSE AND SPACE

But the convention logistics point to a larger reality in Florida: For all the anti-government rhetoric, it’s a state that depends on — and in some cases, embraces — government stimulus to keep the economy moving.

Exhibit A: Federal military dollars. The $58 billion defense industry is about 10 percent of the state’s economy, one of the largest shares in the country. Federal military money flowing to Florida nearly tripled over the last decade. And while other states lost military jobs during the Pentagon’s 2005 round of base realignment, Florida came out ahead.

Now, Florida officials — including the Republican leadership — are viewing with alarm the budget impasse in Congress, which could trigger up to $500 billion in automatic cuts to military spending in 2013 if it’s not resolved. According to the Florida League of Defense Contractors, that could throw more than 40,000 Floridians out of work.

Faced with the prospect of lost federal military dollars for Florida, deficit hawk Rep. Allen West, a Republican representing Florida’s 22nd district, said this month that the defense budget should be a “sacred cow” immune from cuts.

Florida’s precarious reliance on federal spending was also highlighted by the announcement that NASA’s space shuttle program was coming to an end. According to USA Today, the Space Coast  — centered around the Kennedy Space Center — is bracing for an “economic meltdown” with the demise of the shuttle program. Melissa Stains, head of the Cocoa Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce, says 25,000 people will take a hit by the time it’s over.

Even Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who in his zeal to slash government closed a state hospital in the midst of the worst tuberculosis outbreak in 20 years, understands the government-driven space economy’s importance. In spring 2012, he signed a bill expanding eligibility for public funding of space-related projects, saying:

With more than 2,000 aviation and aerospace companies employing more than 83,000 workers in Florida, there’s no denying how important the space industry is to our economy … This bill is important to Florida’s space industry and I applaud the bill sponsors and Space Florida for making it a priority.

And even while Florida’s Republican leaders have pushed hard to slash state and local government jobs — altogether, about 45,000 positions were cut between January 2008 and April 2012 — much of the fiery rhetoric is just grandstanding.

Although Republicans have dominated state government for the last 25 years — including all but eight years in the governor’s mansion — the percentage of Florida workers employed by state and local government has gone down by only one percentage point between 1990 and 2012, from 16 to 15 percent, according to state records.

FUNDING THE ANTI-GOVERNMENT MANTRA

Florida’s dependence on public spending hasn’t stopped leading conservatives — especially those with deep pockets — from aggressively pushing an anti-government agenda in the state. Two hours south of Tampa, at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Meyers, the 250+ economics and finance majors coming to campus this fall will get a copy of Ayn Rand’s novel, “Atlas Shrugged.”

The book is just one part of a well-funded program at the school to promote “free-market capitalism” in general, and Rand’s views in particular. Six faculty positions for pro-market scholars are funded, as are numerous events and classes.

And best of all for Florida Gulf Coast University, which like many universities has faced funding cuts, these programs are almost entirely supported by wealthy conservative philanthropists. Supporters have included the BB&T Foundation, led by former CEO John Allison, who in 2008 said they had made 37 grants to colleges totalling $38 million to promote Ayn Rand’s thought.

Allison now leads the libertarian Cato Institute, which recently emerged from an internal battle involving its biggest funders, right-wing billionaires Charles and David Koch. The FGCU conservative scholars have also garnered support from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation; the 2009-2010 annual report [pdf] even lists a “Koch Movie Night” as among its activities.

At Florida State University in Tallahassee, newspapers last year uncovered the terms of a $1.5 million gift the Kochs had made to the school. It not only made Rand required reading, but also mandated that the Kochs be allowed to appoint an advisory committee that would vet potential hires, and threatened to pull funding if the hired faculty didn’t meet Koch’s free-market “objectives.” Koch rejected 60% of the faculty’s suggestions during the first round of hires in 2009.

Meanwhile, this week Florida officials again contemplated the grim prospects of dried-up federal spending if the congressionally-mandated cuts go through. According to one estimate, the total impact on military and other industries could be more than 80,000 jobs lost.

As Dan Stohr of the Aerospace Industries Association told WPTV in West Palm Beach:

The jobs lost will not just be in industry but rather on Main Street. A lot of these small companies don’t have the cash reserves to survive significant reductions in spending. So, they’ll shut their businesses or move elsewhere if they have to.

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4 million Southerners disenfranchised by voting restrictions http://likethedew.com/2012/07/21/4-million-southerners-disenfranchised-by-voting-restrictions/ http://likethedew.com/2012/07/21/4-million-southerners-disenfranchised-by-voting-restrictions/#comments Sat, 21 Jul 2012 13:09:04 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=40869 Over the last year, the spread of voter photo ID laws and other new voting restrictions have earned widsepread attention from election watchdogs and the media. But one important issue has largely escaped public scrutiny: the large number of citizens blocked from voting due to a past felony conviction.

In part, the lack of attention to felon disenfranchisement laws has been due to a dearth of fresh data.

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STATE-LEVEL ESTIMATES OF FELON DISENFRANCHISEMENT IN THE UNITED STATES, 2010

Over the last year, the spread of voter photo ID laws and other new voting restrictions have earned widsepread attention from election watchdogs and the media. But one important issue has largely escaped public scrutiny: the large number of citizens blocked from voting due to a past felony conviction.

In part, the lack of attention to felon disenfranchisement laws has been due to a dearth of fresh data. That changed last week, when the D.C.-based Sentencing Project, a criminal justice reform group, released a new report on the impact of disenfranchisement laws in each state.

As covered before in Facing South, felon disenfranchisement laws have always had a unique history in the South, where they were used as a form of political control over newly-freed African-Americans.

That legacy lives on today: According to Sentencing Project data, more than 4.15 million Southerners are denied voting rights due to felony disenfranchisement. That’s five percent of the total Southern electorate, and more than 70 percent of the 5.85 million voters nationally barred from voting by such laws.

The racial legacy lives on, too: Nearly 12 percent of black voters in Southern states are barred from casting a ballot due to felon disenfranchisement laws. In Florida, Kentucky and Virginia, more than 20 percent of African-Americans are denied the franchise.

Laws denying ex-felons the vote unquestionably have an impact on election results. While many Democrats blame the outcome of the Florida 2000 election on Ralph Nader’s 97,421 votes, a bigger factor was the 827,000 voters — disproportionately African-American and Democratic-leaning — blocked under the state’s disenfranchisement law.

That could be the case again in 2012. In Florida, for example, former GOP governor Charlie Crist famously relaxed the state’s prohibitions on ex-felon voting. But in 2011, Republican Gov. Rick Scott reversed course, ordering a five-year waiting period before voting rights can be restored.

Today, one in 10 eligible Florida citizens are banned from voting under the laws — the highest disenfranchisement rate in the nation, and a huge swath of the electorate in one of the country’s biggest battleground states.

Read a full copy of The Sentencing Project report here [pdf].

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The fallout of the Supreme Court’s health care ruling in the South http://likethedew.com/2012/06/28/fallout-of-supreme-court/ http://likethedew.com/2012/06/28/fallout-of-supreme-court/#comments Thu, 28 Jun 2012 20:06:06 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=40369 The Supreme Court's closely-watched 5-4 decision upholding the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration's signature health care reform initiative, has sent shock waves through state legislatures that will carry it out.

The fallout from the ruling will be especially interesting to watch in Southern states, which have some of the highest rates of uninsured people -- as well as lawmakers who have been some of the Act's most vociferous critics.

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The Supreme Court’s closely-watched 5-4 decision upholding the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration’s signature health care reform initiative, has sent shock waves through state legislatures that will carry it out.

The fallout from the ruling will be especially interesting to watch in Southern states, which have some of the highest rates of uninsured people — as well as lawmakers who have been some of the Act’s most vociferous critics.

Here’s a survey of where Southern states stand and the reaction of state lawmakers and candidates (source unless otherwise noted is Associated Press):

ALABAMA

Number of uninsured: 720,000 state residents are uninsured, or about 15.4 percent.

Where Alabama stood before Supreme Court decision: Republican Gov. Robert Bentley created a commission in 2011 to recommend a plan for a health insurance exchange, but he successfully opposed efforts to enact one in May. Critics said the bill would have limited the exchange to companies operating statewide.

Reaction to Supreme Court ruling: Statement from Gov. Robert Bentley:

I am deeply disappointed by today’s Supreme Court decision. The health care law is an overreach by the federal government that creates more regulation, bureaucracy, and a dramatic increase in costs to taxpayers … The ACA is the single worst piece of legislation to come out of Congress. This law must be repealed. People need more choices, not fewer choices. Bigger government is not the answer. Market-based solutions are the best solutions to giving the public the most affordable options.

ARKANSAS

Number of uninsured: 539,000 state residents are uninsured, or about 19 percent.

Where Arkansas stood before Supreme Court decision: Arkansas opted for a federal-state partnership for its health insurance marketplace. Legislators blocked a bill by which the state would have created its own insurance exchange but have since accepted a grant that will allow it to at least have a role in the federally created exchange.

Reaction to Supreme Court ruling: Statement from Gov. Mike Bebe (D):

We will study the impact the Court’s ruling will have on health care in Arkansas going forward. In the mean time, our separate initiative to create cost savings and improve health care in Arkansas continues. Our aim is to set an example other states can follow, regardless of what transpires next in Washington, D.C.

Reactions of other Arkansas lawmakers here.

FLORIDA

Number of uninsured: 3.85 million Floridians are uninsured, or about 21 percent.

Where state stood before Supreme Court decision: On Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s orders, Florida rejected or declined to pursue more than $106 million of money for implementing the law and has returned $4.5 million. That state has its own health insurance exchanges, but without an individual mandate, and has not implemented an exchage that would meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

Reaction to Supreme Court ruling: Gov. Scott has reportedly declined to comment on the decision, saying “I need to review it first.” Florida’s Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi said she was “surprised, shocked.”

GEORGIA

Number of uninsured: 1,905,000 state residents are uninsured, or 19 percent.

Where state stood before Supreme Court decision: Georgia has taken no action to implement a health care exchange, and various bills to allow or hinder the state’s carrying out of the bill have failed to pass.

Reaction to Supreme Court ruling: Gov. Nathan Deal (R) has not yet responded; Democrats are pressing that Republicans must be “responsible” and move forward on implementation.

KENTUCKY

Number of uninsured: 640,000 state residents are uninsured, or about 15 percent.

Where Kentucky stood before Supreme Court decision: Kentucky began process of creating statewide health insurance exchange, but Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear was waiting for Supreme Court ruling before moving forward.

Reaction to Supreme Court ruling: No formal statement yet from the governor. U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said the court’s decision was a “road to repeal.”

LOUISIANA

Number of uninsured: 886,000 state residents are uninsured, or about 20 percent.

Where Louisiana stood before Supreme Court decision: Both Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal and Attorney General Buddy Caldwell (R) are on record in opposition to the law, and Louisiana is one of the states challenging it in court.

Reaction to Supreme Court ruling: Statement from Gov. Jindal:

Ironically, the Supreme Court has decided to be far more honest about Obamacare than Obama was. They rightly have called it a tax. Today’s decision is a blow to our freedoms. The Court should have protected our constitutional freedoms, but remember, it was the President that forced this law on us.

The American people did not want or approve of Obamacare then, and they do not now. Americans oppose it because it will decrease the quality of health care in America, raise taxes, cut Medicare, and break the bank. All of this is still true. Republicans must drive hard toward repeal, this is no time to go weak in the knees.

MISSISSIPPI

Number of uninsured: 618,000 state residents are uninsured, or about 21 percent.

Where Mississippi stood before Supreme Court decision: Former Republican Gov. Haley Barbour had originally proposed a state exchange; GOP Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Make Chaney has accepted federal money for setting one up.

Response to Supreme Court decision: No formal statement from Gov. Phil Bryant yet. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, however, was unhappy:

I am extremely disappointed by the decision. However, the Supreme Court has stated plainly what the President and his allies went to great lengths to deny: Obamacare is a tax. In fact, it is a massive tax hike on the American people. Obamacare was bad law yesterday and it’s still bad law today.

Before the ruling, insurance commissioner Chaney reiterated his support for the law, saying “It would create some real instaibility in the market” if the clause requiring coverage of pre-existing conditions was voted down, and saying the state planned to move ahead in creating an exchange whatever the Supreme Court’s ruling.

NORTH CAROLINA

Number of uninsured: 1.57 million state residents are uninsured, or about 17 percent.

Where North Carolina stood before Supreme Court decision: Republicans introduced legislation to prohibit the Act’s individual mandate, but they haven’t been able to overcome exiting Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue’s veto.

Reaction to Supreme Court ruling: No word yet from Gov. Perdue, but Republican gubernatorial hopeful Pat McCrory said in a Tweet that: “Today’s decision by the Supreme Court is disappointing and upholds a law that I believe is the wrong approach for the people of NC.”

SOUTH CAROLINA

Number of uninsured: 930,000 state residents are uninsured, or more than 20 percent.

Where South Carolina stood before Supreme Court decision: South Carolina is among states that sued over the constitutionality of the law, and has not taken any steps to implement exchanges.

Reaction to Supreme Court ruling: Republican Gov. Nikky Haley said “how we take care of South Carolinians … is not the way they take care of Texans, it’s not the way they take care of Californians. If D.C. would let us do our job, we would spend less money.” Other reactions here.

TENNESSEE

Number of uninsured: 930,000 people are uninsured, or about 15 percent.

Where Tennessee stood before Supreme Court decision: Tennessee began creating a health insurance exchange, but will have to wait until legislature returns in 2013 to complete the process.

Reaction to Supreme Court ruling: Gov. Bill Haslam (R) stated:

We will review the entire Supreme Court’s opinion to fully understand its impact on the State of Tennessee. From initial reports, it appears the individual mandate has been ruled Constitutional and has been upheld.

My primary issues with ObamaCare are that it takes away the flexibility for states to encourage healthy behavior, will cost Tennessee hundreds of millions of dollars, and does nothing to solve the crisis of the cost of health care in America.

Haslam ended with a partisan rallying cry: “Now it is up to Tennesseans and Americans to turn their attention to the November election. By electing Mitt Romney, we can be sure that the entire law will be repealed.”

TEXAS

Number of uninsured: About 6.2 million, or about 25 percent

Where Texas stood before Supreme Court decision: Gov. Rick Perry (R) and Texas have vehemently opposed the law, joining the lawsuit against it and declining to implement a health care exchange.

Reaction to Supreme Court ruling: Gov. Perry said the ruling “will be a stomach punch to the American economy” and called it “a shocking disappointment to freedom-loving Americans desperate to get our country back on track.” His statement further said:

Obamacare is bad for the economy, bad for health care, bad for freedom. Americans have made clear their overwhelming opposition to its convoluted, burdensome and overreaching mandates … Freedom was frontally attacked by passage of this monstrosity – and the Court utterly failed in its duty to uphold the Constitutional limits placed on Washington,” Perry said. “Now that the Supreme Court has abandoned us, we citizens must take action at every level of government and demand real reform, done with respect for our Constitution and our liberty.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) was much less pessimistic, calling the ruling “an historic victory for individual liberty, states’ rights, and limited government.”

VIRGINIA

Number of uninsured: 1.1 million state residents are uninsured, or about 14 percent.

Where Virginia stood before Supreme Court decision: Virginia officials have stated that they intend to create a health care exchange, but Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell has not acted on recommendations from an advisory council.

Reaction to Supreme Court ruling: Gov. McDonnell called the decision “a bad ruling for the American people.” Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R), the first state attorney general to file suit over the law, was even more bleak:

This is a dark day for the American people, the Constitution, and the rule of law. This is a dark day for American liberty.

More Virginia reactions here.

WEST VIRGINIA

Number of uninsured: 244,000 state residents are uninsured, or about 13.5 percent.

Where West Virginia stood before Supreme Court decision: West Virginia had enacted legislation allowing for a state-run health care exchange, but was waiting for Supreme Court decision before setting it up.

Reaction to Supreme Court ruling: Statements still being collected.*

Stay tuned for further updates.

* An earlier version of this story mid-identified the governor of West Virginia, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

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Firings at Alabama Public Television highlight state attacks on public media http://likethedew.com/2012/06/15/firings-at-alabama-public-television-highlight-state-attacks-on-public-media/ http://likethedew.com/2012/06/15/firings-at-alabama-public-television-highlight-state-attacks-on-public-media/#respond Fri, 15 Jun 2012 18:57:07 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=40081 This week, the board of the Alabama Educational Television Commission came out of an executive session and made a surprise announcement: Alabama Public Television veteran broadcaster Allan Pizzato and his deputy Pauline Howland were to clean out their desks and leave the station's Birmingham offices immediately.

According to a report in Current, a blog about public media, no explanation was given for the dismissals. Howland said she was "baffled." Pizzato merely offered there was an "irreconcilable difference in opinion of the future direction of the station."

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This week, the board of the Alabama Educational Television Commission came out of an executive session and made a surprise announcement: Alabama Public Television veteran broadcaster Allan Pizzato and his deputy Pauline Howland were to clean out their desks and leave the station’s Birmingham offices immediately.

According to a report in Current, a blog about public media, no explanation was given for the dismissals. Howland said she was “baffled.” Pizzato merely offered there was an “irreconcilable difference in opinion of the future direction of the station.”

But there were at least two plot lines behind firings. One is controversy at the station over a Christian evangelical series of videos that Commission members wanted to air over the concerns of Pizzato and other staff.

In April, AETC commissioner Rodney Herring — a chiropractor appointed by former Republican Gov. Bob Riley in December 2010 — reportedly suggested to the TV station staff that they air The American Heritage Series, a 10-part program by Texas-based evangelical David Barton’s group WallBuilders LLC.

The WallBuilders series offers a revisionist version of U.S. history that “presents America’s forgotten history and heroes, emphasizing the moral, religious and constitutional foundation on which America was built.” The front page of the group’s website features right-wing polemics like “EPA power grab to regulate ditches, gullies on private property” and “Is it time to think about home schooling your child?”

Pizzato and the APT staff had “grave concerns” that the fundamentalist series was inappropriate due to its religious nature, which violates their broadcasting license. The AETC commissioners had planned to discuss the controversy at their meeting this week, but dropped the issue after deciding to fire the directors.

The firings also came amidst a broader crisis in public media in Alabama and other states. In recent years, state legislatures have slashed public broadcasting budgets, in some cases eliminating them entirely.

Map of state budget cuts to public media, from Free Press and SaveTheNews.org
Map of state budget cuts to public media, from Free Press and SaveTheNews.org. For a larger version, click here.

Since 2008, Alabama has cut its appropriation for Alabama Public Television in half. As Current reports:

Last summer APT shut its state capital bureau, suspended production of its political roundtable, Capitol Journal, and laid off 19 staffers. APT also scaled back operations at its Huntsville station and ended production of its music series, We Have Signal.

Alabama isn’t alone. A November 2011 report by Free Press and SaveTheNews.org found that states have slashed $202 million from public broadcasting since 2008, including $30 million for 2012 alone.

As the map above shows, nine Southern states have had their public media budgets cut. In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott pushed to completely eliminate the state’s support for public broadcasting; when the Republican legislature proposed more modest cuts, he vetoed the measure and moved forward with zeroing out the public media budget.

In Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina and Virginia, the cuts have amounted to 40 percent or more of the total public broadcasting budgets in the state. In Georgia, Louisiana and North Carolina, the cuts have equaled 20 percent or more of operating budgets.

As the Alabama case illustrates, it’s not just money that’s at stake. After taking office in South Carolina in 2011, Gov. Nikki Haley (R) proposed eliminating the entire state appropriation for S.C. Educational Television (ETV). That provoked “open rebellion” in the GOP-led legislature, which fought to preserve a smaller amount of funding. But Haley also replaced every member of ETV’s board, installing her own political appointees.

Despite these assaults, public broadcasting remains popular: Together, public media outlets have an audience of more than 170 million. And as Free Press and SaveTheNews.org argue, they will need those listeners to make their voices heard if public media is to survive the current crisis:

Without [a] coordinated effort, it will be incredibly difficult in the coming years to restore state funding and advocate for increased federal funding. Budget cuts have begun to erode stations’ ability to provide local news and cultural programming and have hindered their structural capacity to reach rural and low-income listeners. The effects of these cuts could be permanent. Our public broadcasting system represents a historic public trust, a commitment to ensure that all citizens have access to the news and information they need. In the face of these threats, we need to rebuild that trust together, and help usher in the next generation of public media.

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Voting Rights Act survives court test, but how long will it last? http://likethedew.com/2012/05/27/voting-rights-act-survives-court-test-but-how-long-will-it-last/ http://likethedew.com/2012/05/27/voting-rights-act-survives-court-test-but-how-long-will-it-last/#comments Sun, 27 May 2012 18:08:39 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=39549 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.

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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.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965 while Martin Luther King and others look on. (Yoichi R. Okamoto)
President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965 while Martin Luther King and others look on. (Yoichi R. Okamoto)

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.

A product of civil rights movement pressure, Section 5 was instantly challenged in court by the state of South Carolina, with one of the key arguments being that they were being unfairly singled out. The Supreme Court responded in 1966 with an opinion upholding the idea targeting certain states and counties, with Chief Justice Earl Warren writing that “an insidious and pervasive evil … had been perpetuated in certain parts of our country.”

Sensing that targeting certain areas for court scrutiny of elections would invite a backlash, in 1965 Congress insisted that Section 5 should be reviewed every few years to see if it was still needed. In the last such review in 2006, the U.S. House voted 390-33, and the Senate 98-0, to extend the Act, citing evidence that significant barriers to voting still existed.

But that hasn’t stopped a steady series of legal challenges to the Act and Section 5, even though the Department of Justice had been steadily decreasing the number of times it blocked election changes on VRA grounds. A 2006 report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights found that DOJ had objected in only .1 percent of cases brought before them [pdf].

In 2009 in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder, the Supreme Court ruled the Texas district should have greater capability to be exempted from the Act. In 2010, two more jurisdictions — Kings Mountain, North Carolina and Sandy Springs, Georgia — successfully got exemptions, or were “bailed out,” from the Act.

Each challenge has not only sought exemptions for their district, but has also raised the constitutionality of Section 5’s pre-clearance provisions, which the Supreme Court seems increasingly interested in engaging.

But last week, the D.C. appeals court’s ruling upheld Congress’ decision to renew the Act in 2006, saying the Constitution “entrust[s] Congress with ensuring that the right to vote – surely among the most important guarantees of political liberty in the Constitution – is not abridged on account of race.”

Key to Circuit Judge David Tatel’s opinion was looking at the 15,000-page record Congress accumulated in 2006 to show that “a pattern of racial discrimination in voting so serious and widespread that case-by-case litigation is inadequate.”

In his dissent, however, Judge Williams outlined the line of attack that may be used to ultimately strike down Section 5. As Williams wrote:

Why should voter ID laws from South Carolina and Texas be judged by different criteria (at a minimum, a different burden of persuasion, which is often critical in cases involving competing predictions of effect) 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.

Acknowledging that “It goes without saying that racism persists,” Williams argued that the formula for deciding which states, counties and other jurisdictions are covered was “obsolete.” But the only way to update the formula would be through an act of Congress — something increasingly unlikely to be resolved in the current divided House and Senate.

As election law expert Rick Hasen notes:

Judge Williams has provided a way for the conservatives on the Supreme Court to end Section 5 without having to declare that it would necessarily be unconstitutional if Congress tweaked it. And of course in this Congress there would not be a revised section 5.

If, as expected, Shelby County v Holder is quickly appealed, it will be up for review by the Supreme Court in its next session starting October 2012, with a decision likely by June 2013. In the words of legal scholar Doug Chapin, “It is now a virtual certainty that the Court’s next term (beginning in October 2012) will see the most significant effort to date to end Section 5.”

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Latino, black political clout grows in Florida and North Carolina http://likethedew.com/2012/05/21/latino-black-political-clout-grows-in-florida-and-north-carolina/ http://likethedew.com/2012/05/21/latino-black-political-clout-grows-in-florida-and-north-carolina/#respond Mon, 21 May 2012 22:31:44 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=39400 The face of the Southern electorate is changing, and perhaps nowhere is the shift clearer than Florida and North Carolina. In the two critical battleground states, the share of white voters has shrunk since the last presidential election in 2008, and the number of African-American, Latino and other people of color voters has steadily grown.

But while the numbers show key Southern states continue to move towards an increasingly diverse electorate, new voting restrictions could undermine its political potential.

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The face of the Southern electorate is changing, and perhaps nowhere is the shift clearer than Florida and North Carolina. In the two critical battleground states, the share of white voters has shrunk since the last presidential election in 2008, and the number of African-American, Latino and other people of color voters has steadily grown.

But while the numbers show key Southern states continue to move towards an increasingly diverse electorate, new voting restrictions could undermine its political potential.

According to a Facing South analysis of state voter registration data, the change has been fastest in North Carolina, where the percentage of voters who identify as Hispanic doubled between 2008 and 2012.

Even more striking, the share of the N.C. electorate falling into the category of “other” — those who don’t identify as white, black, Hispanic or American Indian, which often includes Asian-Americans, Hispanics and multi-racial voters — rose by 252 percent.

Overall, the total number of voters in North Carolina not identifying as white has grown by 5.6 percent over the last four years, bringing their share of the electorate to 29 percent. The following chart shows how the North Carolina voting population has shifted between March 2008 and May 2012:

That growth has brought North Carolina remarkably close to Florida, where people of color voters grew a more modest 2.2 percent between July 2008 and January 2012, but still represent 30 percent of all registered voters.

The following chart shows how Florida’s electorate changed between July 2008, the time of Florida’s general primary, and January 2012, when it held its presidential preference primary:

In Florida, the January 2012 data misses new voters who have registered in the last four months, which may slightly change the results.

The smaller growth in registration black, Latino and other communities of color in Florida since 2008 likely results from a variety of factors, including differences in the changing demographics of the states themselves.

But one influence could also be the sweeping new restrictions on voter registration, which caused the League of Women Voters to cease registration drives entirely and are still undergoing court review.

In March 2012, The New York Times — drawing on analysis by University of Florida political scientist Daniel Smith — found that in the first eight months the state’s new laws were in effect, 81,000 fewer new voters were added to the registration rolls compared with the same period four years earlier.

Voting and civil rights advocates argued that the restrictions on voting registration drives would hit African-American and Latino voters the hardest. As the Brennan Center and others have shown, black and Latino voters are more than twice as likely to register through such drives as white voters.

Other voting changes like voter ID bills — passed in Florida and likely on the agenda for North Carolina Republicans in the current legislative session — limits on early voting, and pushes to end Sunday “Souls to the Polls” turnout drives could also disproportionately impact these groups’ ability to exercise their political clout.

The upshot: The shifting demographics and emergence of a New Majority in the South is an unmistakable reality — but politicians can do a lot to blunt their political impact.

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What happened in NC? Lessons from the amendment battle http://likethedew.com/2012/05/11/what-happened-in-north-carolina-lessons-from-the-amendment-battle/ http://likethedew.com/2012/05/11/what-happened-in-north-carolina-lessons-from-the-amendment-battle/#comments Fri, 11 May 2012 19:25:05 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=39220 As expected, North Carolina voters passed a constitutional amendment yesterday stating “Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized."

Polls had always shown the amendment had majority support, and across the country, even the most progressive states -- think California -- have tended to pass such measures.

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Vote Your MarriageAs expected, North Carolina voters passed a constitutional amendment yesterday stating “Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized.”

Polls had always shown the amendment had majority support, and across the country, even the most progressive states — think California — have tended to pass such measures.

But the amendment passed by an even larger margin than projected, 61 to 39 percent. And given that a blue-trending state like North Carolina has now gone against the national trend of states accepting gay marriage, the question remains: What happened in North Carolina?

Here are some quick takeaways from the amendment battle:

1) IT DOESN’T TAKE MUCH TO CHANGE THE CONSTITUTION

On May 8, just over 20 percent of North Carolina’s registered voters cast a ballot in support of the amendment — the lowest support of any amendment that’s passed in Southern states. To put it another way, 14 percent of North Carolina’s population decided the fate of all of the state’s families.

Marriage Amendment Votes

How did that happen? It started in June 2011, when a Republican state legislator was accidentally caught on a live microphone telling GOP lawmakers they needed the amendment to “get their ground game working” for November 2012. The embarrassing admission that the amendment was about turnout and politics and not morality forced Republicans to offer a compromise — which enough Democrats accepted — of moving the amendment vote to the primary.

Moving the vote helped Republicans defuse the scandal and may help Democrats this November. But it likely doomed chances of defeating the amendment: Primary voters tend to be older; nearly 50 percent of early voters on May 8 were 60 or older, the demographic least sympathetic to gay marriage and civil unions. In primaries, groups with established turnout vehicles — like evangelical churches — also have a ready-made advantage.

2) THE POWER OF CONFUSION

Supporters of the amendment benefited greatly from confusion about what the measure actually does. An April 2012 poll by Public Policy Polling [pdf] infamously found that only 36 percent knew it would ban both gay marriage and civil unions; another 27 percent admitted they didn’t know what the amendment would do, and a striking 10 percent actually thought it legalized gay marriage).

This was significant, because that and other polls [pdf] found that a majority of North Carolina voters supported civil unions, as in other states. In 2006, Arizona voters defeated a proposition that prohibited both gay marriage and domestic partnerships, like the N.C. amendment does. A bill focused just on gay marriage passed in Arizona two years later.

Pro-amendment groups like Vote for Marriage NC knew this, which is why they focused all of their campaign messaging around the dangers of “same-sex” unions. Many media outlets went along, slow to grasp the broader consequences of the bill and describing it largely in the shorthand of only gay marriage — a bias that benefited pro-amendment forces.

The focus on gay marriage alone also drowned out the work of scholars like UNC’s Maxine Eichner, which broke ground in documenting the unintended consequences of sweeping anti-domestic partnership bills.

3) A DIVIDED NORTH CAROLINA

In the end, just eight counties — four centered around the Triangle progressive stronghold — voted against the amendment. This map from WRAL in Raleigh tells the story:*

Amendment Vote Map

True, those counties — defined by cities and college towns — are where more than a quarter of North Carolina lives, which is the reason anti-amendment forces focused on mobilizing their base in these areas.

But the amendment found support in counties that were older, less urban and less diverse. Democratic consultant Gary Pearce sees the other key fault line as decisive: faith.

As he wrote before the vote:

If you live in a city, you might miss [the influence of evangelical Christians]. And it’s not that opponents of the amendment aren’t religious. Some surely aren’t “churched,” but those who go to church tend toward a belief system that emphasizes fairness and tolerance. “Fundamentalists” care more about order, tradition and morality. This moral conservatism runs deep in North Carolina’s political DNA. You have to understand that to understand what’s apparently about to happen.

Conservative evangelical groups — with support from GOP uber-donor Art Pope — had been rallying their church base around an anti-gay marriage/civil union amendment for nearly a decade. The 2010 Republican capture of the N.C. legislature finally gave amendment supporters the opening they needed, and a lower-turnout primary election was tailor-made for an election where having a reliable and easy-to-mobilize base could guarantee victory.

4) A GALVANIZING MOMENT

North Carolina’s amendment passed by a larger margin than expected, but given the odds in its favor, it’s remarkable it didn’t win by a larger margin.

Anti-amendment forces, under the umbrella of the Coalition to Protect NC Families, built a formidable operation and remarkable coalitions in a short period of time.

Especially notable was the leadership of Rev. William Barber of the NAACP — only the second state chapter to take leadership on such an amendment fight (California was the other). Barber joined the fight early and rallied African-American ministers and communities statewide, the NAACP’s efforts complemented by organizing help from groups like All of US North Carolina.

The anti-amendment campaign faced the inevitable tensions and dilemmas, and a loss always invites second-guessing: How much of the message should focus on the amendment’s attack on gay families, the amendment’s clear target, versus the collateral damage to non-gay couples, a message with broader appeal? How much to focus on mobilizing sure supporters versus “persuadables” in the middle? More money for TV ads or grassroots organizing?

What the anti-amendment campaign definitely created is a stronger network of groups who have now gone through a bruising battle together and will emerge stronger to tackle future challenges, like the November elections.

Indeed, a law that was designed to pump up GOP turnout has ironically helped energize, coordinate and strengthen work among progressive groups in North Carolina, something which blogger (and Institute for Southern Studies board member) Pam Spaulding says will have impact far beyond Amendment One:

Building the coalition — assembling the diverse partners involved in this battle has been quite a handful, and it has paid off in dividends. The social justice infrastructure that has grown and been extended and is highly visible now — this can have lasting political repercussions for progressive politics in North Carolina — and that helps the equality movement nationally in the end.

* Here’s an even better map by Jay Cagle showing the varying level of support among NC counties:

 

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Southern Super PAC Tuesday: Who got the most for their campaign cash? http://likethedew.com/2012/03/08/southern-super-pac-tuesday-who-got-the-most-for-their-campaign-cash/ http://likethedew.com/2012/03/08/southern-super-pac-tuesday-who-got-the-most-for-their-campaign-cash/#comments Thu, 08 Mar 2012 08:28:39 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=37751 On Super Tuesday, the South was divided.

Each Southern state picked a different Republican presidential hopeful, with Georgia going to home-state favorite Newt Gingrich; Tennessee's religious conservatives handing a victory to Rick Santorum; and Mitt Romney taking Virginia -- thanks largely to the fact that Gingrich and Santorum weren't on the ballot.

Aside from the size of Santorum's victory in Tennessee -- 37.3 percent of the vote, for 25 of the state's 46 delegates -- none of Super Tuesday's results were a big surprise.

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On Super Tuesday, the South was divided.

mitt romneyEach Southern state picked a different Republican presidential hopeful, with Georgia going to home-state favorite Newt Gingrich; Tennessee’s religious conservatives handing a victory to Rick Santorum; and Mitt Romney taking Virginia — thanks largely to the fact that Gingrich and Santorum weren’t on the ballot.

Aside from the size of Santorum’s victory in Tennessee — 37.3 percent of the vote, for 25 of the state’s 46 delegates — none of Super Tuesday’s results were a big surprise. (Even that was to be expected once exit polls revealed that more than 70 percent of GOP primary voters identified as born-again or evangelical Christians.)

And in the end, none of the contests will likely change the fact that delegate math still favors Romney winning the nomination.

But that didn’t stop Super PACs associated with the GOP presidential candidates from pouring more than $5 million into the three states. But how useful was the Super PAC cash to each candidate?

Georgia, which had the most delegates at stake (78), has also seen the most Super PAC money spent by the presidential candidate-linked PACs. According to the Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group, more than $2.6 million came into Georgia before the primary from two sources: Winning Our Future, a PAC supporting Newt Gingrich, and the pro-Romney Restore Our Future.

For both PACs, the Georgia spending had downsides: For the pro-Gingrich PAC, the fact that they were forced to spend $1.1 million in a state where he was already heavily favored; for the pro-Romney PAC, the reality that $1.5 million only garnered their candidate 25.7 percent of the vote.

In Tennessee, the return on Super PAC investment was even more lopsided. The bulk of the more than $2.3 million spent came through the pro-Romney Restore Our Future (about $1.45 million), compared to $728,000 from Winning our Future and just $160,000 from the pro-Santorum Red, White and Blue Fund.

But in the end, Romney claimed 28 percent of the Tennessee GOP primary, with Gingrich coming in third with 24 percent.

Here’s a complete chart looking at who spent money where and how that compares to the final vote:

        Whatever the payoff in individual races, candidates and their allies (non-coordinated, of course) see the value in having a big Super PAC war chest: The Center for Public Intergrity reports that total Super PAC spending for the 2012 presidential hopefuls has eclipsed $66 million — already more than all of these groups spent in 2010.

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How the South Carolina “dead voters” hoax collapsed http://likethedew.com/2012/02/26/how-the-south-carolina-dead-voters-hoax-collapsed/ http://likethedew.com/2012/02/26/how-the-south-carolina-dead-voters-hoax-collapsed/#respond Sun, 26 Feb 2012 09:25:17 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=37340 Last month, officials in South Carolina, facing resistance from the Department of Justice to their new voter ID law, concocted a ghoulish tale of dead voters taking over the state's elections.

As was suspected from the beginning, the fevered stories of "zombie voters" turned out to be fantasy. This week, state elections officials reviewed 207 of the supposed 950 cases of dead people voting, and couldn't confirm fraud in any of them.

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Last month, officials in South Carolina, facing resistance from the Department of Justice to their new voter ID law, concocted a ghoulish tale of dead voters taking over the state’s elections.

As was suspected from the beginning, the fevered stories of “zombie voters” turned out to be fantasy. This week, state elections officials reviewed 207 of the supposed 950 cases of dead people voting, and couldn’t confirm fraud in any of them. 106 stemmed from clerical errors at the polls, and another 56 involved bad data — the usual culprits when claims of dead voters have surfaced in the past.

So the question is, how did this cheap B-movie fiction make it into the public debate in the first place?

It started in 2011, when the state legislature passed, and the governor signed, a stringent voter photo ID requirement over the objections of civil rights and voting advocates. An Associated Press investigation found that those at the greatest risk of being disenfranchised were African-American voters, who were more likely to not have the necessary ID.

This helped push the Department of Justice to block South Carolina’s law under the Voting Rights Act. As Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez wrote in a December 23, 2011 letter:

“[M]inority registered voters were nearly 20% more likely to lack DMV-issued ID than white registered voters, and thus be effectively disenfranchised by” the law’s requirements.

Just three weeks later, State Department of Motor Vehicles director Kevin Shwedo, a career military man installed at DMV by GOP Gov. Nikki Haley in 2011, delivered shocking testimony to a S.C. House hearing. He had compared voting records with death records in South Carolina, and found 956 discrepencies.

Shwedo was so alarmed by this discovery that he sent his findings to the State Law Enforcement Division. South Carolina’s first-term Republican Attorney General Alan Wilson eagerly took up the case, reporting that his office was investigating the 900-plus cases.

Zombie voter hysteria exploded. The same day as Shwedo’s testimony, Lou Dobbs at Fox made it a national sensation, claiming that new research “shows that more than 900 people — dead people — appeared to have voted in recent elections in South Carolina.”

Fox News — which had already come to the defense of South Carolina’s ID law in early January — went on to invite Wilson on the show to highlight his claims and featured the story again on their Straight News program.

Back in South Carolina, lawmakers seized on the story as proof of the need for voter ID. Advocates of voting restrictions in states like North Carolina did the same.

But South Carolina’s screamer of a democracy horror story began to unravel almost as soon as it began. Curiously, when the State Election Commission asked for the list of supposed zombie voters, the Attorney General’s office gave them only six names.

By early February, the election officials were able to confirm all of the voters were legitimate: five were very much alive, and one had voted before dying. Clerical errors were blamed.

But Fox News was undeterred: In a February 14 dispatch, the network was still reporting that more than 900 votes were “stolen” in South Carolina by dead voters.

Even as the story lost credibility, South Carolina officials dug in; analysis of the rest of the cases would surely vindicate their findings.

But the opposite happened: The State Election Commission, which had been strangely left out of Shwedo’s evidence-gathering process and had questioned the findings from the beginning, released a report this week [pdf] that was unequivocal in its findings:

In 197 of [the 207 cases examined], the records show no indication of votes being cast fraudulently in the name of deceased voters. Research found each of these cases to be the result of clerical errors, bad data matching, errors in assigning voter participation, or voters dying after being issued an absentee ballot. In 10 cases, the records were insufficient to make a determination.

What about the rest of the cases? As Corey Hutchins of the Columbia Free Times — who has provided excellent coverage of the story from the beginning — reports, it would take more than 1,000 employee hours for the small staff of 15 to investigate them all.

Despite the cost and that the conclusion will likely be the same as before, South Carolina Republicans aren’t swayed. As NPR reports:

The state attorney general’s office in South Carolina said in a statement Thursday afternoon that the question of “dead” voters is still being investigated by the State Law Enforcement Division and that no “final answer to this problem” can be determined until that investigation is concluded.

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Voter ID coming to North Carolina? http://likethedew.com/2012/02/22/voter-id-coming-to-north-carolina/ http://likethedew.com/2012/02/22/voter-id-coming-to-north-carolina/#respond Wed, 22 Feb 2012 06:25:32 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=37159 Last year, North Carolina was one of several states where Republican state leaders aggressively pushed -- and passed -- a voter ID law. But the move prompted a backlash from civil rights and election watchdog groups, resulting in a veto by Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue.

Ever since, Republicans have been threatening to override the veto. In fact, fear of a vote that could push through the voter ID bill -- maybe even during a surprise vote, like one held at midnight in January targeting teachers' unions -- was one of the reasons behind a 70-strong rally at the legislature last week led by Democracy North Carolina and other groups. (Republican N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis had even suggested last year that waiting for a session when Democrats failed to show up would be "the easy way to override" Perdue's veto.)

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Last year, North Carolina was one of several states where Republican state leaders aggressively pushed — and passed — a voter ID law. But the move prompted a backlash from civil rights and election watchdog groups, resulting in a veto by Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue.

Ever since, Republicans have been threatening to override the veto. In fact, fear of a vote that could push through the voter ID bill — maybe even during a surprise vote, like one held at midnight in January targeting teachers’ unions — was one of the reasons behind a 70-strong rally at the legislature last week led by Democracy North Carolina and other groups. (Republican N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis had even suggested last year that waiting for a session when Democrats failed to show up would be “the easy way to override” Perdue’s veto.)

So what’s the future for voter ID in North Carolina?

At the February 16 rally in Raleigh, N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) — who apparently had the peaceful demonstrators removed from the legislative building — told a documentary crew monitoring the event that he “did not anticipate” bringing up voter ID in the General Assembly’s 2012 sessions.

Rep. Tillis further suggested that if there was a vote, it would be over a watered-down “compromise” bill that would allow voters to bring other forms of non-photo ID to the polls.*

But while Rep. Tillis was backpedaling from the voter ID cause, fellow Republican and former House Speaker Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam was sending a different signal. This week, Rep. Stam sent an email inviting supporters to a fundraising reception with prices ranging from $30 to $1,000 a person.

The theme? “Do you want to know the future of voter ID in North Carolina?”

In contrast to Rep. Tillis’ caution, Rep. Stam had stated last week that when Republican Rep. Ric Killian of Charlotte returns from Army reserve duty in Afghanistan, the GOP would have the votes to override Perdue’s voter ID veto.

Even if state Republicans are able to muster the votes needed to override the governor’s veto — and they’ll need several Democrats to go along to succeed — voter ID would still face another obstacle: a newly-emboldened Department of Justice, which has successfully tied up a similar measure in South Carolina on the grounds that it may unfairly impact African-American and Latino voters.

* Here’s the quote from Rep. Thom Tillis on Feb. 16 at the General Assembly, as captured by a video team on the scene:

“I don’t anticipate bringing up for override the current Voter ID Bill, because it’s really split along party lines. But we are talking about something similar to the compromise bill that we considered in committee that had to have the documents not requiring the picture ID, if we think we could get consensus. But we’re going to have a very short session, so it’s going to be extraordinarily difficult to take up any truly controversial bills. We’re going to be out of here by fourth of July, so that more or less limits the scope of what we could take up.”

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Departing Komen VP longtime foe of voting rights advocates http://likethedew.com/2012/02/07/komen-vp-who-opposed-planned-parenthood-a-longtime-foe-of-voting-rights-advocates/ http://likethedew.com/2012/02/07/komen-vp-who-opposed-planned-parenthood-a-longtime-foe-of-voting-rights-advocates/#comments Tue, 07 Feb 2012 09:55:41 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=36573
In the media's search to identify an instigator behind the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure's decision last week -- later reversed -- to sever Planned Parenthood funding, one key player has emerged: Republican and staunch abortion opponent Karen Handel, who became Komen's VP for Public Policy in April 2011.

The latest evidence comes from The Huffington Post, which claims to have viewed internal emails confirming Handel's instigator role, as well as providing this anonymous email from a Komen staffer:

Karen Handel was the prime instigator of this effort, and she herself personally came up with investigation criteria. She said, 'If we just say it's about investigations, we can defund Planned Parenthood and no one can blame us for being political.'

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In the media’s search to identify an instigator behind the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure’s decision last week — later reversed — to sever Planned Parenthood funding, one key player has emerged: Republican and staunch abortion opponent Karen Handel, who became Komen’s VP for Public Policy in April 2011.

The latest evidence comes from The Huffington Post, which claims to have viewed internal emails confirming Handel’s instigator role, as well as providing this anonymous email from a Komen staffer:

Karen Handel was the prime instigator of this effort, and she herself personally came up with investigation criteria. She said, ‘If we just say it’s about investigations, we can defund Planned Parenthood and no one can blame us for being political.’

If true, Handel’s role wouldn’t be surprising. In her unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination for Georgia governor in 2010, Handel ran on an aggressive anti-abortion platform that included attacking her GOP opponent for giving money to Planned Parenthood and promising to cut off funding if she were elected.

Who is Karen Handel? A Republican from Maryland, Handel got her start in politics as deputy chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle’s wife, Marilyn. But her rise to national prominence began in 2006, when she became the first elected Republican secretary of state in Georgia.

Handel’s aggressive changes to Georgia’s election systems provoked a quick backlash. She became a leading figure in the push for a restrictive voter ID bill, which was enmeshed in litigation for more than three years over charges that it disenfranchised African-Americans, Latinos, students and the elderly.

Even more controversially, in 2007 Handel engineered a system to “purge” thousands of Georgia voters who didn’t match Social Security Administration and other government data. The purge system, which a federal panel later ruled had been wrongfully implemented without approval from the Justice Department, identifed more than 200,000 “no match” voters.

But the data was riddled with errors. Misspellings, multiple people with the same name and other flaws generated thousands of “false positives,” with many legitimate voters wrongfully identified — and in some cases removed from the voter rolls.

In the weeks leading into the 2008 elections, Handel stepped up her crusade. Georgia sent letters to 4,770 voters saying their registration was being “challenged.” Handel even went so far as to encourage Georgia residents to challenge the votes of anyone if they doubted their citizenship, a move savaged by voting rights advocates as opening the door to racial profiling and intimidation.

The following year, the Department of Justice ruled that Handel’s no-match law was inaccurate and discriminatory. The DOJ found that by relying of bad data, Georgia may have disenfranchised thousands of perfectly legal voters; according to their analysis:

[Georgia] flagged a large number of persons who have subsequently demonstrated that they are in fact citizens, Indeed, of the 7,007 individuals who have been flagged…as potential non-citizens, more than half were in fact citizens.

The flawed purging was also discriminatory in its impact:

The DOJ also calculated that although blacks and whites made up equal numbers of the newly registered, blacks were flagged 60 percent more than whites. The DOJ similarly found that “Hispanic and Asian individuals are more than twice as likely to appear on the (flagged) list as are white applicants.” In essence the program puts an undue burden on blacks, Hispanics and Asians to prove their citizenship when trying to vote.

Handel’s moves were widely seen as a bungling and heavy-handed in their partisanship; an Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial wrote days before the election, “No matter the outcome of Tuesday’s election, a loser has emerged — Secretary of State Karen Handel.”

Visit the FacingSouth website for some of the region’s best environmental, economic and political reporting.

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Lessons from Florida: Big Money and the New Majority http://likethedew.com/2012/02/02/lessons-from-florida-big-money-and-the-new-majority/ http://likethedew.com/2012/02/02/lessons-from-florida-big-money-and-the-new-majority/#respond Thu, 02 Feb 2012 07:55:20 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=36410 With Florida now perhaps the most important swing state in the country -- 29 Electoral College votes, 11 percent of the magic 270 needed to win the presidency -- analysts are scouring this week's primary results for clues about what it means for November.

Florida offered mixed signals: On one hand, former Gov. Mitt Romney won almost every demographic in a state that has faithfully picked the eventual GOP nominee every year since 1972. On the other, Republican turnout was down 14 percent from 2008 ... But the primaries did clearly highlight the importance of two broader trends: The power of Florida's growing New Majority, and the influence of Big Money.

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With Florida now perhaps the most important swing state in the country — 29 Electoral College votes, 11 percent of the magic 270 needed to win the presidency — analysts are scouring this week’s primary results for clues about what it means for November.

Florida offered mixed signals: On one hand, former Gov. Mitt Romney won almost every demographic in a state that has faithfully picked the eventual GOP nominee every year since 1972. On the other, Republican turnout was down 14 percent from 2008, and Romney had to trade a flurry of high-price attack ads with opponent Newt Gingrich that gave them an increasingly negative tenor.

But the primaries did clearly highlight the importance of two broader trends: The power of Florida’s growing New Majority, and the influence of Big Money.

FLORIDA’S LATINO VOTE(S)

This week, pundits and politicians re-discovered the reality of Florida’s changing demographics. In 2008, 29 percent of Florida’s voting electorate [pdf] were people of color, which combined with young and senior white voters propelled President Obama to victory.

Especially critical was the burgeoning Latino vote, which increased from 15 percent of presidential voters in 2004 to 21 percent in 2008. By one estimate, Latinos/Hispanics today represent just over 19 percent of the state’s eligible voters, with more than 600,000 eligible but not registered.

Immigration policy ended up not being a focus of the GOP’s Florida primary, a sharp departure from South Carolina, where the Republicans ramped up their get-tough-on-immigrants stances, and a tacit acknowledgement of the strength of the Latino vote.

But which Latino vote? As the website Latino Decisions points out, there are at least three distinct Latino electorates in Florida, which has one of the nation’s most diverse Latino/Hispanic populations — a fact often ignored in the pre- and post-primary analysis.

Latino Decisions found big differences between three groups: foreign-born Cubans, U.S.-born Cubans — both clustered in south Florida — and Latinos in the central part of the state, which are more heavily Puerto Rican and other nationalities. Here’s how the different presidential hopefuls fared among these different groups in a pre-primary survey:

These groups also have widely divergent views on whether adding Cuban Sen. Marco Rubio to the GOP ticket — widely-discussed as a potential trump card for Republicans in winning Florida — would encourage them to vote Republican, reversing the 15-point margin Latinos voted for Obama in 2008.

According to the Latino Decisions poll, a Rubio vice president would make foreign-born Cubans 70 percent more likely to vote for the GOP ticket. But the advantage is half that for U.S.-born Cubans and Latinos in the Orlanda/Tampa area; and in the latter group, it would make them 27 percent less likely to vote Republican.

BIG MONEY REIGNS

The Florida primary also pointed to another key force in the 2012 elections: the growing influence of Big Money, especially the much-discussed SuperPACs.

Money wasn’t the only reason Romney won Florida, but its impact was undeniable. Romney and his associated (but non-coordinated!) operations spent $15.4 million on radio and TV ads, compared with $3.7 million from the Gingrich camp.

At some point, the money/advertising assault brings diminishing returns. Comparing the spending figures to actual votes cast, Romney’s votes cost about three times that of Gingrich’s.

But for all the talk about the money-fueled negative campaigns and “gutter politics” — by one estimate, 90 percent of the Florida ads were negative — the Sunshine State showdown also showed that money can ultimately win, especially in a big and media-rich state.

Just how much money is at stake is being revealed this week, as new reports from the outside spending groups — emboldened by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision which loosened rules on corporate and union political spending — are released. Leading the pack so far is American Crossroads/Crossroads GPS, driven by former George W. Bush operative Karl Rove, which reported amassing a war chest of $51 million by the end of 2011.

As The New York Times reports, Republicans are way ahead in the outside money game so far — four of the biggest Democratic groups have raised just $19 million combined. But that doesn’t include Obama’s own re-election committee, which raised a record-setting $650 million for 2008.

Clearly, Big Money will only get bigger in the battle to win Florida this November.

Visit the FacingSouth website for some of the region’s best environmental, economic and political reporting.

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