Judiciary

The Impact of Voter-ID Laws on Voter Turnout

Naomi Shavin in the New Republic, observes that although it may be impossible to pinpoint exactly how many eligible voters were unable to vote Tuesday due to new voter-ID laws, but “millions of Americans were affected by new changes, particularly laws passed after the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act last summer. In Texas alone, the implementation of a new voter-ID law meant that 600,000 registered voters lacked the proper identification.”

“You can get a sense, though, of the scale of voter difficulties from the Election Protection Hotline (866-OUR-VOTE) … The hotline handles calls from voters who need to know if they’re registered, find their assigned polling locations, and report difficulties in their attempts to vote. Yesterday, the national hotline had taken over 16,000 calls by 8 p.m., with 3.5 hours to go until polling ended. (By comparison, the hotline received 12,857 calls all day on Election Day in 2010.)”

“Texas, Georgia, and Florida seemed to be experiencing a particularly problematic Election Day. The hotline took roughly 2,000 calls from each of those states. ”

 

Today is an Important Day for Obamacare

Jonathan Cohn: “The success of Obamacare may hinge more on what the justices of the Supreme Court decide when they meet in private on Friday morning.”

“It’s their regularly scheduled conference … Among the cases they will consider this time is King v. Burwell. If they make a decision one way or another, to take the case or to reject it, they will announce it either Monday or the following Monday.”

“That may explain the timing of an op-ed that appeared in the Washington Post on Thursday. The article made a now-familiar argumentthat Congress never intended to deprive some people of subsidies, just because they lived in states where officials didn’t want to run marketplaces. But the article was noteworthy for who wrote it. The byline had five members of the U.S Congressand not just any old members. They were the chairman of the five committees, two in the Senate and three in the House, that actually wrote the bill. Particularly when it comes to complex legislation like the Affordable Care Act, plenty of lawmakers don’t have a sophisticated understanding of what they are considering. But the chairmen and ranking members of the key committees certainly do.”

Cohn concurs: “The issue shouldn’t really be in doubt anymore. Pretty much everybody who worked directly on writing the legislation has said the same thing: They understood the law to be providing tax credits to people in every state, full stop.”

Boehner’s Empty (Obamacare) Suit

Politico: “House Speaker John Boehner came out swinging hard last June when he announced that his chamber would take President Barack Obama to court. The suit, charging that the president grossly exceeded his constitutional authority by failing to implement portions of the Obamacare law, was billed as an election-season rallying point for aggrieved Republicans. But days before the midterms, the House’s legal guns seem to have fallen silent.”

“The delay means the core of the suit could effectively be moot before the Obama administration even has to respond to it in court. The case was expected to center on an employer mandate provision that Obama twice delayed but is now set to kick in for many employers on Jan. 1.”

“’I thought this was a constitutional crisis and the republic was in jeopardy because Obama overstepped his bounds. Now, they can’t even get around to filing it?’ asked former House Counsel Stan Brand, a Democrat. ‘It, to me, emphasizes the not-serious nature of it.’”

“Some Democrats suspect the filing has been delayed because Boehner’s announcement of the suit over the summer backfired to some extent, spurring fundraising by Democratic committees. Raising the issue again so close to the election could agitate those in the president’s base who view such a lawsuit as disrespectful and part of an effort to delegitimize Obama.”

Voting in Texas: A Handgun License is OK, a Student ID is Not

Rebecca Leber: “Texans casting a ballot on Monday, when early voting begins, will need to show one of seven forms of photo ID. A concealed handgun license is okay, but a student ID isn’t. The Supreme Court on Saturday allowed Texas to go forward with this controversial voter ID.”

As Ian Millhiser argued at ThinkProgress: “If a confused voter brings an ID to the polls that they do not need to have, they will still get to cast a ballot. But if the same voter mistakenly forgets their ID (or fails to obtain one) because they were confused and believed that their state’s voter ID law was not in effect, then they will be disenfranchised.”

“Actual voter fraud, which is the problem that Republican legislation supposedly addresses, is difficult to find … The consequences of voter ID laws, on the other hand, are much easier to track … Existing ID requirements reduced turnout in some states during the last presidential election, particularly among young and black voters. Now, imagine the impact is even larger, because it is spread over the 33 states that now require some form of photo ID to vote. [And] costs of acquiring the needed ID ranged between $14.50 to $58.50 for 17 of the states.”

How Citizens United Puts Our Judicial System Up for Sale

Norm Ornstein warns that the impact of Citizens United on the American political system will be devastating.

Citizens United—and its progeny, SpeechNow and McCutcheon—are … about a new regime of campaign spending that dramatically enhances corruption in politics and government … It also gives added traction to extreme groups threatening lawmakers with primary devastation unless they toe the ideological line.”

But “the worst comes with judicial elections—and that worst could be worsened by a pending Supreme Court case that may allow sitting judges actively to solicit campaign funds for their own elections.”

“Here is the reality: If judges fear multimillion-dollar campaigns against them, they will have to raise millions themselves, or quietly engineer campaigns by others to do so. Who will contribute, or lead those efforts? Of course, those who practice in front of the judges will, creating an unhealthy dynamic of gratitude and dependency.”

“Worse, imagine what happens when judges are deciding cases in which the stakes are high, and well-heeled individuals or corporations will be helped or damaged by the rulings. The judges know that an adverse decision now will trigger a multimillion-dollar campaign against them the next time, both for retribution and to replace them with more friendly judges.”

 

The Distinction Between a Lawsuit and Extortion

Steven Rattner claims that a recent lawsuits by beneficiaries of the 2008 government bailout are “extortion” tactics, plain and simple.

AIG: “What’s relevant is that in 2008, no private capital would touch A.I.G., and without taxpayer money, A.I.G. would have collapsed, declared bankruptcy and liquidated itself. Mr. Greenberg would have received even less, i.e., nothing.”

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: “There’s the ultimate chutzpah: Some of the funds bought their shares after the agreement was amended in 2012 and still expect to reap a windfall at taxpayer expense.”

“Happily, none of the cases have gone well for the plaintiffs … [But] these two high-profile cases are not alone; there are at least a dozen related cases against Fannie and Freddie winding through the courts.”

“As a longtime denizen of Wall Street, I’m firmly on the side of investors trying to make money.”

“But in this case, Mr. Greenberg and the funds should consider how hard to press on this. Average Americans already feel distaste for Wall Street and rich people; bringing these rapacious lawsuits can only unnecessarily exacerbate class tensions.”

A Confoundingly Opaque Supreme Court

Limda Greenhouse comments on the new Supreme Court term that is “so confoundingly opaque.”

“In the space of eight days, the justices managed to touch on American society’s hottest of hot-button issues: same-sex marriage, access to the polls, and finally – inevitably – abortion, and all without actually issuing an opinion. Review denied, stays granted, stays lifted, news-making orders appearing randomly at odd hours from an institution usually so predictable in its schedule that you can set a clock by its yearly calendar. What on earth is the court doing and what – with saying hardly a word – is it telling us?”

“I can’t pretend to have come up with a grand theory to explain the court’s behavior. I actually doubt that there is a grand theory. Rather, I suspect that there’s something more prosaic going on: justices acting from different motivations and happening to coalesce around outcomes that serve a current purpose but that are in no one’s particular interest to explain. Explanations, after all, may bind. Silence keeps options open.”