Morning Must Reads: July 2

In the news: Mohamed Morsi, the "border surge" amendment, Russian asylum, North Carolina, bitcoins, "World War Z"

  • Share
  • Read Later
Mark Wilson / Getty Images

The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

474 comments
sacredh
sacredh

OT, but if you've ever seen True Blood, I have a niece that could be Jessica's twin.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

North Carolina's Coming Voter Law Apocalypse

It's been a week since the Supreme Court effectively ended Voting Rights Act pre-clearance. That liberated states with histories of voter discrimination (in some cases, ancient histories) from having to ask the DOJ to sign off on voter laws, districts—anything affecting representation.

And so North Carolina, which has been pushing through conservative legislation as if trying to win a bet, is gearing up for some deconstruction of the state's current, liberal electoral statutes. The vehicle is an "omnibus voting rights bill" being moved by the chairman of the state Senate's judiciary committee, Tom Apodaca. Clues to its contents: "an end to the state's early voting, Sunday voting and same-day registration provisions," likely to be released after this Fourth of July weekend.

Let's say the state nixes early voting, or even just rolls it back in some capacity the way Florida did before 2012. Reid Wilson explains what would be affected:

More than 1.2 million Democrats cast ballots during the 17 days of early voting in 2012, while about 800,000 Republicans did the same. African American voters were more likely to cast a ballot during the early period than they were on Election Day, according to statistics compiled by the United States Elections Project at George Mason University.
The numbers couldn't be clearer: In 2012, blacks accounted for just 8.7 percent of absentee ballots cast in North Carolina, while whites accounted for 86.4 percent. Blacks accounted for 28.9 percent of all early votes cast; 65.8 percent of early votes were cast by white voters.

Obviously, before early voting was put into place, black voters could show up on election day; for decades upon decades, a coalition of whites and blacks put Democrats in charge of the state legislature and governor's mansion. But every political move taken by the new Republican legislature, since 2011, has been aimed at packing liberals and black voters into as few districts as possible, creating a conservative majority for, they hope, at least a decade.

North Carolina's black liberal activists have tried to slow down the bills by attrition, with the now-famous "Moral Monday" protests in the legislature. Apodaca, asked about the last protest, called it "crap." Not to be cynical or anything, but if there is a growing understanding that Republicans can win the future if they ignore minority voters and maximize their base's influence, North Carolina's going to figure it out first.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

North Carolina Speeds Up to Run Election Red Light?

Republicans are at it again, making it harder to vote. This time, North Carolina Republicans are contemplating reducing the number of days of in-person early voting, including the Sunday before the election; axing the state's "one-stop" voting which allows people to register and vote in-person early, and implementing a new voter photo identification law that may adversely affect seniors, students and minorities.

It is no coincidence that these major voting changes are being considered a week after the Supreme Court struck down the coverage formula in Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act in the recent decision, Shelby County v Holder. As a result, North Carolina and other states are no longer bound to seek approval from the federal government before implementing their new election laws, formerly required under Section 5.

Before the Supreme Court's momentous decision, changes to election laws contemplated by covered states could be blocked if they had a discriminatory effect. The federal government's review of election changes was successful at preventing discriminatory photo identification laws from being implemented in South Carolina and Texas. Florida was also forced to make modest changes to their implementation of their early voting change prior to the 2012 election -- only a handful of Florida counties were captured in the coverage formula, else there would have been a much greater effect.

Republican politicians have been rushing forward since the fateful Supreme Court decision was handed down, with several formerly covered states immediately moving forward with restrictive voting laws apparently aimed at minorities.

There is a strong case that reducing North Carolina's in-person early voting would adversely affect African-Americans and Democrats.

In 2012, over 60 percent of North Carolinians, or 2.8 million people, voted early either in-person or by mail. The balance was tilted towards in-person early voting, with 93 percent of early voters casting a ballot in-person and 7 percent voting by mail. In 2012, African-Americans constituted 29 percent of in-person early voters, but only 9 percent of absentee voters.

With racial discrepancies like these, not surprisingly registered Democrats were 49 percent of in-person early voters while registered Republicans were 30 percent. The numbers were flipped for absentee voters, with registered Republicans outnumbering Democrats 50 percent to 28 percent.

The Supreme Court did not give states a green light to implement new election laws, they gave a yellow light. States are still bound by Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Section 2 says that if it can be shown in court that a law has a discriminatory effect then the law will be struck down.

Indeed, Justice Kennedy -- who joined the majority in overturning Section 4 -- might be willing to entertain such lawsuits. In the Shelby oral hearing he stated, "... it seems to me that the government can very easily bring a Section 2 suit" (p. 24).

Section 2 litigation is more burdensome than the Section 5 preclearance regime, but Kennedy is signaling that he would entertain a Section 2 lawsuit when a new election law may have a discriminatory effect. A further danger for states like North Carolina rushing to implement new their new laws is Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act, which allows courts -- at their discretion -- to place jurisdictions found to have Section 2 voting rights violations back into Section 5 review.

So, Republicans would be wise to remember that they are still bound by Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. If they interpret the Supreme Court's yellow light as an opportunity to speed up and implement new laws without foresight, they may themselves running a red light. The penalty is not only an overturning the offending law, but some proverbial jail time, too.


Sue_N
Sue_N

And here's an interesting tidbit: In Texas, abortion clinics are inspected once a year. Ambulatory surgical centers are inspected every three years.

Also, birthing centers in Texas are not inspected every year.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

Obama District Court Vacancies So High They're 'Breaking Historic Patterns,' Report Finds

WASHINGTON -- Vacancies at district courts are so high right now that they're "breaking with historical patterns" and burdening the judicial system like never before, according to a report released Tuesday by the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.

The report, which analyzed data on district court vacancies and judicial workloads since 1992, spotlights differences in the pattern of judicial vacancies under President Barack Obama and under other recent presidents. Typically, a district court sees a brief peak in vacancies after a presidential election, followed by a sharp decline in later years, the report states. But under Obama, those vacancies never returned to their previous level after a spike in 2009, and they have even increased.

There are currently 65 district court vacancies out of 677 judgeships, or a 10 percent vacancy rate, the report found. By contrast, former President George W. Bush averaged a 4.4 percent district court vacancy rate during his fifth year in office.

"For the first time in 20 years, judicial vacancies averaged more than 60 vacant seats for five straight years from 2009-2013, breaking historic patterns and delaying the resolution of critical legal disputes in civil and criminal trials," reads the report.

It also found that the average per-judge caseload in 2009-2012 was 13 percent higher than it was during the preceding four years. On top of that, the report found that judicial emergencies -- a designation of districts with an acute need for judges -- were higher from 2010 to 2012 than at any other point since 2002.

"Our trial courts are in trouble,” Alicia Bannon, author of the report and counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, said in a statement. “As seats remain unfilled, millions of Americans who rely on district courts are being denied the justice they deserve ... The president and the Senate must find a way to fill these crucial seats.”

Obama has become noticeably more aggressive in pushing the Senate to get moving on his nominees, recently chiding Republicans for obstructionism and telling the Senate to "do its job." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has warned Republicans that he's prepared for a filibuster reform fight this summer if they don't stop blocking nominees, while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) insists Republicans have been fair in their treatment of Obama's picks.

To that end, McConnell spokesman Don Stewart pushed back on Tuesday's report, saying it glosses over the fact that "the overwhelming majority of the vacancies exist because the President hasn’t nominated anyone for those vacancies."

Stewart added that the Senate has confirmed 61 nominations already this year, including 26 federal judges, "despite the constant refrain of 'obstruction' from liberal groups." After next week, he said, only three nominees will be pending before the Senate.

The reality, though, is that a major reason for the district court vacancies is that senators -- namely Republican senators -- simply aren't making recommendations to the president in the first place. Per longstanding tradition, a senator kickstarts the process by passing along recommendations from their home states, and the president works with them to get at least some of those nominees confirmed. The White House may look at other nominees on its own, but typically won't move forward without input from the corresponding senators.

A Senate Democratic aide also points out that while Republicans may tout the speed with which certain nominees are being confirmed this year, the pace only quickened after the Senate worked through the backlog of nominees caused by GOP hold-ups over the past few years. In May 2012, for example, the Senate was still considering nominees from the prior year, the aide said. Similarly, in February 2013, the Senate Judiciary Committee reported out a slate of judicial nominees who had been returned to the White House last year because the Senate failed to act.

Reid has said he'll be watching to see if Republicans block a handful of key nominees in the coming weeks as a litmus test for whether he may try to change filibuster rules. Obama's three nominees for the D.C. Circuit Court are among them, as are Tom Perez, Richard Cordray and Gina McCarthy, Obama's nominees to lead the Labor Department, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Environmental Protection Agency, respectively.

For all his frustration over stalled nominees, Obama isn't expected to use his executive authority to appoint any of them while Congress is in recess through July 8.

Sue_N
Sue_N

Rep. José Menendez (D-San Antonio): Your bill requires doctors who perform abortions to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers and to have admitting privileges at a hospital. Are you aware that there's no state regulation requiring doctors at an ASC to have admitting privileges?

Laubenberg: Uh …

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

Guess the Tea Party has a use for the IRS afterall

Ohio Tea Party To Use IRS To Fight Medicaid Expansion

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Tea party activists in Ohio want to use a unique weapon to fight continued efforts to expand Medicaid: the Internal Revenue Service.

In a confidential email sent to fellow Ohio tea party leaders and obtained by The Associated Press, Tom Zawistowski (zah-wih-STOW'-skee) lays out a strategy for invoking a little-known IRS provision that allows citizens to challenge executive salaries and the nonprofit statuses of charitable hospitals.

In a phone interview, Zawistowski calls it "hilarious" that tea party groups that came under extra scrutiny by the IRS are now using an IRS law to target others.

Zawistowski identifies the hospitals as big financial backers of expanded Medicaid. His email says tea party groups will "make Medicaid personal" by publicizing large salaries of those seeking federal money to help the poor.

Sue_N
Sue_N

Rep. "Rape-Kit" Laubenberg is testifying now. (Live feed is here.) The woman's an idiot.

ahandout
ahandout

@paulejb  It was so bad senators like Mary Landrieu had to shut their phones off to silence the critics of Obamacare.

roknsteve
roknsteve

@sacredh Uh, Somebody needs to tell him they don't give a Nobel prize for face piercings.   

paulejb
paulejb

@retiredvet 

The Guardian is a newspaper. The WaPo is the Obama White House's stenographers.

jmac
jmac

@retiredvet For the longest time The National Inquirer was the top selling newspaper in America.  Those two-headed aliens drew in a lot of customers.  

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@ahandout Poor Handy. You do realize it was the Egyptian people and not Obama that elected Morsi. You of all people should be in his corner. As a Right Wing religious extremist scared of gay marriage and women's rights the two of you have so much in common.

MrObvious
MrObvious

@Sue_N 

Interesting tidbit - it's actually not about 'safety'. It's about reducing availability for abortions so women are forced to keep the pregnancy. 

ahandout
ahandout

@paulejb There's an election in 2014.  Can't have the 42% that think Obamacare is not the law of the land find out. 

fitty_three
fitty_three

@mantisdragon91  

I'm not going to bother to ask if the large salaries of those dedicated to the GOP cause are larger, am I?

MrObvious
MrObvious

@Sue_N 

She's a 'winger. The rooms temperature intellectual capacity is an enforced standard.

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

@Sue_N Is that a requirement to be a GOP woman these days? There used to be a lot of very smart GOP women - guess they are the ones that left.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@MementoMori  

I think they were all voted off the island except Powell.

He lives in a houseboat off shore.

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

@MementoMori No. This has been another edition of simple answers to simple questions.

sacredh
sacredh

From the article:

"In this radical transformation of society, one of the greatest casualties is the individual who experiences homosexual attractions but who desires to live chastity. He finds, on one hand, the homosexual community encouraging him to live out his sexual desires"

And in the other hand, well, uh...nevermind.

sacredh
sacredh

"Scalia's Son Says Homosexuality Doesn't Exist"

Vatican: Does this mean we get our cash settlements back?

roknsteve
roknsteve

@Ivy_B Homosexuality, evolution, voter discrimination.   Everything conservatives don't like doesn't exist. 

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@Ivy_B If Homosexuality doesn't exist what exactly has the Catholic church been covering up for the last few decades?

MementoMori
MementoMori

@Ivy_B I think Scalia's son doesn't exist. 

Am I now allowed to pass a law saying he can't get married?

Irony
Irony

@Ivy_B @Sue_N Well, it all goes back to this quote from one of the great Republican thinkers of our age. "Fool me once shame on - shame on you. Fool me - you can't get fooled again."

Sue_N
Sue_N

@Ivy_B @Sue_N They've pruned out the independent-thinking ones so all they have left are bots. Laubenberg's bill was written by ALEC, and it's pretty clear that she has no idea what she's talking about.

Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) is pressing her on her insistence that this is about "the health and safety of women." He asked if she'd be amenable to an amendment stating that the state will pick up the tab for bringing clinics up to the ambulatory surgical unit standards required by her bill. She said no.

Turner asked what she thinks will happen to "the health and safety of women" if the standards required in her bill force rural clinics to close (which they will). She said she won't answer questions about hypotheticals.

Turner asked if she'd be amenable to an amendment mandating that hospitals give the admitting privileges her bill requires. Nope.

So she's not at all concerned about ensuring the health and safety of women. She's all about shutting down the clinics.

ahandout
ahandout

@sacredh  Are you saying that molestation and sexual abuse of underage boys by priests is homosexuality?  

fitty_three
fitty_three

@roknsteve 

I'm sure that that alien in Restaurant at the End of the Universe whose life was dedicated to insulting every being in the universe, in alphabetical order will have been a Staunch Republican too.

ahandout
ahandout

@mantisdragon91 @ahandout Deranged descendants of Democrats don't qualify.  Feeling desperate for a George Bush fix, mantis?  Working overtime now that the hive has cast you out? 

The few members of the KKK hardly match the worldwide Jihadist movement.  Amazing that liberals never criticize the jihadists.  Is it from fear or brotherly love?

ahandout
ahandout

@mantisdragon91 @ahandout  When is the last time anyone other than a Jihadist strapped a suicide bomb on to turn themselves and the innocent around them into pink mist? or issue a fatwa because of a cartoon, or put someone in prison for a youtube video about Mohammed...OOPS.

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

@ahandout @paulejb 

So.... basically your argument boils down to "because Obama decided not to cut Egypt out of the loop and end existing US support policies, Obama invested."  Good luck with that argument.