“RIP VAN” POSNER – SIX YEARS LATER THE JUDGE WAKES UP

Judge Posner has stunned the legal community with a rare judicial mea culpa: an admittance that he was asleep at the wheel six years ago when he wrote that he really thought voter fraud was an okay reason to have voter ID in Indiana even though little to no evidence was provided about actual fraud.  He was also provided with the argument that the voter ID could be the basis of voter suppression, which he also forthwith dismissed.

Indiana’s Republicans have long been working on various “disparate impact” voter registration and voter ID laws, which appear to be plausible but, in reality, are aimed at suppressing voting access by minorities and those who typically vote Democratic.  While they are shrewd enough not to flat out target a specific group – imagine the stink that would raise – they have fabricated laws that in their application have a disparate impact on certain groups.

In conjunction with Republican legislative efforts, then-Governor Daniels – under the guise of “efficiency” – made sure to slash the number of Bureau of Motor Vehicle locations where voter IDs could be procured.  Or the locations were moved from democratic strongholds to make access more difficult. Thus, the Republicans used a two-prong drive to suppress as many Democratically leaning voters as possible:  Impose an ID requirement, and then close or relocate those very offices where the IDs could be obtained.

Allen County has three BMV locations.  Two are in Fort Wayne – Pine Valley and Waynedale – with a third in New Haven.   The Waynedale location replaced the branch once located at Southgate Plaza, which served an area in the predominantly democratic 5th and 6th districts with a heavy minority concentration of African-American and Hispanic populations.

The following maps show the areas of minority concentration.  The numbers in the boxes are not related to the issue of minority population.

2010 African-American population concentrations

2010 African-American population concentrations

The darker the shade of blue the higher the African-American population.  The situation is similar for the Hispanic population.

2010 Hispanic population concentration

2010 Hispanic population concentration

Again, the darker the shade of green, the higher the concentration of the Hispanic population.

Finally, here is a map that shows the 5th and 6th districts showing the boundaries.  The relocated Southgate branch now resides in the 4th district – a Republican held city council seat.  Both the 5th and 6th districts are represented by Democrats.

City Council - 5th and 6th districts.

City Council – 5th and 6th districts.

So, while it is a stunning admittance from Judge Posner that he finally woke from his six-year sleep, it is not a case of “better late than never.”  His “ah-ha” moment is too little too late.

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PRE-PRIMARY ENDORSEMENTS POSE PROBLEMS

Primary elections are one means by which a political party nominates candidates for the next general election. They are common in the United States, where their origins are traced to the progressive movement with its emphasis on ridding the political process of corruption.  Party primaries may have only one candidate per party, or a number of candidates may enter the fray, setting up a contested primary election, which, in turn, may raise the issue of maintaining party neutrality.  That neutrality can be breached when a party moves to make a pre-primary endorsement.

Pre-primary endorsements can be one of two types: an endorsement of a candidate by an individual or an endorsement of a candidate by a political party.  When we throw out the phrase “all politics is local”, nowhere is that more true than in the area of candidate endorsements by a political party before a primary.  The closer the race and the candidates are to the locality in which the election has a direct impact, the more volatile an endorsement can be.

All political endorsements come with baggage, but none more so than a pre-primary endorsement at the local level. We generally expect pre-primary endorsements at the national level – witness those lining up behind their respective candidates in the Republican primary – and even at the state level, although that can have its perils as well.  But taking a pre-primary position at the local level where candidates are personally known can divide party members, trigger issues of favoritism, and lead to a bad taste about politics, in general.

If a primary has more than one contender, then an endorsement is not wise.  While the selected candidate may disagree with that position,  those on the outside – not endorsed – will feel shut out and disenchanted with the political process.  A pre-primary endorsement sets the stage for a division in the party – perhaps not as  to whom should be selected but as to the very core of the party’s philosophy of fairness and inclusiveness.

Since I am a Democrat and darned proud of it, I will state I am speaking about my party.  We have several contested races, and, it may be that discussions arise as to the feasibility of an endorsement in one or more races.

I am a firm believer in the democratic process and consider myself a Jeffersonian Democrat although President Jefferson and I do part ways on a few points in our philosophical bents.  I favor the open and fair process of a primary with no interference by political parties – especially mine.  While individual members may contribute in any manner of ways to a candidate, I feel a party endorsement places the weight of the party behind a selected candidate and detracts from our overall democratic philosophy.

In addition, an endorsement relegates those not endorsed into a position of weakness, making their ability to attract donors and attention more difficult.  Feelings of exclusion may be felt, and, overall a disenchantment with the party and the political process itself.  I have always seen the Democrat party as inclusive, and, in the pre-primary endorsement process that inclusiveness is unceremoniously dispatched.

Our party approach to the primary should reflect our dedication to the principles of the Democrat party by trusting the Democrat voters to select a candidate; that can be done by avoiding a pre-primary endorsement.

 

THE “DON’T VOTE” VIDEO

We are rapidly approaching the deadline to register to vote for our November 4th election. Leonardo DiCaprio and many of his friends have put together a great video. Register if you haven’t done so already, and, if you are registered, then for heaven’s sake, vote on November 4th.

Registration deadline is October 6th in Indiana. Once that date passes you are a loser. You lose the opportunity to vote in one of the most important elections of our time. Will you vote for a future of change led by Barack Obama or will you vote for four more years of one of the worst presidencies in our history by voting for John McCain? You decide. Obviously, you know for whom I will be voting – Barack Obama.

NEXT BOONDOGGLE FOR VOTERS – PROOF OF CITIZENSHIP

State legislatures with their flag-waving, fear mongering members are working to increase the barriers to vote once again. Now that the hurdle of a photo ID has been upheld by the Supreme Court in its decision this past April in Crawford v. Marion County Election Bd., 128 S. Ct. 1610 (2008), the next obstacle that fear mongers want to impose to suppress voting is the requirement of proof of citizenship.

Missouri lawmakers are expected to support a proposed state constitutional amendment to enable election officials to require proof of citizenship from anyone registering to vote. Ostensibly, the amendment is to address illegal immigrants converging on the polls and stealing elections. In reality, it is aimed at deterring voter blocks that typically vote democratic. No evidence has been produced to justify the new restriction – only the use of fear to implant the idea in the public’s mind that elections are being stolen by illegal immigrants.

And Missouri isn’t the only state moving toward more restrictions on voting. Ten other states are now in the process of passing “Proof of Citizenship Bills.”

In most cases, potential voters will have to produce an original birth certificate, naturalization papers, or a passport. Most people I know do not keep their birth certificates handy. I got one many years ago, and, at the same time, I also got one of the small, laminated ones that I carry in my pocketbook.

I will lay you odds, though, that I am in the minority on this one. Flag-waving patriots will assure everyone that obtaining a birth certificate is a piece of cake. I have news for the flag waivers, it isn’t. To get a birth certificate requires that you either go to the department of health in person, or provide an ID for a mail-in request. The cost is $10.00 to obtain a certificate in person or through the mail. But what if you don’t have an ID to get a birth certificate?

Well, then you must trek to your local BMV, get an ID, and return to the health department to present it to then get your birth certificate.

But you may be happy to know that an express process to obtain a birth certificate – for emergencies – has been provided. VitalChek will speed the process for a mere $28.50 using U.S. regular mail and $46.00 for FedEx overnight. I am sure that everyone can afford those prices for a birth certificate. One of the criticisms of the Indiana photo ID requirement was that for some, the cost would be a stopper. The state magnanimously agreed to provide free licenses to those who proved they could not afford them. I wonder if that will happen if birth certificates are required?

Requiring proof of citizenship is nothing more than a distraction from the many problems our country faces. But what a distraction: jump up and down about illegal immigrants and the possibility that they are stealing elections, and you have a bulit-in issue – even if no evidence exists to support the accusations.

The addition of proof of citizenship just adds one more layer of difficulty to a process that continues to be fodder for election year pandering. And just when you thought you were safe in the voting booth, Republicans have come up with a new way to suppress voter turnout.

VA TO VETERANS – WE WON’T HELP YOU REGISTER TO VOTE

In what has to be one of the most illogical, unreasonable, hypocritical, and downright disrespectful decisions made by the new VA Secretary James Peake, the VA will not allow voter registration assistance in VA facilities. The National Voter Registration Act was passed in 1993 and imposes an obligation – indeed, a duty – on federal, state, and local governments to promote the exercise of the citizens’ fundamental right to vote.

VA Secretary Peake has a different take on promoting the right to vote, especially when those citizens are veterans. Peake’s position is that:

“the VA remains opposed to becoming a voter registration agency pursuant to the National Voter Registration Act, as this designation would divert substantial resources from our primary mission.”

Diverting of substantial resources? Voter registration forms can be downloaded from the internet and copied in a matter of minutes. I have helped at several different events where we registered voters, and helping with the form must take a whole 2 or 3 minutes. If VA personnel are asked to spend a few extra minutes with VA patients, I bet they would gladly do it. To think otherwise is to dishonor those who have served our country and those who serve our veterans.

Peake also insists helping veterans to register to vote is “partisan.” Voter registration does not require that the registrant declare a party. Obviously, he does not know the definition of partisan which means allegiance to a party or cause.

An interesting twist in the whole debacle is that armed forces recruitment offices are mandated to develop and implement procedures to ensure that those registering at the recruitment offices have the opportunity to register. The following is a section from the National Voter Registration Act of 1993:

ARMED FORCES RECRUITMENT OFFICES- (1) Each State and the Secretary of Defense shall jointly develop and implement procedures for persons to apply to register to vote at recruitment offices of the Armed Forces of the United States.

(2) A recruitment office of the Armed Forces of the United States shall be considered to be a voter registration agency designated under subsection (a)(2) for all purposes of this Act.

Since the passage mandates recruitment office voter registration assistance, I decided to call one of the local Army recruitment offices to see if they provided voter registration assistance, and, yep, they do. I spoke to a recruiter and asked one simple question, “Do you have voter registration forms?” His reply? “We sure do.”

The hypocrisy is staggering. The Bush Administration sends our military to fight and die in needless wars. Volunteers are provided the opportunity to register at the front end as they enlist. But at the back end, as our wounded return to lives filled with adjustments and frustrations and physical and emotional therapy and missing limbs and suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome, the Veterans Administration denies help with one of the very basic rights that our veterans fight to protect – the right to vote.

Could it be that after service in wars, our veterans are more likely than not to vote against those who sent them? Keeping faith with our veterans requires more than laudatory speeches – it requires matching those speeches with actions.

Photo Credit: About.com

A young soldier in DaNang, Vietnam – August 3, 1965

SIDESTEPPING SENATE VOTES – OBAMA’S RECORD WORST OF REMAINING THREE CANDIDATES

A measure of leadership is taking responsibility for appearing and voting for bills and resolutions.  Of the three remaining candidates, Clinton has the best record, and Obama has the worst.  Obama has been in the Senate the shortest amount of time, yet he has the worst Senate voting record of the three candidates.

Clinton has missed 7% since 2001, McCain has missed 17% since 1997, and Obama has missed 18% since 2005.  Many of the missed votes have come during heavy campaigning with all three candidates’ records showing a spike in the last half of 2007.

The following charts show the voting records of all three candidates since their election to their Senate seats. 

  • The absentee rate is in red.
  • The lower black dotted line shows the median value for all Members of Congress in that time period.
  • The upper black dotted line shows the 90th percentile. That is, a member above the upper dotted line is in the company of just one out of ten of his or her peers in missing that many votes.

 

Obama’s Senate voting record – missed 18% in 3 years
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McCain’s Senate voting record – missed 17% in 10 years
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Clinton’s Senate voting record – missed 7% in 6 years
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When employers look at potential employees, one of the most important factors – if not the most important factor – is reliability and showing up for work.  We should expect no less from a candidate.  While it may be physically impossible to campaign and completely fulfill the obligation to appear to vote when necessary, Clinton’s voting record shows that she has managed to balance the two competing forces much more efficiently and effectively than Obama.

An employer would not keep an employee if that employee missed almost 20% of the time.  Fortunately, voters have the luxury of knowing the voting records ahead of time and can decide whether demonstrating leadership in the performance of senatorial obligations is, indeed, important or not.  Personally,  I think it is. 

HENRY CAPTURES THE FORT

After an election fraught with unusual circumstances, Tom Henry stepped to the podium last night at the Grand Wayne Center to claim the helm of Indiana’s second largest city. Challenging us to not accept less than our true potential as a community and as a city, Henry provided his vision of Fort Wayne’s future to a crowded room of enthusiastic and elated supporters.

The numbers, with 97% of the precincts reporting, gave Henry a 60% total to Matt Kelty’s 40% total. Kelty’s concession was announced by Allen County Democratic Chair, Kevin Knuth, as he introduced Mr. Henry to the crowd as the next mayor of Fort Wayne.

Henry’s election to mayor marks the beginning of a third mayoral term for a Democrat. Mayor Graham Richard announced last fall that he would not pursue a third term as the City’s leader, leading to a search for a Democratic candidate to lead Fort Wayne into the future. In February, Tom Henry stepped forward to take that role.

Although Henry’s opponent , Matt Kelty, suffered from personal and legal issues throughout the campaign, Mr. Henry declined to be drawn into a negative campaign. His conduct throughout the six months was exemplary, proving that a political campaign and debate can be successful without turning to divisive and destructive tactics used by so many politicians at all levels of government.

Tom Henry has accepted the leadership of our City, and I look forward to his vision to not accept less than our true potential. I look forward to a future holding the promise of an invigorated downtown, a new sense of purpose, and a strong vision for our citizens.

YOU AIN’T NOBODY IF YOU DON’T VOTE – ALL THE KING’S MEN

I watched “All the King’s Men” recently, and the above phrase stuck in my mind. Many citizens believe they don’t count in the political process, and when enough people feel that way, well, they don’t count. The result is the creation of a self-fulfilling prophecy. You don’t vote because you believe you don’t count and, ultimately, you don’t count because you don’t vote.

The Constitution does not mention voting in its seven original articles, and it does not address it in the Bill of Rights, yet we take for granted that we were given the “right” to vote. That assumption arises from our Nation’s early history as well as the 15th amendment (prohibits denial based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude), the 19th amendment (prohibits denial based on gender), and the 26th amendment (prohibits denial to those 18 or older). After all, how is it possible to deny something if it doesn’t exist?

In the past, women, paupers, African-Americans, Native Americans, Asian immigrants, and other groups were denied the right to vote. Numerous obstacles were created to block or discourage certain groups from voting – obstacles such as religious tests, property qualifications, literacy tests, poll taxes, and exclusions on the basis of race and sex. As a nation, the road to obtaining voting rights has been a struggle with periods of expansion and periods of contraction.

In colonial America, the basic principle that governed voting rights was the philosophy that voters should have a “stake” in society. That stake was best represented by property owners who were considered committed members of the community. Thus, each of the thirteen original colonies required voters to either own a certain amount of land or personal property or to pay a specified amount in taxes.

By the end of the Civil War, a growing number of individuals began to favor extension of the right to vote to African-Americans, leading, ultimately, to the passage of the 15th Amendment in 1870. With the passage of the 15th Amendment, only one major group remained subject to exclusion from voting – women.

Even though the Constitution did not exclude women from voting, they were historically excluded by those in power. That exclusion finally came to an end in 1920 with the passage of the 19th Amendment. In 1971, the voting age was lowered to 18 in response to the Vietnam War and the sentiment that if 18-year-olds were old enough to “fight and die for their country then they were old enough to vote.”

Senator Clinton was criticized by the Bush White House for stating that “we” are invisible to President Bush. I will go even further – we are invisible not only to President Bush but also to every senator, every representative, every mayor, every council person, and every other elected official if we don’t vote.

In 1971, John Lennon recorded “Power to the People.” Power to the People – the title says it all.  That power comes, not from a song, but from voting; it is high time American citizens broke free of their perpetuation of the self-fulfilling prophecy and shed their invisible role.

I certainly don’t like the idea of being invisible – do you?