Early voting victory in Ohio, but more challenges to come?

In a once sentence ruling, the Supreme Court left intact a US Appeals Court ruling that restored early voting rights for all OH voters the weekend before the Nov. 6 election.  Questions remained over how quickly Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted -- who has led the state Republicans' push to shrink the early voting window aggressively -- would uphold his promise to restore statewide early voting hours.

Steve Benen with some good news: 

Husted has now issued a directive setting uniform hours on the Saturday, Sunday, and Monday before the election, and it's online here (pdf). In a statement, he grudgingly conceded, "Today I have set uniform hours statewide, giving all Ohio voters the same opportunities to vote in the upcoming presidential election regardless of what county they live in." That this is a concession the Ohio Secretary of State fought tirelessly not to make is rather remarkable, but as of this afternoon, it appears the fight is over.

Big win.  But Rick Hasen says voting rights battles may not be over in Ohio.

The state of Ohio still has not announced whether it will appeal further in the other Ohio voting case, involving wrong precinct ballots.  This is by far a more important case in terms of the consequences for the election.

[...]Ohio had a stronger argument in the early voting case on equal protection grounds than they’d have in the wrong precinct case.  But because this is more consequential, potentially outcome determinative in Ohio, there will be partisan pressures to appeal.

Stay tuned.

 

A Great Question. A Horrible Answer.

He had nine from which to choose. He admitted that he was a great question. His choice was Antonin Scalia as "the model judge" before scrambling back towards the center his discomfort ever evident.

Massachusetts can do better and will do better by sending Elizabeth Warren to the United States Senate.

SCOTUS Returns to Politics and Money

Just over a year after the Citizens United ruling, the Supreme Court is about to delve into politics and money again, this time taking up the constitutionality of Arizona's public finance system for state candidates:

The subsidy system that the Justices are now ready to review was, in fact, believed to be a reform measure when Arizona’s voters narrowly approved it (by a 51-49 percent margin) in a statewide initiative in 1998.  After a series of scandals over financing of state campaigns, resulting, among other woes, in criminal prosecution of two governors and a number of state legislators, voters went to the polls to vote on a measure titled the “Clean Elections Act.” Backers promoted the Act with a pamphlet arguing that the Act would free politicians to represent the public’s interest, and not just the interests of those who gave large contributions to their campaigns.  The pamphlet tied the Act directly to the recent scandals, saying that the cycle of campaign finance abuse had seemed endless.

The Act went into effect in 2000, and as many as two-thirds of state candidates thereafter have opted into the subsidy system.  The system was used in every state election after 2000 — until the elections of last November, after the system had been blocked by a temporary vote of the Supreme Court last June 8.

The "Clean Elections Act" is complicated -- but not unwieldy -- to understand, especially when you dig into various trigger and counter-trigger mechanisms enacted by the campaign sending choices of wealthy self-funded candidates.  But that's not where those challenging the law are focused.  Both proponents and opponents of the law are making a similar argument: this is about free speech. 

Opponents aim at a specific trigger mechanism in which a candidate can ask for a subsidy if a self-financed opponent's (including independent "supporting groups") spending reaches a certain level, arguing this would encourage a self-financed candidate to keep their spending below that ceilling, "limiting" their free speech.  Proponents of the law argue this mechanism levels the playing field fairly.  Self-funded candidates are still free to out spend, but as they do, their opponents qualify for (but aren't forced to request) additional (but not equal in dollar amount) subsidies.

In a follow up post, SCOTUSblog's Lyle Denniston points out that in Monday's oral arguments, at least one Justice is already foreshadowing the precarious future of the system:

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who definitely seems to hold the deciding vote on the newest test of the Supreme Court’s skepticism about campaign finance laws, made repeated comments on Monday suggesting that he is very wary of Arizona’s attempt to offset the impact of wealthy candidates paying their own way.  Among a variety that could be noted, no remark was more telling than what seemed almost to be a rhetorical question: “Do you think it would be a fair characterization of this law to say that its purpose and its effect are to produce less speech in political campaigns?”

I'm not informed enough on it to argue the Arizona model is a perfect or flawed system for better election process, but in Citizens United, the court declared it was "discriminatory" to limit "free speech" based on the "identity" of the spender.  I'd expect them to take the same position here ensuring another win for billionaires buying up elections.

Gay Tea Partiers

Frankly, it would take too long to debunk why a regressive flat structure is not in society's best interest but that is one of the points these two gay Tea Partiers are missing. It's rather disconcerting that so many Americans continue to buy into the creed of libertarian style individualism over the collective good as these two young men do. They do, on the other hand, argue quite eloquently why the government should not be in the business of regulating marriage. Still the suggestion that we should abolish the income tax is hard to phantom. That would lead to a most inegalitarian society that would threaten the very existence of American democracy. 

It is also amazing to me that conservatives think the world around them comes cheap. They love to complain about taxes but they don't seem to realize to that taxes also pay for things like electric lighting and roads.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Paved roads, historical emblems of American achievement, are being torn up across rural America and replaced with gravel or other rough surfaces as counties struggle with tight budgets and dwindling state and federal revenue. State money for local roads was cut in many places amid budget shortfalls.

In Michigan, at least 38 of the 83 counties have converted some asphalt roads to gravel in recent years. Last year, South Dakota turned at least 100 miles of asphalt road surfaces to gravel. Counties in Alabama and Pennsylvania have begun downgrading asphalt roads to cheaper chip-and-seal road, also known as "poor man's pavement." Some counties in Ohio are simply letting roads erode to gravel.

The moves have angered some residents because of the choking dust and windshield-cracking stones that gravel roads can kick up, not to mention the jarring "washboard" effect of driving on rutted gravel.

But higher taxes for road maintenance are equally unpopular. In June, Stutsman County residents rejected a measure that would have generated more money for roads by increasing property and sales taxes.

"I'd rather my kids drive on a gravel road than stick them with a big tax bill," said Bob Baumann, as he sipped a bottle of Coors Light at the Sportsman's Bar Café and Gas in Spiritwood.

Rebuilding an asphalt road today is particularly expensive because the price of asphalt cement, a petroleum-based material mixed with rocks to make asphalt, has more than doubled over the past 10 years. Gravel becomes a cheaper option once an asphalt road has been neglected for so long that major rehabilitation is necessary.

"A lot of these roads have just deteriorated to the point that they have no other choice than to turn them back to gravel," says Larry Galehouse, director of the National Center for Pavement Preservation at Michigan State University. Still, "we're leaving an awful legacy for future generations."

It was a progressive income tax - the highest tax bracket during the Eisenhower Administration was 91 percent - that built the Interstate Highway System, the largest and most extensive infrastructure ever built, but it is a Reaganite ideology that is undoing the progress we have built so much so that we are forced to turn our asphalt roads back to gravel.

Quick Hits

Some of the other stories and other interesting reads making the rounds today.

Lt. General (ret). James Clapper won Senate approval to become the Director of National Intelligence after Senator John McCain removed his hold on the nomination. Senator McCain placed a hold on the Clapper nomination in order to force the Obama Administration to release a report assessing a controversial spy satellite program. McCain released his hold Tuesday once he got the information he was seeking. The retired three-star Air Force general, whose intelligence career spans two score and six years, will be the fourth Director of National Intelligence in five years. More from the Wall Street Journal.

The Senate sent the nomination of Peter Diamond, one of President Barack Obama's three nominees for the Federal Reserve Board, back to the White House because of objections from at least one lawmaker. Alabama Senator Richard Shelby, the senior Republican on the Banking Committee, said last week that Diamond, while a “skilled economist,” may not be qualified to make decisions on monetary policy.

The Senate took no action yesterday on the other two nominees, including San Francisco Fed President Janet Yellen for Vice Chairman and Sarah Bloom Raskin for a Governor slot, leaving them to await confirmation after senators return September 13. That means that if Governor Donald Kohn, whose separate term as Vice Chairman ended in June, departs as planned on September 1, the Fed will work with only four of seven Governors for the indefinite future. More from Bloomberg News.

Jonathan Chait of the New Republic looks at the tightening margins for confirming Supreme Court Justices and wonders if Elena Kagan might be President Obama's last nominee to the Court.

The New York Times profiles US District Court Judge of Vaughan Walker who wrote the landmark decision that overturned Proposition 8 in California. The title Conservative Jurist, With Independent Streak pretty much says it all.

In a related story, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown filed briefs asking Chief U.S District Judge Vaughn Walker to lift his stay and allow gays and lesbians to marry while the Perry v Schwarzenegger winds its way through the appeal process. More from CNN.

Michael Cooper in the New York Times writes on the extremes to which state and local governments are going in order to balance budgets. Clayton County, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta shut down its entire public bus system. Its last buses ran on March 31, stranding 8,400 daily riders. Colorado Springs switched off a third of its 24,512 streetlights to save money on electricity, while trimming its police force and auctioning off its police helicopters while Hawaii closed its schools on 17 Fridays during the past school year to save money, giving students the shortest academic year in the nation.

The FDIC seized the assets of Ravenswood Bank, a bank in Illinois. Ravenswood Bank is the 109th FDIC-insured institution to fail in the nation this year, and the thirteenth in Illinois. The FDIC estimates that the cost to the Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF) will be $68.1 million. Twenty-five banks failed in 2008 while 140 banks failed in 2009.

David Weigel, now working for Slate, writes in the Washington Post on the five myths of the Tea Party.

Mark Hurd, the CEO of Hewlett-Packard, was forced to resign today in the wake of a disclosure that he had allegedly falsified documents to conceal a relationship with a former contractor. The HP Board of Directors said in a statement that its standards of business conduct were violated. Hurd's "systematic pattern" of submitting falsified financial reports to hide the relationship convinced the board that "it would be impossible for him to be an effective leader moving forward and that he had to step down," HP general counsel Michael Holston said on a conference call Friday with analysts. Hurd will receive a $12.2 million severance payment.

Editorial of the Day
The editorial board of the New York Times castigates the GOP for their xenophobia and fear-mongering for American votes.

Leading Republicans have gotten chilly toward the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which guarantees citizenship to people born in the United States. Senators Mitch McConnell, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Jeff Sessions and Jon Kyl have been suggesting that the country should take a look at it, re-examine it, think it over, hold hearings. They seem worried that maybe we got something wrong nearly 150 years ago, after fighting the Civil War, freeing enslaved Africans and declaring that they and their descendants were not property or partial persons, but free and full Americans.

As statements of core values go, the 14th Amendment is a keeper. It decreed, belatedly, that citizenship is not a question of race, color, beliefs, wealth, political status or bloodline. It cannot fall prey to political whims or debates over who is worthy to be an American. “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” it says, “are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

 

Diaries

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