Texas’ Strict Voter ID Law Goes Back To Court, With Half A Million Voters’ Rights At Stake

Alice Ollstein Political Reporter, Think Progress

One of the most conservative courts in the nation is hearing a challenge Tuesday to Texas’ voter ID law from from the state conference of the NAACP and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus. These groups, represented by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, argues that the voter ID requirement suppresses the votes of people of color, who are much less likely to have a proper ID and much more likely to face barriers to getting one.

More than half a million registered Texan voters, the vast majority of them people of color, could be disenfranchised if the law is upheld.

“This is the most restrictive and burdensome law of its kind,” said Kristen Clarke, the president of the Lawyers Committee. “There is a clear discriminatory impact on voters. African Americans and Latinos are two to three times more likely than whites not to have an ID, and poor people are ten times more likely. So we are confident that when the full panel of judges hears the evidence they will agree with us and find the law is discriminatory and should be stricken before this election.”

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Lawmakers In Missouri Just Passed A Voter ID Bill That Could Disenfranchise 220,000 People

Alice Ollstein Political Reporter, Think Progress

Republicans in Missouri have been trying to pass a voter ID bill for more than a decade, and they may soon claim victory.

This week, a supermajority of lawmakers sent a bill to the desk of Gov. Jay Nixon (D). Even if the governor vetoes, as he did to a similar one in 2011, lawmakers may have the votes to override it.

Democrats in the state Senate staged an all-night filibuster last week to stop the ID bill, but backed down after striking a compromise deal with Republicans.

The deal involves amendments to the bill that progressive lawmakers say will “ensure no voter is denied his or her Constitutional right to vote.” For instance, the state would be required to provide free photo IDs and any underlying documents necessary to obtain them, such as birth certificates and Social Security cards. Additionally, voters who are unable to get the required ID for whatever reason would be able to sign a legally-binding affidavit promising they are who they say they are, and could then vote with regular ballots.

This is aimed at preventing problems that have surfaced in other states with voter ID laws, including Wisconsin and Texas, where citizens who can’t afford a copy of their birth certificate or lack the means of transportation to get one have been disenfranchised.

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Ohio Official Blasts ‘Sickening’ Voting Restriction

Alice Ollstein Political Reporter, Think Progress

In Ohio’s March 15 presidential primary, a car crash blocked a major highway near Cincinnati, leaving thousands of people stranded in their cars as the polls were set to close. A local judge received calls from voters frantic about losing their chance to cast a ballot, and ordered the polls to remain open just one hour later than scheduled. Now, a Cincinnati Republican is pushing a bill to make sure it’s much more difficult, and expensive, to get such an emergency extension in the future.

If legislation sponsored by Republican State Senator Bill Seitz is approved, anyone petitioning a judge to extend voting hours would have to put up a cash bond to cover the cost, which could range in the tens of thousands of dollars. If a court later finds that the polls should not have remained open, the voter would forfeit all the money. Only those who are so poor they can be certified as indigent would be exempted.

Rep. Dan Ramos, a Democrat who represents the working class Lorain community, told ThinkProgress he finds the effort “sickening.”

“This has been par for the course, ever since the Republicans took control of the House. They’ve been trying to do everything they can to make it more difficult to vote,” he said, noting the state’s cuts to early voting hours, voter roll purges, and attempts to block some students from voting in the primaries. “Now they’re saying the only way a person can have access to courts for voting is if they’re a wealthy person.”

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GOP ‘Adult’ John Kasich Pushes Debunked Anti-Muslim Myth

Alice Ollstein Political Reporter, Think Progress

GOP ‘Adult’ John Kasich Pushes Debunked Anti-Muslim Myth

In a lengthy interview with the NY Daily News released this week, Ohio Governor and presidential hopeful John Kasich said he’s staying in the 2016 race because “somebody’s got to be the adult.” Yet the GOP candidate repeated to the editorial board a disproved myth floated by his rivals that there are neighborhoods in European cities where non-Muslims cannot enter.

“Europe, they need to get over all their hangups over there, which is all the political correctness,” Kasich said. “I can’t go into a neighborhood, because it’s three o’clock in the afternoon, or these things that you read about and hear. And obviously, Europe has a big problem with integration…which they are gonna have to deal with.”

When Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal — who has since dropped out of the 2016 race — made a similar claim last year, he was widely derided by European officials, who called it “complete nonsense.” After Fox News made the same assertion, they were forced to admit their “serious factual error” in multiple on-air apologies.

Yet this didn’t stop other Republicans from asserting that there are neighborhoods were non-Muslims and police officers fear to go. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Donald Trump, and Ben Carson — who has endorsed Trump — have also made this claim, using it to advocate for stepped up surveillance of Muslims in the United States.

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This Embarrassing Interview Signals Donald Trump May Be In Trouble In Wisconsin

Alice Ollstein Political Reporter, Think Progress

With the Wisconsin primary just a week away, the remaining presidential candidates are descending on the Badger State. National frontrunner Donald Trump, who hasn’t made a campaign appearance in several days, ventured Monday morning into unfriendly territory: Wisconsin talk radio, where hosts have been viciously criticizing Trump for months.

On Monday morning, influential radio host Charlie Sykes grilled Trump for nearly 10 minutes in an often uncomfortable interview, at one point scolding him for sounding more like a “12-year-old bully on the playground” than a candidate for president.

Listen:

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Scalia’s Death Throws North Carolina’s Upcoming Election Into Confusion

Alice Ollstein Political Reporter, Think Progress

North Carolina’s primary is less than a month away, but the key swing state may be forced to postpone. A federal court ruling last week declared the state’s voting maps unconstitutional thanks to racial gerrymandering, and ordered them to be redrawn. Unless the Supreme Court intervenes, state lawmakers will have to scramble to create new maps that don’t pack African American voters into small, oddly shaped districts that make the surrounding districts whiter and easier for Republicans to win.

Yet this week, as North Carolina lawmakers prepared to create these revised maps, they spoke openly about making sure the state is still gerrymandered along political lines, if not racial ones.

“Our intent is to use the political data we have to our partisan advantage,” Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) told the Joint Select Committee on Congressional Redistricting on Tuesday. “I acknowledge freely that this would be a political gerrymander which is not against the law.”

He’s right. Thanks to a Supreme Court ruling in 2004, states are free to use gerrymandering to entrench the political power of the majority party.

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What Working Class New Hampshire Voters Think Of The GOP Candidates’ Poverty Plans

Alice Ollstein Political Reporter, Think Progress

Out of the snowy darkness came a line of fast-food workers, marching towards the site of the latest Republican debate. With beanies pulled over their ears and gloved hands holding protest signs, the workers, their families, and their supporters chanted, “You want our vote? Come get our vote.”

A record-breaking half-million New Hampshire voters are expected to go to the polls Tuesday to pick the nominees for the Republican and Democratic parties. The remaining White House hopefuls in both parties have descended on the Granite State, holding dozens of town halls, rallies, and debates each day to win over the state’s undecided voters, who have grilled them on their plans to address drug addiction, immigration, and the minimum wage.

Among the hundreds of low-wage workers protesting the Republican debate at St. Anselm College was 26-year-old New Hampshire native Megan Jensen, who walked off her job at KFC to join the crowd demanding a higher minimum wage.

“I share an apartment with a roommate and my three kids, who are ages 4, 2, and 10 months,” she told ThinkProgress. “It’s very hard to get by on $8 an hour. I have to use food stamps and subsidized health insurance to get by. If I got a raise, I’d be able to get my own place. I’d be able to support all three kids by myself without any help from the state or anybody.”

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The Progressive Policy Donald Trump Just Embraced

Alice Ollstein Political Reporter, Think Progress

On the campaign trail in New Hampshire this week, with the nation’s first primary contests mere days away, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump aligned himself with Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Nancy Pelosi on a key policy question.

Trump declared support Monday night for allowing the federal Medicare program to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies, claiming the government could “save $300 billion” a year if allowed to do so. (Experts have estimated the savings to be closer to $16 billion a year). The hotel mogul pointed to the lobbying power of those companies as the reason this doesn’t happen already.

Thus, the man who has railed against Obamacare as a “disaster” and promised to replace it with a “beautiful” private system endorsed a policy that would give the government more control over the health care market. It’s a change Democrats have demanded for more than a decade, ever since the government was barred from conducting such negotiations by a 2003 law signed by President George W. Bush. President Obama has called for restoring this power in his past few national budget proposals, but the Republican-controlled Congress has blocked its implementation. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced a bill in September to empower the government to negotiate with drug companies. The bill would also allow people to legally import cheaper drugs from Canada, and would force pharmaceutical companies to report their research and development costs.

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North Carolina GOP Accused Of Intentionally Suppressing Black Votes To Preserve Their Majority

Alice Ollstein Political Reporter, Think Progress

On Monday, residents of North Carolina are taking the state to court, arguing that North Carolina legislators designed a new voter ID law to stifle growing minority turnout that threatened the Republican majority in Raleigh.

The state is claiming that the law was passed to prevent voter fraud, though there is no evidence of widespread fraud at the ballot box. Attorney Denise Lieberman with the Advancement Project, which is representing the North Carolina NAACP in this case, told ThinkProgress that the state lawmakers who debated and passed the ID law knew it would place a disproportionate burden on African American and Latino voters.

“This is illuminated by the fact that there’s no legitimate basis for having this law,” she said. “We have expert witnesses who will testify that the state’s rationale for the law is unsupported, that there is absolutely no evidence of in-person voter impersonation that would justify this law. Furthermore, these laws don’t advance or expand people’s confidence in the voting process, as the state is arguing. They actually reduce it. So the conclusion we must draw is that lawmakers knew what they were doing.”

Lieberman and her colleagues plan to argue that this 2013 law was in part a backlash against the “increased political power” of voters of color in the state. Over the past few decades, both the number of residents of color and the percentage of them who showed up to vote have increased exponentially, thanks in large part to a series of laws making it easier to vote.

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Meet The Protesters Who Just Shouted Down Donald Trump In Las Vegas

Alice Ollstein Political Reporter, Think Progress

Emily Atkin Reporter, Climate Progress

Hotel mogul and GOP frontrunner Donald Trump had just handed the microphone over to a group of parents of people killed by undocumented immigrants when the chants began to ring out in the cavernous hall at the Westgate Casino.

“Dump Trump!” shouted two local activists as they were quickly dragged out of the room by hotel security guards. “Black lives matter. Muslims matter.” When one of them fell on the ground, an angry crowd of Trump supporters encircled him, phones aloft to film. One elderly man in a pinstripe suit repeatedly screamed, “Take them out!” while another yelled, “Light the motherfucker on fire.”

A few minutes later, when Trump had retaken the podium and was extolling his latest national poll numbers, a handful of immigrant rights activists launched another disruption. The crowd around them booed loudly and began chanting Trump’s name over and over to drown them out. As they were roughly hustled out a side door, Alejandra Romero dropped her phone. A Westgate Security guard threw it through an open door onto the concrete outside. Shaken by the experience, she and Astrid Silva broke out in tears, huddling in the alley outside the casino.

As the two women contemplated filing assault charges, another one of the activists, labor organizer José Macías, told ThinkProgress why he decided to interrupt the controversial candidate.

Watch:

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