Half a loaf

PA voter ID ruling:

The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania today handed down its ruling on our case against the state’s voter ID law. Judge Robert Simpson has reversed himself and has issued a preliminary injunction against the law. In the decision Simpson wrote, “I cannot conclude the proposed changes cure the deficiency in liberal access [to ID’s] identified by the Supreme Court.”

The judge said that poll workers can ask voters for ID, but they cannot turn away voters who do not have one.

Here’s Advancement Project’s initial take on the ruling:

“We are very glad voters will not be turned away from the polls this November if they do have an ID,” said Advancement Project Co-Director Judith Browne Dianis. “The evidence made it clear to the judge that this law would indeed disenfranchise voters and that the Commonwealth was not equipped to implement it fairly right now.”

“While we’re happy that voters in Pennsylvania will not be turned away if they do not have an ID, we are concerned that the ruling will allow election workers to ask for ID at the polls and this could cause confusion,” said Advancement Project Co-Director Penda D. Hair. “This injunction serves as a mere Band-Aid for law’s inherent problems, not an effective remedy.”

Simpson on disenfranchisement: “I expected more photo IDs to have been issued by this time. For this reason, I accept Petitioners’ argument that in the remaining five weeks before the general election, the gap between the photo IDs issued and the estimated need will not be closed.… Consequently, I am not still convinced in my predictive judgment that there will be no voter disenfranchisement arising out of the Commonwealth’s implementation of a voter identification requirement for purposes of the upcoming election. Under these circumstances, I am obliged to enter a preliminary injunction.”

Election volunteers needed for PA

This election day isn’t just about Obama — it’s about all the downticket races, too, and sending a “fuck you” message to Republican extremists (who, God help us, make the Democrats look almost liberal). Daily Kos is helping to organize a massive get out the vote operation in Pennsylvania with the Urban League’s Occupy the Vote (as you know, Republicans are doing their best to fix the election here by suppressing Democratic votes).

So you can 1) sit on your hands and complain about what the Republicans are doing, or you can 2) volunteer even a few hours of your time FROM THE COMFORT OF YOUR OWN HOME to make phone calls. If you are physically able and willing, you can also do canvassing, work voter registration tables, do data entry or give rides to the polls.

Click here if you can help even a little.

What’s the big deal?

As always, imagine if the situation was reversed and you’ll begin to understand what kid-glove treatment anti-abortion activists can expect:

For anti-choicers, the right to freedom of speech is like a game of Calvin-ball, the “Calvin and Hobbes” comic strip “sport” in which all rules could be revised, changed, updated, and discarded depending on what it took to win. They claim that freedom of speech trumps literally every other right, as long as it is done under the guise of “saving babies.”

It’s “freedom of speech,” for example, to “inconvenience” Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando CEO Jenna Tosh by picketing her home. Tosh told the WinterPark, Florida, city council that she felt “threatened and ambushed” when anti-choicers picketed her home, and the council passed a short-term ordinance forbidding assembly on a residential property. But opponents say that it was the wrong decision. After all, it was just one woman being intimidated. In an op-ed written by the Florida Sentinel, the paper argues:

Winter Park modeled its measure after ordinances that already had passed constitutional muster, so we aren’t arguing legal merits. But we do question the knee-jerk response to a single citizen’s complaint—precipitated by the distribution of pro-life handouts and, nearly a week later, some nonviolent picketing. And we question the need for a new law when laws exist to protect citizens against protests that grow unruly. And we question why government officials are so quick to crack down on freedom of speech. Imagine the outcry if commissioners had tried to go after the Second Amendment. Having to push past protesters toting signs that read “Jenna Tosh kills babies and hurts women” certainly is unpleasant. We sympathize with her. However, her need to avoid disturbing, anti-abortion expressions outside her home shouldn’t trump the rights of the many to exercise their First Amendment rights within public areas in residential areas.

Is it merely “unpleasant” to have people picket your neighborhood in a group, using your name and calling you a baby-killer? Does making someone feel unsafe in her own home not matter if it somehow infringes on the right of a group to make that person feel intimidated? And where exactly do “free speech” advocates draw the line for what constitutes “unruly?”

In fact, in some cases it seems as though courts are bending over backwards to ignore the physical intimidation involved in many of the anti-choice protesters’ activities. In a recent FACE act case involving an anti-choice activist at EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville, the judge decided that touching an escort is just another way of expressing “freedom of speech.”

“In his attempt to continue talking to the patient, [anti-choice “sidewalk counselor” David Hamilton ‘pushed [clinic escort Jane Fitts’s] arm down slightly,’” [U.S. District Judge Jennifer B. Coffman] found.
Continue Reading →

Cuomo backs off on fracking

Thank heavens for presidential ambitions, huh?

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced today that his administration is pushing the controversial decision on whether to allow fracking in the state back to square one. This encouraging move by Gov. Cuomo is sure to upset the oil industry, but it was the right thing to do given the enormous uncertainties surrounding fracking and unconventional energy development.

The threats of water contamination, air pollution, climate-altering methane pollution and public health impacts posed enormous challenges for Gov. Cuomo, whom many see poised to make a run for the White House in 2016.

Had he rushed through approval of fracking, his political base – including tens of thousands of state residents vocally opposed to fracking – would likely question his ability to navigate even larger controversies and pressure from industry lobbyists.
Desmogblog (http://s.tt/1oQgn)


If there was one Supreme Court judge you wouldn’t want to praise in liberal Massachusetts while you’re running for reelection, Tony “The Fixer” Scalia would probably be the one. That’s the thing about debates: Sometimes people really do snap under the pressure and say some dumb things, and Scott Brown just proved it in last night’s debate:

Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren covered her face as the crowd booed her challenger, Republican Scott Brown. Brown had just hailed Justice Antonin Scalia as his “model” Supreme Court justice, and Warren was already using the opportunity to pounce.

During a contentious second Massachusetts Senate debate, Brown went through a wild swing of opinions when moderator David Gregory asked him his “model” justice.

“Let me see, here. That’s a great question,” Brown said. “I think Justice Scalia is a very good judge.”

The crowd at the debate immediately booed, and Warren began to cover up her face, perhaps realizing her challenger’s mistake.That Brown’s first answer was Scalia was shocking, because Scalia is widely considered among the top two most conservative justices on the bench.

Brown, meanwhile, has become popular in Democratic-heavy Massachusetts by becoming a largely Independent member of Congress.

Brown fumbled for words and quickly threw out almost every single justice currently on the bench.

“Justice Kennedy is obviously very good, and Justice Roberts, Justice Sotomayor, they’re all very qualified people there,” Brown said.

Warren shook her head, noting that Brown had just endorsed Sotomayor, who some see as the most liberal member of the bench.

In a follow-up, Gregory pointed out that Scalia and Sotomayor have very different viewpoints on the bench. “That’s the beauty of being an independent, David,” Brown said.

“If you had to pick one?” Gregory said.“I don’t need to pick one,” Brown said. “We have plenty of justices up there, and I’m proud of the ones we have.”

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