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News from the Votemaster

New Study Finds Voter ID Laws Burdensome

Ten states have recently passed laws requiring voters to present government-issued photo ID cards before they can vote. Ostensibly, these laws are to prevent voter fraud. However, a study by nonpartisan university researchers at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU have shown that voter fraud is microscopic (e.g., 0.00004% of the votes in the 2004 Ohio election were fraudulent), the penalty for getting caught is so large (5 years in prison), and the effect of one vote so small that nobody risks it. The very occasional fraudulent vote is invariably from an ex-felon or green-card holder who mistakenly thought he had the right to vote. Nevertheless, states persist in passing voter ID laws. Why?

As a a new study released yesterday shows, the real effect of these laws is to disenfranchise low-income voters who are disproportionately minorities and Democrats. The legislators who pass voter ID laws and the governors who sign them (invariably Republicans) know this very well. By making poor people, who often don't have cars, go get (and pay for) birth certificates and voter ID cards, they are putting up a barrier and hoping many low-income voters won't bother. A very blatant example of the intent of these laws is the office in Sauk City, WI, where voters can get an ID card--but only on the fifth Wednesday of any month. In 2012, only February, May, and August have a fifth Wednesday. Examples like that make it abundantly clear that the real purpose of these laws if to discourage low-income voters from voting but do it under the radar in such a way that most voters don't know what is going on.

This issue often shows where the media have failed in their fundamental job of getting at the truth. In a typical story about Voter ID laws, a reporter will have a Republican politician saying that voter fraud is a huge issue and a Democratic politician saying that voter fraud is miniscule, without the reporter actually looking for and presenting the facts. This is somewhat like a science reporter treating as equals one person who thinks the moon is made of rocks and another who thinks it is made of green cheese.

Congress May Raise Taxes to Cut Them

One of the hottest political issue at the moment is what to do about the Bush tax cuts that expire at the stroke of midnight Dec. 31. President Obama has said he will veto any extension of the cuts for income above $250,000. Since almost all Republicans have signed Grover Norquist's pledge never to vote for any tax increase ever, there doesn't appear to be a lot of room for compromise here. While deficit hawks may argue that just letting all the tax cuts expire would be a good thing, doing so would probably throw the economy back into recession.

One plan now being bandied about is to technically let all the tax cuts expire and then very early in January have Congress pass a new law cutting taxes on the first $250,000 of income for everyone, including people earning more than this. The new tax cuts could be made retroactive to Jan. 1, 2013. In this way, the tax increase at midnight on Dec. 31 would be the work of the tax-and-budget fairy, with no Republican having to cast a vote on it. However, every member of Congress who voted for the early-January tax cut bill could boast about having voted for so many billions in tax cuts. It is truly amazing how much power a single person, Grover Norquist, who has never even run for public office, has. Little-known fact about Norquist: he is married to a Palestinian, Samah Alrayyes.

Midnight on Dec. 31 will be a busy time for the tax-and-budget fairy. In addition to the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, across-the-board budget cuts passed by Congress to force itself to deal with the budget also kick in then unless Congress does something to prevent it.

Ohio Sued for Restricting Early Voting

Like many states, Ohio has early voting. In the Buckeye state, voters can go to the polls as early as 35 days before the election, but a new law prevents voting on the Saturday, Sunday, and Monday before election day--precisely the days most voters would use early voting. In particular, voters in low-end jobs without the flexibility to take off time to vote on a Tuesday, say, bus drivers, will be adversely affected. The state says this change saves money. Nevertheless, the Obama administration has sued the Ohio Secretary of State to have the three early voting days restored. Many other countries hold their elections on weekends to make it easy to vote, but there appears to be little momentum for changing election day to a Saturday-Sunday combination in the U.S.

Romney Accuses Obama of Cronyism

Mitt Romney has opened a new line of attack on President Obama, accusing him of payoffs to friends and donors. Typically, however, attacks only work when they go after an aspect of the attackee that is already rooted in public opinion. Attacks on George W. Bush for being stupid or Bill Clinton for being a womanizer worked because they were already perceived that way. Attacking Bush for being a womanizer or Clinton for being stupid would never have worked. The Obama administration has been relatively free of scandals directly involving the President, so it remains to be seen how long Romney will keep up this line of attack before going back to the economy, which is much easier to tie Obama to.

Today's Presidential Polls

State Obama Romney   Start End Pollster
Iowa 48% 43%   Jul 12 Jul 15 PPP
New Hampshire 49% 45%   Jul 05 Jul 15 U. of New Hampshire
New York 61% 34%   Jul 10 Jul 15 Siena Coll.

Today's Senate Polls

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
New Mexico Martin Heinrich 48% Heather Wilson 43%     Jul 13 Jul 16 PPP
New York Kirsten Gillibrand 62% Wendy Long 25%     Jul 10 Jul 15 Siena Coll.