Oct. 19

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New Senate: DEM 48             GOP 52

New polls: OR
Dem pickups: GA

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Supreme Court Says Texas May Enforce Voter ID Law in November

Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Texas could enforce its new voter ID law this November. Three justices dissented from the ruling. The ruling did not address the merits of the case. It was simply a matter of the Court not wanting to tinker with the election rules so close to an election. Earlier, a district court judge found that the law was an unconstitutional poll tax because people had to pay money to get the necessary documents in order to get a valid voter ID card. The case will go to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit next, then back to the Supreme Court, probably next year, for a ruling on the merits.

While supporters of voter ID laws say they are not racial in any way and are simply intended to combat fraud, a new study conducted by professors at the University of Delaware suggests otherwise. The professors asked people what they thought of voter ID laws. During the questioning, 1/3 of the participants were shown a photo of a white person voting, 1/3 were shown a photo of a black person voting, and 1/3 were shown no photo at all. A statistically significant increase in support for voter ID laws was observed among white people who were shown a black voter compared to a white voter or no photo.

In Final Stretch, No Pattern is Emerging

Normally, with the election just over 2 weeks away a pattern would be emerging, but it is not. The map strongly favors the Republicans because so many Senate elections are in deep red states, but it doesn't appear any wave is building. North Carolina, Kansas, South Dakota, and Georgia were supposed to be no-brainers for the Republicans, but they are in competitive races in all of them. Numerous incumbent governors of both parties are in trouble. The Ebola hysteria is scaring people, with unknown effects on how they vote.

A key factor is that while President Obama is deeply unpopular in many states with critical elections, the Republican-led House is even more unpopular. Thus dislike of Obama does not automatically lead to support for Republicans. Also, positions are very muddled. Many Republicans are attacking the ACA, saying health matters are the responsibility of the states, not the federal government. Yet when it comes to Ebola, suddenly it is the federal government that is being faulted for not taking charge.

Black Turnout Could Be the Deciding Factor in Many Races

A large turnout among black voters helps the Democrats and a small one helps Republicans. A memo from one Democratic pollster said that half of all blacks don't even know when the election is. In states like Georgia, North Carolina, and Louisiana, black turnout could be the deciding factor. In Georgia, for example, 1.1 million blacks voted in 2012 but only 741,000 voted in 2010. If the turnout is like 2012, Michelle Nunn (D) is likely to win but if it is like 2010, David Perdue (R) will probably be first. If neither candidate crosses the 50% threshold, there will be a runoff on Jan. 6, three days after the new Senate convenes.

Trying to register voters is not without its challenges. In Georgia, where blacks make up 30% of potential voters, 600,000 of them are not registered. The Democratic leader of the state house, Stacey Abrams, set up the New Georgia Project to get them registered, but the Republican secretary of state, Brian Kemp, has not yet processed 40,000 new registrations, saying he is concerned about voter fraud. Abrams has denounced Kemp for voter suppression. The case is in the courts now.

In Louisiana, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) has enlisted 600 black and religious leaders to help with voter registration. She and her allies intend to use black churches as their focal point to energize supporters to vote before election day. Early voting starts Tuesday in Louisiana.

The way to get marginal voters of any color to vote is to contact them. One election expert, Sasha Issenberg, said that it takes 14 contacts with a voter to produce one new vote. This kind of contact is massively labor intensive and expensive. Nevertheless, the Democrats are trying hard. In North Carolina, for example, the party has deputized 150 "captains" to try to register voters. Many of these are owners of small businesses such as black barbershops and hair salons that come in contact with many voters. For the most part, Republicans are not doing this kind of outreach because their voters are much more dependable and don't need to be pushed to get them to vote.

Many Transgender Americans May Lose the Right to Vote Due to ID Laws

While a lot has been written about how getting a valid photo ID is a difficult process for many low-income people who cannot easily obtain or pay for a birth certificate, there is another category of people for whom the voter ID laws are a big problem: transgender people. If a person has a photo ID that lists the gender they were born with but they have since transitioned (or are in the process of transitioning) to the other gender, poll workers may not accept the ID and may refuse them the right to vote, even though voting has nothing to do with gender. One estimate puts the number of people who may be denied the right to vote on account of this at 24,000.

Hillary Clinton Tests 2016 Themes

Hillary Clinton is out on the campaign trail, in principle stumping for Democratic candidates running for election this year, but also trying out various themes should could use in 2016. In Philadelphia she asked why corporations have all the rights of people but none of the responsibilities of people. In Michigan she pointed out that America was built by laborers not by rich corporations;. Talk like that might preempt a run from the left by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). But at other stops on her trips she has been more centrist. Her strategy might be to get people to see in her whatever they want to see in her. In 2008, Barack Obama did that very successfully. Many of his supporters thought "hope" and "change," his themes, would mean wholesale changes to the way the government worked. However, none of his actual policy proposals were very radical, allowing people to read into him whatever they wanted. Clinton might well go down the same road.

Today's Senate Polls

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
Oregon Jeff Merkley* 47% Monica Wehby 26%     Oct 08 Oct 11 DHM Research

* Denotes incumbent

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