Friday, November 4, 2011

New Redistricting Maps And Candidate Filing Deadlines For 2012 Proposed order on election deadlines

Thursday evening, Chad Dunn, counsel for the Texas Democratic Party, submitted a proposal for adjusting election filing deadlines in light of the not yet complete process of drawing interim legislative maps. Dunn indicated in a footnote that the proposal had been worked on by both the parties.

Under the proposal submitted by Dunn:

  • The candidate filing period would run from November 28 to December 15 (rather than November 12 to December 12).
  • The requirement that a candidate for the state house or state senate live in his or her district for one year before November 6, 2012 would be modified to only require that the candidate have lived in the district from December 15, 2011 through November 6, 2012.
  • Counties would be given until December 13 to redraw precinct boundaries.
  • The ballot order draw in each county would remain December 20.

The San Antonio three-judge federal court panel adjudicating a Texas redistricting lawsuit signed a court order on Friday Nov. 4, 2011 to change 2012 election filing deadlines, in light of the not yet completed process of drawing interim redistricting maps. Here's the new deadline schedule:

November 28: Candidate filing period opens (had been November 12).

December 10: If an officeholder whose term is not up in 2012 resigns on or before this day, the office will be included on the March 2012 primary ballot (had been December 7).

December 13: Deadline for adjustments to precinct boundaries as a result of new legislative lines (was October 1).

December 15 @ 6 p.m.: Last day to candidate filing (had been December 12).

December 16: Last day a candidate can withdraw and have his or her name omitted from the primary ballot. A candidate who dies or is declared ineligible by this day also will be omitted from the primary ballot (had been December 13).

December 19: Last day to file for an unexpired term (unchanged). Also deadline for state chairs to deliver lists of statewide candidates and candidates for multi county offices to county chairs (had been December 16).

December 20: Ballot order draw in each county (unchanged).

December 22: Deadline for state and county chairs to deliver candidate lists to appropriate election officials (unchanged).

January 13: County election officials must send out new voter registration certificates by this date.

March 6: Democratic and Republican primaries (unchanged).

The Texas congressional map drawn by Republicans is almost certain to be thrown out for the next election, costing them a few seats in the House and increasing Democrats’ opportunities to try to retake control of the chamber next fall. The map needs to be approved by the federal government because of Texas’s history of racial discrimination, and members of a three-judge federal panel indicated at a Wednesday hearing that they will not allow it to go into effect immediately.

This will trigger a temporary court-drawn map in Texas that will not be nearly as favorable to the Republicans. “For Congress, that cheats us out of three seats,” one Republican was overheard griping to another after the hearing.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

War On Terror "Real I.D." Driver's License Federal Law Meets State Voter Photo I.D.

You probably heard about 96-year-old Dorothy Cooper who couldn't get a free voter photo ID card at a Tennessee Driver Service Center in October. Tennessee has a voter photo ID law nearly identical to Texas' new ID law. Cooper never had a driver's license so she had to get a "free" voter photo ID card to vote in future elections. Even though she had a birth certificate and other ID the Driver Service Center wouldn't issue an ID card because she didn't have her marriage certificate.

Perhaps you've heard about a 93-year-old Tennessee woman, Thelma Mitchell, who cleaned the state Capitol for 30 years, including the governor’s office and who won’t be able to vote for the first time in decades because she also couldn't get a "free" voter photo ID card at a Tennessee Driver Service Center. Ms. Mitchell was even accused of being an undocumented immigrant because she couldn’t produce a birth certificate:
Mitchell, who was delivered by a midwife in Alabama in 1918, has never had a birth certificate. But when she told that to a drivers’ license clerk, he suggested she might be an illegal immigrant.
Maybe you've heard about a 84-year-old Brokaw, Wisconsin woman, Ruthelle Frank, who won’t be able to vote for the first time in decades because she also couldn't get a "free" voter photo ID card at a Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles. Born after a difficult birth at her home in 1927, Frank never received an official birth certificate. Without her birth certificate, she can’t secure the state ID card that the new voter photo law requires. The state Register of Deeds in Madison has a record of her birth, but the attending physician at Frank’s birth misspelled her maiden name, so the name on her state recorded birth record does not match the name given on Frank's other identity documents.

The Tennessee and Wisconsin Departments of Motor Vehicles were following requirements of the federal Real ID Act of 2005, which is mandated to take effect in all 50 states by January 2013. After January 2013 even young women across the U.S., who already have a driver's license, may face the same ID road block as 96 year old Dorothy Cooper.

After the commercial airliner attacks of September 11, 2001 the federal government implemented a "war on terror" photo driver's license "Real ID" law, with regulatory oversight given to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The Federal Real ID law mandates state driver's license and personal ID card issuance regulations that require U.S. citizens to present a state certified birth certificate and other identifying documents in order to obtain or renew their license or ID card after January 2013.

The Federal Real ID law has transformed state issued driver's licenses into a de facto national photo identity card that is required to board commercially operated airline flights, conduct official business with federal agencies, apply for Social Security, and increasingly, to vote.

The Real ID driver's license law was enacted in 2005, when Republicans controlled Congress and the White House, as a response to the fact that several of the 19 foreign hijackers on 9/11 had obtained state driver’s licenses. Many states are now applying the federally mandated anti-terror photo "Real ID" law to voters by enacting voter photo ID laws.

Last May Governor Rick Perry (R) signed SB14 into law requiring voters to present a limited selection of unexpired government issued photo identification to qualify to vote in Texas elections. The most widely held photo ID on that short list of voter photo identification documents is the Texas driver's license.

The Texas Secretary of State (SOS) reports that 605,576 registered Texas voters do not appear to have a Texas driver’s license or personal ID card. The SOS report reveals that in 27 of Texas' 254 counties, at least 10 percent of the registered voters might be unable to cast ballots. In Presidio County in Southwest Texas as many as 25.9% of registered voters might not have the required photo ID, which will block as many as 1,313 out of the 5,066 registered voters in that county from casting ballots in any election.

New photo ID laws for voting will be in effect for the first time for the 2012 election in five states -- Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin. Those five states have a combined citizen voting age population of just under 29 million. The Brennan Center for Justice issued a report estimating that the newly enacted Real ID voting laws in those five states "could make it significantly harder for 3.2 million (11 percent) of those potential voters who do not already have government issued photo ID. With 18.8 million voting age citizens in Texas, as counted by the 2010 U.S. census, as many as 2.1 million (11 percent) voting age citizens in Texas do not hold a Texas driver’s license, personal ID card or other government issued photo ID document.

Even Texas voters who already hold a Texas driver's license may find it challenging to renew their driver's license when the federal "Real ID" law takes effect on January 15, 2013.

What is the federally mandated anti-terror photo "Real ID" law?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Mississippians Vote To Outlaw Birth Control Pills

This blog has published several articles over the last three years stating that social conservative Republicans have been trying to again criminalize contraceptives every since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized contraceptive use in 1965. Now this from Think Progress...

Personhood USA Confirms That Mississippi Abortion Ban Would Outlaw Birth Control Pills

Next Tuesday, Mississippians will go to the polls to decide on Initiative 26, a personhood amendment to the state constitution that defines a person as “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof.” Personhood amendments represent an extreme reach into a family’s privacy, essentially criminalizing abortion and potentially outlawing common forms of birth control.

Right-wing supporters of Mississippi’s personhood amendment, however, decry the fact that the bill will ban birth control as “scare tactics.” “It’s an outright lie that Initiative 26 would ban birth control pills,” said American Family Association Executive Director Brad Prewitt. “Stopping a pregnancy is not the issue; ending a pregnancy is.” Unfortunately for proponents, the Personhood movement spokesman Walter Hoye stated the opposite on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show. As the Florida Independent reports, when asked if there were any restrictions on birth control in the amendment, Hoye answered “no…well, yes,” adding, “any birth control that ends the life of a human being will be impacted by this measure,” including the pill:

HOYE: Any birth control that ends the life of a human being will be impacted by this measure.

REHM: So that would then include the IUD [intra-uterine device]. What about the birth control pill?

HOYE: If that falls into the same category, yes.

REHM: So you’re saying that the birth control pill could be considered as taking the life of a human being?

HOYE: I’m saying that once the egg and the oocyte come together and you have that single-celled embryo, at that point you have human life, you’ve got a human being and we’re taking the life of a human being with some forms of birth control and if birth control falls into that category, yes I am.

The “profoundly ambiguous” language of the amendment will affect more than just birth control. Because fertilization can be defined as either the sperm’s penetration of the egg or, as Hoye suggests, when the embryo is formed even before implantation in the uterus, the amendment could ban “forms of birth control, stem cell derivation and the destruction of embryos created though in vitro fertilization (IVF).”

Indeed, as Personhood USA President Keith Mason stated outright, “it would ban some current practices of IVF” because he sees it as “the creation of 30 or 60 embryos and then picking through them to see which ones are most likely boys or girls, or basically looking at the ones you want to give life to and destroying the rest.”

Be it an outright attack on a constitutionally protected procedure, on a woman’s personal right to prevent pregnancy, or even on a couples chance to have a child, supporters and opponents agree that Mississippi’s personhood amendment is a far-reaching blow to a woman’s — and family’s — reproductive rights.

The Birth Control Solution

The Men Behind The War On Women

Huffington Post: A group of men with no real background in law or medicine, but blessed with a strong personal interest in women’s bodies, have quietly influenced all of the major anti-abortion legislation over the past several years. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops may be one of the quietest, yet most powerful lobbies on Capitol Hill, with political allies that have enabled them to roll back decades of law and precedent in reproductive rights of women.

Over the past two years the GOP-controlled House of Representatives has launched one of the most extreme assaults on women's choice the U.S. has seen in decades. Republicans voted twice to slash federal family planning funds for low-income women, moved to prevent women from using their own money to buy insurance plans that cover abortion, introduced legislation that would force women to have ultrasounds before receiving an abortion and, most recently, passed a bill that will allow hospitals to refuse to perform emergency abortions for women with life-threatening pregnancy complications.