The political and legal tide began to slowly change for President Obama beginning on June 28, 2012 with the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). The Supreme Court’s ruling gave renewed albeit cautious energy to supporters of President Obama. I was present that day on the grounds of the Supreme Court. And the mood among progressives with whom I attended was euphoria, optimism and also shock.
Meanwhile U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and many civil rights groups have been successfully fighting the GOP led voter ID and other discriminatory laws and getting good results. As many Republicans, like Pennsylvania lawmaker Mike Turzai, admitted that the voter ID laws were meant to give Mitt Romney the win, the court battles have been decided against the voter ID laws, voter purging and other GOP schemes.
The U. S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled on August 30 that the Texas voter ID law discriminated against Hispanics and other minorities, many of whom live in poverty. Obtaining required voter ID’s is costly for many persons who may have to travel to other counties and often lose time from work. The Court said it would have a “retrogressive effect” on minorities’ right to vote. Texas required specific forms of ID to vote, such as allowing gun permits but not student ID and other nonsense requirements.
South Carolina’s voter ID law, not much unlike Texas law, went on trial on August 27 before the same U.S. District Court which struck down Texas voter ID law. Closing arguments are set for September 24 in the South Carolina voter ID case. A ruling is expected shortly thereafter and before November 6.
The Democratic National Convention put the Obama campaign in high gear moving down towards November 6 home stretch. The convention was like an exceptionally well- choreographed and orchestrated play except it was reality. It went off to the tune of perfection. Euphoria, optimism, energy and love of our country was felt everywhere during the convention. No one felt left out or left behind. It had to be the most diverse political convention ever attended. I was in awe of the diversity in the crowd in attendance. It was like watching a mini United Nations convention combined with every gender, race, ethnicity, generation, military affiliation and sexual orientation. And President Obama’s initial campaign bump turned into a larger lead going into the October debate.
Momentum continued the week following the convention. A progressive and Democratic victory came in Wisconsin on September 14 with a Wisconsin court striking down Republican Governor Scott Walker’s ban on collective bargaining for unions. Unions and progressives are overjoyed. Last year, Governor Walker proposed a bill that later became law in March, 2011 effectively prohibiting unions to bargain on worker and workplace safety, health benefits, pension and vacation benefits for public employees. It caused many Wisconsin protests at the state capitol lasting for three weeks. Governor Scott is expected to appeal. A ruling or appeal will not be heard before the election.
The GOP’s attempt to purge voters off of registered voter lists, many of whom are legitimate and legal voters, is not going as they intended. Many civil rights groups, including the Advancement Project sued the State of Florida over its attempt to purge 2600 persons from the voter’s list. Only approximately 200 voters were found to be ineligible to vote. Last week an agreement was entered into with Florida and the Advancement Project who filed the case. Under the agreement, Florida’s election supervisors must now send out letters to 2400 voters telling them that they are eligible to vote. Representative for the Advancement Project said of the settlement:
“This settlement represents a historic milestone for voting rights in Florida,” said Advancement Project Co-Director Judith Browne Dianis. “It will ensure that naturalized citizens, the majority of whom are Latino, black and Asian, have the same opportunities as all Americans to participate in our political process and exercise the most fundamental right in our democracy _ the right to vote.”
On September 11, Colorado officials gave up on their ill- fated attempt to block legal citizens from voting. The Colorado Secretary of State had sent out letters to 4000 persons asking them to prove they were eligible to vote or risk being taken off the voter rolls. Of the 4,000 persons on the list, it is only suspected that 141 persons or .004 of total Colorado voters are ineligible.
An Iowa judge on September 14 barred the state from purging what it believes are non-citizen voters as it will confuse legitimate voters who may end up on the list and prevent them from voting. While the Iowan case is still ongoing, no purging will take place for the November election.
And we are anxiously awaiting the appellate decision on the Pennsylvania case on voter ID disenfranchisement which could affect hundreds of thousands of voters—coming down any day now. A Pennsylvania appeals court is set to rule on the issue of whether the Pennsylvania voter ID law which could disenfranchise over 700,000 will stand. A ruling is expected before the election.
Stay tuned to LegalSpeaks for upcoming legal battles on the election front. As stories break, we will update.
Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a former prosecutor and founder of LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics. As a legal and political commentator she has appeared in national and local media including the Michael Eric Dyson Show, NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates, RT TV, CBC- Canadian TV, NPR, XM Sirius radio, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Black Enterprise among others. She also writes for the Huffington Post and Politic 365.