2014 Mid Term Elections

The Last 24™

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Federal Judge Richard Posner poses in his Chambers in ChicagoBz7HyE_IYAEaMzJ

JUDGE RICHARD POSNER, Reagan-Appointed Federal Judge, Writes Dissent Against Wisconsin Voter ID.

 

From Talking Points Memo:

9 Scathing Quotes From Judge Posner’s Dissent Against WI Voter ID

 

By 

 

Posner dissented against the decision by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals not to hold a full court re-hearing of a three-judge panel’s ruling authorizing implementation of the Badger State‘s voter ID law. Posner clearly regrets his previous position on voter ID, writing in a new book that he now pleads “guilty” to writing a majority opinion “now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than of fraud prevention.” (The Supreme Court temporarily put enforcement of the law on hold for the midterm elections.)

 

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Here are the most scathing quotes from Posner’s opinion.

 

—”Some of the ‘evidence’ of voter-impersonation fraud is downright goofy, if not paranoid, such as the nonexistent buses that according to the ‘True the Vote‘ movement transport foreigners and reservation Indians to polling places.”

 

—”Even Fox News, whose passion for conservative causes has never been questioned, acknowledges that ‘Voter ID Laws Target Rarely Occurring Voter Fraud.'” [Link included in the original.]

 

—”As there is no evidence that voter-impersonation fraud is a problem, how can the fact that a legislature says it’s a problem turn it into one? If the Wisconsin legislature says witches are a problem, shall Wisconsin courts be permitted to conduct witch trials?”

 

—”There is no evidence that Wisconsin’s voter rolls are inflated — as were Indiana’s — and there is compelling evidence that voter-impersonation fraud is essentially nonexistent in Wisconsin.”

 

—”The panel opinion states that requiring a photo ID might at least prevent persons who ‘are too young or are not citizens’ from voting. Not so. State-issued IDs are available to noncitizens … — all that’s required is proof of ‘legal presence in the United States[.]’

 

—”This implies that the net effect of such requirements is to impede voting by people easily discouraged from voting, most of whom probably lean Democratic.”

 

—”The panel opinion does not discuss the cost of obtaining a photo ID. It assumes the cost is negligible. That’s an easy assumption for federal judges to make, since we are given photo IDs by court security free of charge. And we have upper-middle-class salaries. Not everyone is so fortunate.”

 

—”There is only one motivation for imposing burdens on voting that are ostensibly designed to discourage voter-impersonation fraud, if there is no actual danger of such fraud, and that is to discourage voting by persons likely to vote against the party responsible for imposing the burdens.”

 

—”The authors’ overall assessment is that ‘voter ID laws don’t disenfranchise minorities or reduce minority voting, and in many instances enhance it’ [emphasis added]. In other words, the authors believe that the net effect of these laws is to increase minority voting. Yet if that is true, the opposition to these laws by liberal groups is senseless. If photo ID laws increase minority voting, liberals should rejoice in the laws and conservatives deplore them. Yet it is conservatives who support them and liberals who oppose them. Unless conservatives and liberals are masochists, promoting laws that hurt them, these laws must suppress minority voting and the question then becomes whether there are offsetting social benefits—the evidence is that there are not.”

 

Read the complete Dissent written by Judge Richard Posner,

 

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From The Brad Blog:

 

Reagan-Appointed Federal Judge Who Approved First Photo ID Law in 2008 Writes Devastating Dissent AGAINST Photo ID Voting Restrictions

 

Judge Richard Posner: ‘If the WI legislature says witches are a problem, shall WI courts be permitted to conduct witch trials?’

 

By BRAD FRIEDMAN

 

This article now cross-published by Salon

 

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If you read just one top-to-bottom dismantling of every supposed premise in support of disenfranchising Photo ID voting restrictions laws in your lifetime, let it be this one [PDF]!

 

It is a dissent, released on Friday, written by Judge Richard Posner, the Reagan-appointed 7th Circuit Court of Appeals judge who was the one who approved the first such Photo ID law in the country (Indiana’s) back in 2008, in the landmark Crawford v. Marion County case which went all the way to the Supreme Court, where Posner’s ruling was affirmed.

 

If there was ever evidence that a jurist could change their mind upon review of additional subsequent evidence, this is it. If there was ever a concise and airtight case made against Photo ID laws and the threat they pose to our most basic right to vote, this is it. If there was ever a treatise revealing such laws for the blatantly partisan shell games that they are, this is it.

 

His dissent includes a devastating response to virtually every false and/or disingenuous rightwing argument/talking point ever put forth in support of Photo ID voting restrictions, describing them as “a mere fig leaf for efforts to disenfranchise voters likely to vote for the political party that does not control the state government.”

 

Posner is, by far, the most widely cited legal scholar of the 20th century, according toThe Journal of Legal Studies. His opinions are closely read by the Supreme Court, where the battle over the legality and Constitutionality of Photo ID voting laws will almost certainly wind up at some point in the not too distant future. That’s just one of the reasons why this opinion is so important.

 

This opinion, written on behalf of five judges on the 7th Circuit, thoroughly disabuses such notions such as: these laws are meant to deal with a phantom voter fraud concern (“Out of 146 million registered voters, this is a ratio of one case of voter fraud for every 14.6 million eligible voters”); that evidence shows them to be little more than baldly partisan attempts to keep Democratic voters from voting (“conservative states try to make it difficult for people who are outside the mainstream…to vote”); that rightwing partisan outfits like True the Vote, which support such laws, present “evidence” of impersonation fraud that is “downright goofy, if not paranoid”; and the notion that even though there is virtually zero fraud that could even possibly be deterred by Photo ID restrictions, the fact that the publicthinks there is, is a lousy reason to disenfranchise voters since there is no evidence that such laws actually increase public confidence in elections and, as new studies now reveal, such laws have indeed served to suppress turnout in states where they have been enacted.

 

There is far too much in it to appropriately encapsulate here for now. Ya just really need to take some time to read it in full. But it was written, largely, in response to the Appellate Court ruling last week by rightwing Judge Frank Easterbrook which contained one embarrassing falsehood and error after another, including the canards about Photo ID being required to board airplanes, open bank accounts, buy beer and guns, etc. We took apart just that one paragraph of Easterbrook’s ruling last week here, but Posner takes apart his colleague’s entire, error-riddled mess of a ruling in this response.

 

Amongst my favorite passages (and there are so many), this one [emphasis added]…

The panel is not troubled by the absence of evidence. It deems the supposed beneficial effect of photo ID requirements on public confidence in the electoral system “‘a legislative fact’-a proposition about the state of the world,” and asserts that “on matters of legislative fact, courts accept the findings of legislatures and judges of the lower courts must accept findings by the Supreme Court.” In so saying, the panel conjures up a fact-free cocoon in which to lodge the federal judiciary. As there is no evidence that voter impersonation fraud is a problem, how can the fact that a legislature says it’s a problem turn it into one? If the Wisconsin legislature says witches are a problem, shall Wisconsin courts be permitted to conduct witch trials? If the Supreme Court once thought that requiring photo identification increases public confidence in elections, and experience and academic study since shows that the Court was mistaken, do we do a favor to the Court-do we increase public confidence in elections-by making the mistake a premise of our decision? Pressed to its logical extreme the panel’s interpretation of and deference to legislative facts would require upholding a photo ID voter law even if it were uncontested that the law eliminated no fraud but did depress turnout significantly.

And this one…

There is only one motivation for imposing burdens on voting that are ostensibly designed to discourage voter-impersonation fraud, if there is no actual danger of such fraud, and that is to discourage voting by persons likely to vote against the party responsible for imposing the burdens.

And remember, once again, this is written by Richard Posner, the conservative Republican icon of a federal appellate court judge — the judge who wrote the opinion on behalf of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals approving of the first such Photo ID law in the country in 2008, the very case that rightwingers from Texas to Wisconsin now cite over and over (almost always incorrectly) in support of similar such laws — now, clearly admitting that he got the entire thing wrong.

 

One last point (for now): Our legal analyst Ernie Canning, who (along with me) will undoubtedly have much more to say on this dissent in upcoming days, suggests we award The BRAD BLOG’s almost-never-anymore-bestowed Intellectually Honest Conservative Award to Judge Posner. And so it shall be.

 

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Thank you BRAD FRIEDMAN & The Brad Blog

 

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From Associated Press:

 

Voter ID Laws Target Rarely Occurring Voter Fraud

 

Several states adopted new laws last year requiring that people show a photo ID when they come to vote even though the kind of election fraud that the laws are intended to stamp out is rare.

 

Even supporters of the new laws are hard pressed to come up with large numbers of cases in which someone tried to vote under a false identify.

 

“I’ve compared this to the snake oil salesman. You got a cold? I got snake oil. Your foot aches? I got snake oil,” said election law expert Justin Levitt, who wrote “The Truth About Voter Fraud” for The Brennan Center for Justice. “It doesn’t seem to matter what the problem is, (voter) ID is being sold as the solution to a whole bunch of things it can’t possibly solve.”

 

Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin have passed laws this year that allow voters without the required photo ID to cast provisional ballots, but the voters must return to a specific location with that ID within a certain time limit for their ballots to count.

 

Indiana and Georgia already had such laws. Other states have photo ID laws too, but provide different way to verify a voter’s identity without a photo ID. Texas and South Carolina are awaiting approval for their laws from the Justice Department because of those are among that states with a history of voting rights suppression and discrimination.

 

Indiana’s law, passed in 2005, was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008. Levitt combed through 250 cases of alleged election law fraud cited in legal briefs filed in that challenge. He found only nine instances involving a person allegedly voting in someone else’s name, possibly fraudulently or possibly because of an error when the person signed in at the voting booth.

 

“They identified a lot of fraud, but very, very, very, very, very, very little of it could be prevented by identification at the polls,” Levitt said.

 

The remainder involved vote buying, ballot-box stuffing, problems with absentee ballots, or ex-convicts voting even though laws bar them from doing so. Over the same seven-year time period covered by the cases Levitt reviewed, 400 million votes were cast in general elections.

 

“If there was evidence of this, we’d know about it,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, president of the League of Women Voters. Her organization, which has affiliates in every state, knows voter registrars, attends election meetings, observes and works at polls and is intimately aware of how the election system works.

 

Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank, said one reason there is scant evidence of voter fraud is no one checks ID at the polls. He cited a mid-1980s grand jury report that described how, over a 14-year period, “crews” were recruited in Brooklyn, N.Y., to vote multiple times in multiple elections at various polling places, using the names of real voters, dead voters, voters who had moved away and fictitious voters.

 

“Nobody’s saying its large scale,” but such fraud could make a difference in close races, said von Spakovsky, who led the Justice Department’s civil rights division under President George W. Bush.

 

“It is something that happens in an instant and then it’s gone,” Republican Rep. Todd Rokita, who spent eight years as Indiana’s secretary of state, testified during a recent Senate hearing. “Witnesses dissipate. These are volunteer poll workers. It’s not a domestic violence case. It’s not something that leaves visible scars or bruises. It’s the kind of case that is very hard to prosecute. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”

 

The laws and other voting restrictions have riled civil rights leaders and voter protection groups. Some groups say the new state laws are the equivalent of poll taxes and literacy tests that effectively kept minorities out of voting booths.

 

They argue that blacks, Hispanics, senior citizens, people with disabilities and the poor are more likely to lack the required photo ID. But they also contend others could be disenfranchised: voters who fail to bring ID with them; students whose school IDs are deemed unacceptable; people whose drivers’ licenses have expired; women whose driver’s licenses do not reflect their married names or new addresses.

 

“We basically see these voter ID restriction laws as a solution without a problem,” said Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of The Advancement Project, a civil rights group.

 

Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott, a Republican, launched an investigation in 2005 to uncover what he called an “epidemic” of voter fraud. But reviews of Abbott’s investigation two years later yielded no cases of voter impersonation fraud. A Dallas Morning News review in 2008 found the 26 cases prosecuted were all against Democrats, most involved blacks and Hispanics, and typically involved people who helped elderly voters with mail-in ballots, but failed to follow state law by signing their names and addresses on the envelopes.

 

Abbot’s investigation was paid for with a $1.4 million Justice Department crime-fighting grant.

 

After a five-year hunt for voter fraud, the Bush administration’s Justice Department came up with little widespread fraud, finding mostly cases of people mistakenly filling out voter registration forms or voting when they didn’t know they were ineligible, The New York Times reported in 2007. But none of the cases involved a person voting as someone else.

 

Lorraine Minnite, author of “The Myth of Voter Fraud,” spent years researching voter fraud after finding that pushes for election reform often raised concerns that the proposed changes could lead to more voter fraud.

 

Her research turned up one case of voter impersonation from 2000 to 2005: A New Hampshire teenager who cast a ballot as his father, who shared the same name. Minnite said she concluded “the whole problem is way overblown” largely for political reasons.

 

Asked by The Associated Press for examples of unprosecuted cases, Rokita’s office pointed to suspicious or poorly filled out voter registration cards submitted in 2008 by the now-defunct community activist group ACORN. Rokita’s spokesman Timothy Edson said the Indiana photo ID law prevented people from fraudulently voting under those registration cards.

 

But Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, who led the hearing where Rokita testified and opposes the photo requirement, insisted such fraud should be prosecuted if it is happening frequently enough to warrant the new laws.

 

“There ought to be a clear example to the people of this country we just won’t stand for this wherever it might occur,” Durbin said.

 

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J.C. Penney Gets Its First Black CEO In 112-Year History

 

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Marvin Ellison was executive vice president of stores at Home Depot and spent years at Target prior to that. There are currently just six black CEOs leading Fortune 500 companies.

 

From Associated Press:

J.C. Penney’s newly tapped CEO has a big challenge ahead of him: The troubled chain is showing signs of improvement after racking up billions in losses, but still hasn’t figured out how to get shoppers back into its department stores.

 

Penney said Monday that Marvin Ellison, a 30-year retail veteran and executive vice president of stores at Home Depot, will become its CEO next August. Ellison will be the first black CEO in the company’s 112-year history.

 

Ellison succeeds Mike Ullman, a former Penney CEO who came out of retirement last year to take the helm again. His mission was to stabilize the business following the ouster of Ron Johnson, a former Apple executive who tried unsuccessfully to reinvent the beleaguered chain by getting rid of sales and some basic merchandise. That led to billions in losses of profit and sales.

 

The company’s profit losses — which have amounted to a total of $3.16 billion in 11 of the last 12 quarters — have slowed significantly under Ullman’s leadership. But the company is still in the red, and analysts say Ellison’s challenge will be to fix the fundamental problems that caused Penney to lose customers in the first place.

 

They say the retailer doesn’t have merchandise that sets it apart from rivals like Macy’s and H&M. Its stores are drab and unexciting. And its web site doesn’t offer the selection and services that shoppers like.

 

“While bringing in a credible new CEO has some benefits, J.C. Penney’s customers are leaving the store,” said Michael Binetti, an analyst at UBS in a note to clients Monday.

 

THE TRANSITION

Penney is looking to Ellison, 49, to help right the ship. Ellison spent 12 years with Home Depot and before that, 15 years at Target. He has expertise in store operations and logistics, but lacks experience in fashion.

 

Ellison, who also will join Penney’s board, will become president in November, before taking the CEO title next year. At that time, Mike Ullman will become executive chairman of the board, serving for a year.

 

It’s rare for a management transition to last that long, but Walter Loeb, a New York-based retail consultant, said the time is needed. “I think (Ellison) is an excellent leader … but he needs time to learn the fashion business,” he said.

 

Ullman said in a statement that he looks forward to working closely with Ellison and the rest of the team in the coming months to ensure a “smooth transition and a successful future for J.C. Penney.”

 

Penney said Ullman and Ellison weren’t available for interviews on Monday.

 

WHAT WENT WRONG

Ullman was CEO for seven years before Johnson was brought in to modernize the stores. But customers didn’t like Johnson’s changes, and Johnson left after 17 months. Ullman, who was brought back in April 2013, began restoring sales and basic merchandise that the company ditched under Johnson’s tenure.

 

Under Ullman, Penney has recorded three straight quarters of increases in sales at established stores. Still, those increases haven’t outweighed last year’s drastic declines.

 

In the latest fiscal year that ended Feb. 1, Penney recorded a loss of $1.39 billion, while revenue dropped 8.7 percent to $11.86 billion. And last week, Penney warned that its sales at stores open at least a year last month were weaker than expected. It also cut its outlook for sales at established stores for the current quarter.

 

FIXING THE PROBLEM

The CEO announcement comes after Penney last week unveiled a strategy that it said would boost sales by $2.55 billion over next three years. It entails improving the productivity of its stores’ home department, expanding e-commerce and sprucing up areas like jewelry, shoes and handbags.

 

Penney sees the opportunity for an additional $1 billion in sales from continued market-share growth. That would bring the chain’s annual revenue to $14.5 billion by fiscal 2017. Still, that’s well below the $17.3 billion it generated before sales went into a freefall under Johnson.

 

The company also has focused on cutting costs. Earlier this year, it cut 2,000 jobs and shuttered 33 stores. But the company didn’t announce any more store closures last week as analysts had expected.

 

On news of the CEO appointment, J.C. Penney’s shares closed up 3 cents, or less than a percent, to $7.09, on Monday. That’s after having risen more than 3 percent earlier in the day.

 

J.C. Penney shares have lost more than 80 percent of their value since early 2012 when investor enthusiasm was high over Johnson’s turnaround strategy.

 

This undated photo provided by Home Depot Inc. shows Marvin Ellison, the company's executive vice president of stores. J.C. Penney on Monday, Oct. 13, 2014 said that Ellison will become its president in November and CEO next August. (AP Photo/Home Depot Inc.)

This undated photo provided by Home Depot Inc. shows Marvin Ellison, the company’s executive vice president of stores. J.C. Penney on Monday, Oct. 13, 2014 said that Ellison will become its president in November and CEO next August. (AP Photo/Home Depot Inc.)

 

Thank you Associated Press.

 

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