How Not to Do It

We’re having a bit of a dust up over the new Rochester Mayor, Lovely Ann Warren. Lovely is a protege of the awful David Gantt, and she apparently learned a few bad habits from him. Lovely went around civil service rules to hire her uncle to head the first-ever security detail for a mayor here, based on some threats she received. Then, her uncle was stopped while driving her, doing 97 in a 65 zone, but for some reason wasn’t ticketed.

This raised a number of questions, all neatly summarized by local TV reporter Rachel Barnhart. The word in Rochester is that if you want to know what’s happening in this town, just follow Rachel on Twitter. Anyone living in Rochester knows that Rachel is like a fucking bulldog when she gets on something, and she’s definitely all over this story.

Yesterday, Lovely held a hastily-arranged press conference. Rochester isn’t a very big media market, so if there were a dozen reporters and photographers at that conference, it was a full house. Rachel was one of them, and Warren refused to take her questions. Here’s Rachel’s report on that shit show, where Lovely spent time dickering about how fast her uncle was really going, and it includes possibly the worst picture of Lovely that I’ve ever seen. When asked why she wouldn’t take Rachel’s questions, Lovely’s answer was “I’m the mayor”. Here’s Rachel’s response this morning, proving once again that local reporters just don’t take shit the way the DC press corpse does:

A couple of hours after the press event, the city council announced that they’re starting an ethics investigation. That must be some kind of record: in office for 13 days, and now the subject of an ethics investigation. It’s going to be an interesting year for Ms Warren.

Good News for Democrats

From the Washington Post:

RICHMOND — State Sen. Mark D. Obenshain (R) conceded the race for Virginia attorney general to Democrat Mark R. Herring on Wednesday, saying his “vigorous and hard-fought fight” is over.

Obenshain’s announcement put an end to a drawn-out contest that, on election night, was the closest statewide election in history….

The race to succeed Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) not only turned into a protracted nail-biter to determine not only who serves as Virginia’s top law-enforcement official, but it also could determine control of the evenly split state Senate.

Herring and Obenshain are state senators, and Herring’s win will prompt a special election. Because Herring’s Loudoun County district is seen as highly competitive, his win could cause Democrats to lose power in the evenly divided Senate. The GOP has a wide margin in the House.

Obenshain’s decision came a day after Herring’s lead grew to more than 810 votes, with 73 percent of ballots across the state recounted, according to Herring’s campaign…

In late November, the State Board of Elections declared Herring the winner by just 165 votes out of more than 2.2 million cast, a margin so slim it entitled Obenshain to a government-funded recount.

If the 800-vote lead holds, the race will lose its distinction as the closest statewide election in Virginia history. The record-holder is the 2005 contest for attorney general between then-Del. Robert F. McDonnell and Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath). McDonnell won by 360 votes.

“An uncomfortable relationship to the political activism of blacks and the poor”

It’s race, class AND punditry predictions:

In most elections, the intricacies of voting procedures rarely warrant headlines or interest most Americans. But in 2012, voter identification laws took center stage. In fact, in the five years preceding the 2012 election, almost half of states enacted some form of legislation restricting voter access — such as requiring photo identification or proof of citizenship to vote, more stringently regulating voter registration drives, shortening early voting periods, repealing same-day voter registration, or further restricting voting by felons.
What we found was that restrictions on voting derived from both race and class. The more that minorities and lower-income individuals in a state voted, the more likely such restrictions were to be proposed. Where minorities turned out at the polls at higher rates the legislation was more likely enacted.
More specifically, restrictive proposals were more likely to be introduced in states with larger African-American and non-citizen populations and with higher minority turnout in the previous presidential election. These proposals were also more likely to be introduced in states where both minority and low-income turnout had increased in recent elections. A similar picture emerged for the actual passage of these proposals. States in which minority turnout had increased since the previous presidential election were more likely to pass restrictive legislation.
We also examined just the bills passed in 2011, when the vast majority of bills were adopted. The same findings emerged.
States that passed more restrictive legislation in 2011 were those in which:
• Republicans controlled the governorship and both chambers of the legislative body.
• Forecasters viewed them as potential swing states in the 2012 election.
• Minority turnout was higher in the 2008 presidential election and those which have larger proportions of African-American residents.

Ultimately, recently enacted restrictions on voter access have not only a predictable partisan pattern but also an uncomfortable relationship to the political activism of blacks and the poor.

I think we knew most of this from nearly a decade of observations but I have not seen the link between “swing state” status and new voting restrictions shown before, although of course it occurred to me partly because conservatives in Pennsylvania told us all about it.

Ohio and Florida are the traditional “screw around with the voting rules” states of course, but we saw new efforts to restrict or impede voting in nearly every state that was (rightly or wrongly) designated “in play” in 2012 including North Carolina, Iowa, Virginia, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Now come the young ones

In August, the League of Women Voters sued North Carolina on that state’s new voter suppression law:

On Monday, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed the most suppressive voting law in decades. The League of Women Voters of North Carolina (LWVNC) went straight to action, filing a federal lawsuit to challenge the voting restrictions as racially discriminatory and request that the state be placed back into preclearance under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
North Carolina’s new voting law is likely a bellwether of anti-voter legislation to come in other states following the Supreme Court’s decision this past June striking down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. While much focus has been given to the law’s voter photo ID requirements, its voter restrictions unfortunately go much deeper.
In addition to requiring a government-issued photo ID to vote, the law:
• Shortens weekday early voting periods;
• Eliminates early voting on Sundays;
• Eliminates pre-registration for high school students;
• Eliminates same day registration during early voting.
LWVNC’s lawsuit, which was filed by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and the ACLU on behalf of LWVNC, Common Cause and the A. Philip Randolph Institute, argues that the state’s new voting law will restrict voter registration and voting opportunities for hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians, particularly minorities.

“North Carolina has a long and sad history of official discrimination against African Americans, including official discrimination in voting that has touched upon the right of African Americans and other people of color to register, vote, or otherwise participate in the democratic process,” LWVNC’s lawsuit argues.

Over 70 percent of African-Americans used early voting in the 2008 and 2012 general elections, compared to 52 percent of white voters. The lawsuit is just one part of the League of Women Voters of North Carolina’s vow to do everything in its power “to see that this legislation gets swept into the dustbin of history where it belongs.

This is a motion to intervene in that original League of Women Voters lawsuit, brought by young voters, yesterday (pdf). “VIVA” is the Voter Information Verification Act which is the title of the North Carolina law. Louis M. Duke is one of the young plaintiffs, which is why they are called the “Duke Plaintiffs” in the motion:

The Duke Plaintiffs, all young voters residing in and registered to vote in North Carolina, seek to intervene in this action to protect their voting rights and interests that are guaranteed by the Fourteenth and Twenty-Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
Like the current plaintiffs, the Duke Plaintiffs assert that the law violates their right to equal protection as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. But as young voters, the Duke Plaintiffs bring the unique perspective of a group, not currently represented by any party to the litigation, whose voting rights are significantly impacted by VIVA…

VIVA infringes upon or outright denies the rights of young North Carolinians to vote through restrictive voter identification requirements; the curtailment of early or “one stop” voting; the elimination of same day registration; the elimination of out-of-precinct voting; the removal of the discretion of boards of election to keep polling locations open for an extra hour on Election Day; and the elimination of pre-registration for 16 and 17-year-olds. These drastic changes in North Carolina’s voting laws disproportionality affect young voters as compared to the general population.

Accordingly, in addition to claiming a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Duke Plaintiffs allege injury under the Twenty-Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution, which prohibits states intentionally infringing or denying “the right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote on account of age”

Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

I hope only that all the provisionals are counted in

you are probably already familiar with the extraordinary developments over the weekend in Virginia, where the canvassing process has narrowed the margin between Republican Mark Obenshain and Democrat Mark Herring to 17 votes out of 2.2 million cast.

What’s been fascinating to me is how this entire process has taken place under the gaze of hyper-aware election geeks who have in some cases driven the narrative forward – mostly on Twitter

Either way, this race is almost certain to go to a recount; when it does, the record will already be jam-packed with evidence of what happened on and after Election Day.
On behalf of election geeks everywhere, I raise my coffee cup to Virginia. If nothing else, it’s one hell of a story.

Members and employees of the Board of Elections here say the ideal election result is not “Republican won!” or “Democrat won!” it’s “landslide!” because they know they will be national news if there’s a statewide race that comes down to a handful of votes. The truth is one doesn’t know how well the election process in any state will hold up under scrutiny until it’s tested with a race like this one.

* if you want specific numbers on provisionals read this.

** commenter Van has additional info on the provisional ballot rule change controversy:

Yeah, the SBE issued a statement on the rules. Basically what the controversy was about was could voters have a legal representative appear before the board without the voter present to advocate for accepting their provisional ballot. Party representatives are already there and neither the voter or their legal representative needs to be there for a provisional ballot to be accepted( or rejected). In 2012 the legislature amended the rules to allow a voter to bring a legal representative with them, but this did not include allowing the legal representative to appear without the voter. The Fairfax board was reading this differently, but they were overruled by the SBE partly because many localities had already counted their provisional ballots and they felt it would be unfair to change the rules. So this is not a GOP power grab.