Now that he’s admitted it, and he’s the secretary of state, doesn’t he have to do something to prevent it?


The Ohio state Senate was set to consider this week what critics are calling the most restrictive voter identification law in the country. The push for restrictive voter ID measures in the Buckeye state is part of a trend of similar legislation sweeping Republican-controlled legislatures across the country. But Ohio’s measure is so restrictive — it requires the photo IDs to be issued by the state, so voters couldn’t identify themselves with their full Social Security numbers — that it lost the support of Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted.

“I want to be perfectly clear, when I began working with the General Assembly to improve Ohio’s elections system it was never my intent to reject valid votes,” Husted said in a short statement posted on his official website.

“I would rather have no bill than one with a rigid photo identification provision that does little to protect against fraud and excludes legally registered voters’ ballots from counting,” Husted said.

“I do not believe this is in any way a voter suppression issue,” said Tom Niehaus, the Republican President of the Senate. “This is about maintaining the integrity of the voting process.”

The Ohio Secretary of State is now admitting this legislation will “exclude legally registered voter’s ballots from counting”. He’s also denying it was ever his intent to “reject valid votes”. The GOP majority leader is denying “voter suppression”. He “does not believe” this is a voter suppression attempt. Finally. After 10 years of absolute bullshit on voter impersonation fraud, we’re getting down to what’s really going on here.

Don’t get too excited about Secretary of State Husted’s sudden and mystifying attack of conscience. He doesn’t have a great record, and he’s only been in office since January. His behavior in a 2011 case involving provisional ballots doesn’t inspire confidence. Second class (provisional) ballots are less likely to be counted, because provisional ballots introduce an element of pollworker, election employee, and election official discretion that just doesn’t come into play with a first class ballot. The chaotic mess that resulted when a close 2010 Ohio judicial race went to recount (that I’ve described below) is a good example of that.

Briefly, there was a very close race for juvenile judge in a county in Ohio in 2010. The results turned on whether provisional ballots were to be reviewed or excluded. The voters involved cast their provisional ballots correctly but due to pollworker error, those second class “provisional” ballots were accepted at the wrong precinct table. Hundreds of provisional ballots were thrown into question, and they came out of majority Democratic precincts.

It went to court, where conservatives won the right to exclude provisional ballots in the state supreme court. A federal court disagreed, and ordered that a review be conducted to determine whether the votes could be counted. Secretary Husted cast the tie-breaker vote to appeal that federal court decision. The case is complex. It now involves advocates for voters relying on Bush v. Gore – which is always amusing, in a bitter, sad way- to use that absolute piece of garbage decision against conservatives, and it goes on from where I stopped. You may read the details here, here and here.

Provisional ballots were the fail-safe, the back-up, and we were assured by conservative lawyers and judges that the provisional balloting process would prevent the disenfranchisement of valid voters. But provisional balloting is complicated- it involves several additional steps, more than one piece of paper, and lots and lots of pollworker instructions to the voter. Each step introduces the possibility of voter error, pollworker error, or a blatantly partisan discretionary call by an elections official or employee. The supposed “fail-safe” conservatives assured us would protect voting rights doesn’t work as intended, and in truth introduces a whole new set of problems.

If you want to see how bad it can get for voters who are shunted to a second-class ballot, follow the links above and wade through the thousands of pages of legal filings that resulted from one county court judicial race. Each one of those provisional ballots represents a voter, and each and every one of those voters is now at risk of having their vote thrown out, in a race that turned on a 23 vote difference. Every voter that entered that polling place has the right to assume their vote will be treated in a fair and equitable manner, and that’s not happening. Instead, we have a viciously partisan battle that has (so far) involved 4 courts and three conflicting decisions. And, what about the voters who had the misfortune to cast those second class ballots? Where are they in all this? Long forgotten. They don’t matter.

Every time I write about voting rights I get comments asking what Democrats or liberals are doing in states like Ohio to protect voters. There is a conference call for voting enthusiasts scheduled on July 15th, here in Ohio, and, as I mentioned, Vice President Biden raised the issue when he addressed Ohio Democrats last weekend. So, it’s on the radar and there will be a plan to help qualified voters get and vote a first class ballot. How well the plan will work, and how many legitimate votes by disfavored groups will be excluded, I do not know. Conservatives are constantly changing the rules, and it’s always a challenge to keep up with their endlessly creative and novel interpretations of what’s required to vote and have the vote counted.

Go back to where you came from

Over the last few days I have been privileged, by means of my various international connections, to have watched a reality TV show called “Go back to where you came from”, which has recently been broadcast over three consecutive nights on the Australian television channel SBS. (You probably won’t be able to watch the show at that link, but there is a massive amount of background information available.)

Immigration issues have been a matter of significant debate in Australia in one form or another since the 18th century. However, the debate is particularly heated in the context of what are called “boat people”.

The first boat people – an unauthorized boat carrying five Indochinese men – arrived in northern Australia in 1976, and was followed by a further 2059 Vietnamese refugees arriving by boat over the next five years. There was a further wave of predominantly Indochinese refugees from 1989 to 1998 at the rate of about 300 people per year. Since 1999, however, boat people arriving in Australia have been predominantly (and unsurprisingly) from the Middle East. It is worth noting that boat people have never made up more than a tiny percentage of migrants (or even refugees) reaching Australia.

Public reaction to boat people has been extremely polarized. The refugee issue was used successfully by the conservative Liberal government as a wedge issue in at least one election, finally resulting in the implementation of the so called “Pacific Solution” where boat people were prevented from landing on the Australian mainland (where they would have rights under the UNHRC rules) and instead were transported to detention camps on small island nations in the Pacific.

While these arrangements have come to an end, they seem in recent years to have been replaced by the “No One Has A Fucking Clue Solution”, and debate in Australia continues to rage.

In the SBS program, six ordinary (in some cases very ordinary) Australians were placed in the position of refugees, over 25 days retracing their steps backwards from Australia to the source countries of many refugees.
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I have immense respect for John Cole.  I respected him before I started blogging here.  I will respect him long after I stop blogging here.  I respected him when he took my post down, and I respect him for putting it back up.

While I respected his decision to take down my post, I felt that I would not have been able in good conscience to continue blogging here.  And once it happened, I fired off some “meh” tweets about it.  And then, frankly,  I forgot about the whole situation.  I didn’t know he had put the post back up because I was (am) busy drunkenly stumbling around looking for my keys and trying to clean my apartment and prepare for the arrival of the Angry Black Parents.

John has been incredibly gracious towards me, and has had my back practically without question.  Had he not put my post back up, I would not have thought ill of him.

And for the record, I don’t spout off here because I am trying to garner attention for myself, or to generate revenue (you’ll notice I don’t have any ads on my site.)  I don’t blog for a living and I don’t blog to hurt people.  I do it because I give a shit.  A HUGE shit.

As for today’s kerfuffle, I will say (as I have said before) that in my view, if you control — in any fashion — the viewpoints and voices on your blog, then you own those viewpoints and voices.  That is why my Hamsher post took the tone that it did.  THose of you who have read my previous posts on the subject understand that.

To the extent that anyone reading this would like to discuss the issues raised, I’m pretty easily found here in Blogistan.  Twitter.  ABLC.  Facebook.  It’s nonsensical for anyone to go after Cole for my writing.  Cole had nothing to do with the post, he has never told me that I can’t write about any particular subject (just as he allows his comment sections to run free and wild).  This is precisely why I don’t think he can reasonably be held liable or accountable for anything that I have written or posted here.

My viewpoints  — however crazy or inappropriate they may seem to you — are mine and mine alone.

That being said, I disagree that what I wrote was a vicious smear or that it was not based in fact.  Could I have posted a disclaimer expressing why, specifically, I hold Jane Hamsher accountable for the viewpoints and moderation policies on her blog?  Sure.  Did I feel it necessary?  No.  I’ve written about it before (as John notes in his update to my post) and most of the folks here know my viewpoints on the matter.

In conclusion,  I’ll take my lumps and the insults and whatever comes my way, but cut John some slack.  It’s his fucking birthday, dammit.  And he’s a good man.  It’s going to take a lot for my affection for the big lug from West Virginia to wane.

Sorry this is a bit rambly, but I been having teh drinks.

Shit!  I gotta go put my laundry in the dryer.

::wanders off::

Happy ending

Jim Alesi is a state senator from my area who was almost universally well-liked until he filed an idiotic law suit a few months ago. Bad publicity from the suit has effectively ended his political career, I don’t think he can get re-elected at this point.

He’s going out on top as the first New York State Senate Republican to vote for marriage equality in New York State, perhaps a far, far better thing than he has ever done.

A Win (of Sorts) for Truth, Justice & the American Way

I try to avoid joining the Parade of the Front-Pagers, where everyone feels required to chip in on some crucial national issue like a congresspod’s twitpics, but the collapse of the government’s prosecution against whistleblower Thomas Drake seems like a big fvcking deal:

A former official with the National Security Agency who faced felony counts of mishandling classified documents pleaded guilty Friday to a misdemeanor in a deal with prosecutors. The deal avoided a trial that could have created political problems for the Obama administration and sent the official to prison for the rest of his life.
Thomas Drake’s plea pleased civil-liberties advocates who are generally sympathetic to Obama, but is a setback for the administration’s effort to crack down on leakers. The administration is pursuing charges against four other accused government leakers under the Act, regarded by some lawyers as vague and overbroad…
The government claimed in its indictment that he had secretly passed information from the documents to an unnamed reporter for a national newspaper. Court documents identified the reporter as Siobhan Gorman, who published a series of articles detailing management malpractice and dubious legal activities by the NSA in The Baltimore Sun in 2006 and 2007.
The government never disclosed the contents of the highly-classified documents they accused Drake of leaking. But they are thought to be related to the NSA’s internal debate over TrailBlazer, an ill-fated project launched in 2002 to overhaul the agency’s vast computer systems that capture and screen information flooding into the agency’s computers from around the world.
Drake and a small group of internal critics regarded Trailblazer as a billion-dollar boondoggle that benefitted defense contractors, and lost a struggle to get the NSA to adopt an internally-designed system called ThinThread at a fraction of the cost. Some of those critics claim that ThinThread might have alerted the U.S. to the 9/11 plot…

The difference between the NYTimes report John quoted earlier and the Washington Post story I’m quoting here is that the WaPo, in its role as the paper of record for the DC company town’s local industry, understands that such prosecutions involve not just some abstract vision of good government practice but the daily workdays of a significant chunk of its readers:

James Bamford, the author of “The Shadow Factory” and two other books on the NSA, says it is the country’s largest, costliest and most secretive spying organization. “And it’s arguably the most influential,” he said.
He sat in on Friday’s hearing and said defense attorneys had asked him to testify in the trial as an expert witness. As far he knows, Drake was the first NSA official accused of leaking to the press.
Bamford called the Drake prosecution “a very important case” because it set a precedent for the four similar Espionage Act trials to follow.

If you have any interest at all in civil liberties, much less this particular case, Jane Mayer’s NYorker article “The Secret Sharer” is an excellent weekend read:

… One afternoon in January, Drake met with me, giving his first public interview about this case. He is tall, with thinning sandy hair framing a domed forehead, and he has the erect bearing of a member of the Air Force, where he served before joining the N.S.A., in 2001. Obsessive, dramatic, and emotional, he has an unwavering belief in his own rectitude. Sitting at a Formica table at the Tastee Diner, in Bethesda, Drake—who is a registered Republican—groaned and thrust his head into his hands. “I actually had hopes for Obama,” he said. He had not only expected the President to roll back the prosecutions launched by the Bush Administration; he had thought that Bush Administration officials would be investigated for overstepping the law in the “war on terror.”
“But power is incredibly destructive,” Drake said. “It’s a weird, pathological thing. I also think the intelligence community coöpted Obama, because he’s rather naïve about national security. He’s accepted the fear and secrecy. We’re in a scary space in this country.”…
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