Political Gerrymandering in Wisconsin and Its Implications for Pennsylvania

Wisconsin's Congressional Districts

Wisconsin’s Congressional Districts

— Carol Kuniholm and Barry Kauffman

On Monday, November 21, a panel of three federal judges determined that the Wisconsin Legislature’s 2011 redrawing of State Assembly districts was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. This case, Whitford v. Gill (originally filed as Whitford v. Nichol), represents the first time in three decades that a federal court has struck down maps on the grounds that they give unfair advantage to a political party. [Read more…]

Double Billing: Paying For What Someone’s Already Paid To Do

Israel

Yesterday, Israel’s former Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, was acquitted on double billing charges as not proven:

On trial for the last two years, Olmert was accused of allegedly paying for family vacations by double billing Jewish organizations through the Rishon Tours travel agency; allegedly accepting envelopes full of cash from American businessman Morris Talansky; and allegedly granting personal favors to attorney Uri Messer when he served as trade minister in the Investment Center case. The charges were filed after he became prime minister in 2006, but covered his time as mayor of Jerusalem and later as a government minister.

According to DEBKA, “The verdict read out by Presiding Judge Moussia Arad said there was insufficient evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he accepted illegal moneys systematically and deliberately, only that he acted in an improper manner.”

Pennsylvania

However, at the same time, Pennsylvania Corbett has decided to award a $249,660 contract to the Republican lobbying group, Bravo Group, to “educate” Pennsylvanians about the Commonwealth controversial, restrictive, new voter ID law. The Bravo Group is the work of Republican lobbyist Chris Bravacos who used to be the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Republican party. Bravacos has personally donated $27,400 to the Romney campaign.

This taxpayer-funded money was intended for actual voter education, but will instead be used to create advertisements that will attempt to gloss over how many legal voters will be disenfranchised by this law. Indeed, two weeks ago Republican House Majority Leader Mike Turzai said that his Voter ID bill would “allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”


Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Corbett defends the Voter ID law on the hollow pretense that it prevents voter fraud, but when Corbett was Pennsylvania Attorney General he did not pursue a single case of voter fraud.

Imagine what the conservative uproar would be if President Obama were to award a federal grant to MoveOn.org to advocate for the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”).

As US Attorney General Eric Holder said today before the NAACP,

Under the proposed law, concealed handgun licenses would be acceptable forms of photo ID, but student IDs would not. Many of those without IDs would have to travel great distances to get them, and some would struggle to pay for the documents they might need to obtain them. We call those poll taxes.

Isn’t paying a conservative lobbyist to advocate for a Republican voter supression effort the very definition of double billing?

Sample ads pulled from the Bravo Group’s vimeo channel follow the jump.
Video 1:
Dramatic music over pictures, including one of three suffragettes.

Video 2:
Video of overly happy people showing a card that is supposed to resemble an ID.  Also confuses the issue by saying “other kind of photo id” will be accepted, without explaining what that means.

Voting Rights and the Iowa Caucus

This year, the GOP is working to capture key voting demographics: Students, the poor and seniorsDoc Jess writes:

As the Republicans keep up the pressure to deny suffrage to the young, the elderly, the poor and minorities, keep in mind that you don’t need ID to vote in the Iowa Republican caucuses. You just need a registered Republican to vouch for you. You can show up, declare that you want to participate, and then participate. Remember, states control voting laws for their states, and primaries and caucuses are designed by the party in each state. If you’re still wavering on the question of racism in the GOP, this should be your final impetus to understand that to be a Republican is to be a racist.

Voting Rights: One Step Forward in S. Carolina, One Step Back in PA

This year, the GOP is working to capture key voting demographics: Students, the poor and seniorsFrom Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire:

The Justice Department blocked South Carolina’s controversial voter ID law, according to the Columbia State, “saying it would prevent black people from voting.It was the first voter ID law to be refused by the federal agency in nearly 20 years.”

Rick Hasen predicts the case will go the Supreme Court — and most likely be expedited ahead of the 2012 election — making “a momentous term even more momentous.”

The letter from the Department of Justice can be found on Talking Point Memo.

Meanwhile in Pennsylvania, Governor Corbett fails to provide proof of the alleged voter impersonation fraud while he continues to push for  voter ID laws which will exclude many eligible Pennsylvanian from their right to vote.

More after the jump.
State Rep. Babette Josephs (D-Philadelphia) has written a second letter to the governor, this time blasting the “nonresponse” she received from the governor’s aide and again asking the governor for evidence of voter impersonation fraud.

Josephs, Democratic chairwoman of the House State Government Committee, sent Gov. Tom Corbett a letter in October after reading a newspaper article in which Secretary of the Commonwealth Carole Aichele signaled her support of legislation to require voters to provide photo identification. She said the bill would make it harder for someone to commit voter impersonation fraud.

In her initial letter, Josephs pointed out to Corbett that Aichele’s remarks were missing one important point: any evidence that voter fraud has occurred. She asked Corbett to provide the number of complaints, investigations, prosecutions and convictions of voter impersonation fraud during his service as Pennsylvania’s attorney general.

The Nov. 1 response on behalf of Corbett was penned by Secretary of Legislative Affairs Annmarie Kaiser.

According to State Rep. Babette Josephs:

Her letter provided no credible evidence. It was a non-response. Ms. Kaiser’s only example of voter impersonation fraud is a vague allegation of voter registration fraud. There is no indication in her letter if any alleged fraudulent registrations led to voting fraud or whether any one was prosecuted for such voter registration fraud. She also makes the dubious claim that the ‘prevalence of voter fraud has steadily increased in the Commonwealth over the past few years.

In the absence of any solid information, Josephs replied back to Corbett, repeating her request for specific evidence.

Considering that a law to require voter photo identification could cost Pennsylvania taxpayers more than $4.3 million — the low-ball estimate by the majority Appropriations Committee chairman – and will potentially disfranchise thousands of law-abiding Pennsylvanians, I would like to know specific examples of fraud. In the absence of any evidence of fraud, it is shameful for this legislation to be enacted.

As attorney general, you prosecuted numerous public officials for using their offices with the intent to rig elections. House Bill 934 is an obvious attempt to rig elections in Pennsylvania.