Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bad day to be a Wisconsin racist

First, Clippers owner Donald Sterling gets the bomb dropped on him by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. I was pleasantly surprised they dished out the lifetime ban and the $2.5 million fine (though Sterling still seems to be able to obtain the massive profits that will come from selling the Clippers), and you know Silver spent the last few days lining up owner support behind the scenes to make sure there wasn't dissention blocking this move, which I find to be quite bad-ass.

But this doesn't let the NBA (and especially former Commissioner David Stern) off the hook for allowing this scumbucket to control a franchise in the second-largest market for decades and essentially freeload off the work of the other franchises who succeeded in growing the NBA's business and brand name. If these recorded comments were the only evidence of Sterling's racism or generally sickening behavior, I'd think a ban would be an overreaction, but if you look at Sterling's 30-year history of mismanagement and racism, and if anything, this ban came far too late.

The fact that Sterling was kept around well after his sell-by date is no consolation to the racist trash that listen to right-wing radio, who are now trying to make Sterling seem like a victim that's being some kind of victim to "political correctness." But the Sterling ban is small potatoes compared to the big blow to Baggery that was landed this afternoon in a federal courtroom in Milwaukee. Federal Judge Lynn Adelman struck down Wisconsin's voter-ID law, legislation that was long sought after by these same AM radio fans, having been spurred on by years of allegations from talk show hosts of "voter fraud". Naturally those alleged cases of voter fraud brought up on 620 and 1130 seemed to always occur among minority communities in Milwaukee and on college campuses- two areas that heavily vote Democrat (no coincidence they'd mention those people would they? Noooooo of course not).

Well, Judge Adelman actually decided to do something that AM radio talking heads rarely do- look at the evidence, see if there really was voter fraud in Wisconsin, and base some of his decision on that reality. Or as it turned out, lack of reality, as the defendants from J.B. Van Hollen's Attorney General's office couldn't even back up their own claims.
The evidence at trial established that virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin. The defendants could not point to a single instance of known voter impersonation occurring in Wisconsin at any time in the recent past. The only evidence even relating to voter impersonation that the defendants introduced was the testimony of Bruce Landgraf, an Assistant District Attorney in Milwaukee County. Landgraf testified that in “major elections,” by which he means gubernatorial and presidential elections, his office is asked to investigate about 10 or 12 cases in which a voter arrives at the polls and is told by the poll worker that he or she has already cast a ballot. Tr. 2056–57. However, his office determined that the vast majority of these cases—approximately 10 each election—have innocent explanations, such as a poll worker’s placing an indication that a person has voted next to the wrong name in the poll book. Tr. 2057. Still, about one or two cases each major election remain unexplained, and the defendants contend that these one or two cases could be instances of voter-impersonation fraud. I suppose that’s possible, but most likely these cases also have innocent explanations and the District Attorney’s office was simply unable to confirm that they did. Moreover, the most Landgraf’s testimony shows is that cases of potential voter-impersonation fraud occur so infrequently that no rational person familiar with the relevant facts could be concerned about them. There are over 660,000 eligible voters in Milwaukee County,6 and if the District Attorney’s office finds two unexplained cases each major election, that means that there is less than one questionable vote cast each major election per 330,000 eligible voters. The rate of potential voter-impersonation fraud is thus exceedingly tiny.

The evidence introduced by the plaintiffs confirms that voter-impersonation fraud does not occur in Wisconsin. The plaintiffs offered the testimony of Lorraine Minnite, a professor at Rutgers University who specializes in the study of the incidence of voter fraud in contemporary American elections. Professor Minnite studied elections in Wisconsin during the years 2004, 2008, 2010 and 2012 to determine whether she could identify any incidents of voter fraud. She consulted a variety of sources of information, including newspaper databases, news releases by the Wisconsin Attorney General, criminal complaints, decisions by state courts, and documents issued by the GAB. From these sources, Minnite was able to identify only one case of voter-impersonation fraud. Tr. 1036–42. And the single case of voter-impersonation fraud did not involve in-person voter impersonation. Rather, that case involved a man who applied for and cast his recently deceased wife’s absentee ballot. Tr. 1041. Thus, from Minnite’s work, it appears that there have been zero incidents of in-person voter-impersonation fraud in Wisconsin during recent elections....

The defendants also contend that even if there currently is no voter impersonation in Wisconsin, the state has an interest in taking steps to prevent voter-impersonation fraud from becoming a problem in the future. In support of this contention, the defendants point out that the Supreme Court has stated that legislatures “should be permitted to respond to potential deficiencies in the electoral process with foresight rather than reactively, provided that the response is reasonable and does not significantly impinge on constitutionally protected rights.” Munro v. Socialist Workers Party, 479 U.S. 189, 195–96 (1986). However, the Supreme Court has also stated that states cannot burden the right to vote in order to address dangers that are remote and only “theoretically imaginable.” Williams v. Rhodes, 393 U.S. 23, 33 (1968). In the present case, no evidence suggests that voter-impersonation fraud will become a problem at any time in the foreseeable future. As the plaintiffs’ unrebutted evidence shows, a person would have to be insane to commit voter impersonation fraud. The potential costs of perpetrating the fraud, which include a $10,000 fine and three years of imprisonment, are extremely high in comparison to the potential benefits, which would be nothing more than one additional vote for a preferred candidate (or one fewer vote for an opposing candidate), a vote which is unlikely to change the election’s outcome. Tr. 1017–19, 1342. Adding to the cost is the fact that, contrary to the defendants’ rhetoric, voter-impersonation fraud is not “easy” to commit. To commit voter impersonation fraud, a person would need to know the name of another person who is registered at a particular polling place, know the address of that person, know that the person has not yet voted, and also know that no one at the polls will realize that the impersonator is not the individual being impersonated. Tr. 1341. The defendants offered no evidence at trial to support the notion that it is easy to obtain this knowledge. Thus, given that a person would have to be insane to commit voter-impersonation fraud, Act 23 cannot be deemed a reasonable response to a potential problem.
Of course, this won't stop the whiny white suburb boys from screeching and demanding that Gov. Walker follow through on his threat to call a special session of the Legislature to pass voter ID legislation, and Speaker Robbin' Vos is already trying to gin up the hysteria on Twitter to do the same. But given that other parts of the Adelman decision describe the large, illegal barriers that Wisconsinites had to go through in order to try to get an ID, it is unlikely they could find a solution that would fit, unless they mailed and gave out IDs to pretty much every voter-age Wisconsinite for free.

But if the racist 262-based Republicans want to continue to waste the people's time and effort to go after this fake issue in order to rig elections, I say BRING IT ON. It's no coincidence that African-Americans had a larger turnout than whites in 2012 after putting up with years of race-baiting against President Obama, and another factor in that was it allowed them to fight back against voter suppression laws. So if WisGOP wants to piss off Dem-leaning constituencies such as minorities and young voters that typically drop off in midterms, and get them fired up to vote out Walker and the other Republicans this November, go for it!

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