Does Texas Voter ID Law Suppress Voting?

November 13, 2013

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This was the first election where the new voter ID requirement was in place in the state of Texas.  Democrats have claimed that it would suppress voter turnout while Republicans have claimed that it would not.  After election day, CNN featured an article by conservative blogger Bryan Preston claiming that voter turnout was not suppressed.

Preston’s methodology was comparing 2013 voter turnout to the most recent comparable election.  2013 was a off-year featuring proposed consitutional amendments, so Preston used 2011 as the basis for the comparison.  The most voted-upon amendment in 2011 has 690,052 votes, with an average of 672,874 voters for each of the ten amendments.  In 2013, the most popular one garnered 1,144,844 voters, with an average of 1,099,679 across nine proposed amendments.  Preston shows this increase as proof that voter turnout was not suppressed and then gets into demographical breakdowns in an attempt to prove the point more convincingly.  Not only was voter turnout not suppressed, but there was a huge surge!  Case closed, right?

Unfortunately, the entire argument is built upon the foundation of 2011 and 2013 being “comparable” elections.  In a nutshell, that we should expect roughly the same number of voters in those elections.  Let’s look back over a few cycles of these “comparable” constitutional amendment elections.  Let’s look at the amendment that garnered the most voters in each year, since that is the floor for the number of distinct voters.  Let’s trot over to the Texas secretary of state’s site.

  • 2013 – 1,144,844
  • 2011 – 690,052
  • 2009 – 1,055,330
  • 2007 – 1,096,410
  • 2005 – 2,260,695
  • 2003 – 1,470,443

Obviously, Preston is focusing on the wrong problem.  Instead of wondering if voter turnout was suppressed in 2013, he should be focusing on the voter suppression that occurred in 2007, when there was a more than 50% decline from the previous “comparable” election.

Or perhaps these off-year elections, which get very little turnout (the 2013 numbers touted by Preston was an 8% turnout) are driven by other issues, making it impossible to predict one election’s turnout from the previous election.

This is pretty obvious cherry picking from Preston, comparing 2013 results to an extreme statistical outlier.  The demographic breakdown he does is unfortunately worthless, because he’s working with bad data from square one.  You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.

How volatile are these elections, compared to presidential elections?  Let’s look at the past six presidential election totals.

  • 2012 – 7,993,851
  • 2008 – 8,077,795
  • 2004 – 7,410,765
  • 2000 – 6,407,637
  • 1996 – 5,611,644
  • 1992 – 6,154,018

There’s even quite a bit of volatility here (albeit over a timeframe that is twice as long), but the the high water year has just 1.44 times the number of voters of the lowest, compared to the high/low ratio of 3.28 for the constitutional amendment elections.

The key point is that voter suppression is not measured by whether vote total went up or down from a previous election, but by whether vote totals are lower than they would have been if the action that is alleged to suppress had not been in place.  That’s not easy – or perhaps even possible – to measure.  However, that’s no excuse to take a lazy shortcut and pass off the results as being the answer to the more difficult question.

Does the Texas voter ID law suppress voter turnout?  I honestly have no idea.

 

 

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Don’t Take Away My Right To Bear Arms

January 18, 2013

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I’m a mom. I have four boys. I grew up in a small town in West Central Iowa. I knew people who had guns. I know people who have guns. I know people who hunt and target shoot. I’ve even been to a range a time or two.

My husband served in the Reserves and served a tour in Iraq. It was strange for me to see him holding a gun and our oldest son (two at the time) was very intrigued by it, although he never saw his dad fire it.

But I never thought about owning a firearm myself. That is, until recently.

People have been giving me a hard time about me going out and getting my Permit to Carry a Weapon, issued by my County Sheriff office. But more people are proud of me for taking the initiative to exercise my Second Amendment rights. Those who question me for “running out and buying guns” have asked me “why now?” My answer? Why not?

If it wasn’t now, when? Would you have an issue with it if I had taken the course and got the permit two years ago, two months ago, two weeks ago? Sure the recent political climate has had something to do with it. And yes, I have no intention on carrying it around my children. But it’s good to know I have it to protect myself and my family.

Just recently, a work at home mom (like myself) had to protect herself and her children from an intruder who used a crowbar to break into her house, break through two locked doors in the home, chasing after her and her kids. She defended herself and her children. You can see the report here.

My main reason to exercise my second amendment rights is to protect myself and my kids. It’s not that I’m afraid of “King George”, but I am irritated that our Government doesn’t seem to understand where the true power lies. I do not need to be held accountable to President Obama, My Senators or Congressmen. They are held accountable to me. To us. To “We the People.” And it seems many of our Representatives have forgotten that, or just choose to ignore it.

Part of me wonders what part of “shall not be infringed” is so hard to understand.

If you don’t want to own a firearm, fine. Don’t. But it is my right.

The part that is so frustrating to me about this whole debate is that this is “for the children.” And yes, what happened at Sandy Hook shook America. It scared me. My son is the same age as many of the children killed. As Aristotle said, “The law is reason, free from passion.” I fear we’re allowing those in charge to use passion to change laws.

If it was really all about the children, we’re failing them. We’re failing them to respect life, in all of its forms. Until we teach our children that life is precious, we’ve failed. My children’s life is precious to me. All of my children, including the child I was told I should abort because, at the time, my husband and I weren’t married. This child is the same age as those at Sandy Hook. So how is his life valuable now, but not 7 years ago? It just doesn’t make sense.

Until we teach our children to fully respect human life, the whole gun debate is trivial.

Money Laundering, Political Style

January 12, 2013

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One of the more interesting things just coming out of this past November’s election is the effect Citizen’s United had. For those of you living under a rock or just not up on politics of the past 4 years, in a completely partisan decision the Supreme Court in early 2010 said that no limits or bans may be placed on corporate political spending.  Indeed, political spending of all types was up, including so-called “Super PAC” spending that went up almost an order of magnitude, about 80 million to 800 million.

Let’s move the spotlight a bit onto an old player of the political stage, Dick Morris. Mr. Morris is widely credited with helping Bill Clinton in his successful bid for the 1978 Arkansas governorship, and then in 1996 was considered one of the key advisers in Clinton’s 1996 presidential re-election campaign. Then months before the 1996 election during the Democratic National Convention, it was revealed that Morris not only had an affair with a prostitute, he allowed said prostitute to listen in on conversations with the president.  Morris did indeed go away quietly for a little while, but then decided to re-invent himself as one of the biggest critics of the very man he helped re-elect. He’s practically made a career out of trashing the Clintons at every opportunity, including some epic bizarre claims – he actually suggested in 2012 that Bill Clinton wanted Obama to lose the election, but was “forced” to help him win because Obama was holding Hillary Clinton hostage.

So what are you to do if you’re now an extremely partisan talking head and the Supreme Court has ruled the corporate purse-strings to be taken off? You start a Super PAC and ask for donations like there’s no tomorrow.  There’s nothing wrong with that, that’s the whole point of a Super PAC – raise and spend as much as possible as a means for a specific political end. But this Super PAC that Dick Morris is chief strategist for and campaigned heavily for has some very interesting expenses – it paid about 1.7 million dollars to a company called NewsMax Media. It turns out that NewsMax Media actually manages the opt-in e-mail list that Dick Morris runs.  Confusing? Let’s break it down a bit – Dick Morris is Chief Political Strategist at SuperPAC for America. Dick Morris also has an e-mail list that contains hundreds of thousands of opt-in subscribers who want to find out his and his friends political spins on things. SuperPAC for America paid the company that manages Dick Morris e-mail list 1.7 million dollars for the rights to use that list. I have zero doubts that SuperPAC for America raised a lot more than 1.7 million dollars, but it would appear that it’s not at all a stretch to say that Dick Morris used the guise of political fundraising to quietly filter a large chunk of money, indirectly, to himself.

I’m certainly not the first to point out these facts and suggest that on the surface, at least, it looks like money laundering. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow made these claims on her show this past December, and not long after Dick Morris’ army of lawyers contacted her, apparently incensed about … something? It’s hard to tell what, exactly. According to MediaMatters.com, the lawyers were upset that she actually used the 1.7 million dollar figure, but they appear to have not denied that the money was filtered from SuperPAC for America which Dick Morris founded and is the “Chief Strategist” for, and went to NewsMax Media which manages Dick Morris’ e-mail list and pays him lots for the use of it.

Welcome to modern politics, where corporations can not only spend millions or even billions on political issues, but the money you donate can be given to a man who was once disgraced for having an affair with a prostitute and letting that prostitute listen in on presidential conversations.

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Obama Wants To Take Your Guns

January 3, 2013

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“The Regulars Are Coming Out!”

From October 1774 through April 1775 the American Colonies were preparing for the worst. Americans formed companies, bought arms, stored up powder, and prepared for war if it was to come to that. Much effort was made to avoid more conflict but the British rejected the grievances of the colonies.

Governors loyal to the British reported the preparations but were unable to do anything about it. On April 18 1775 General Gage, commander-in-chief of British forces in the American Colonies, sent 800 soldiers 18 miles from Boston to Concord to confiscate American guns, ammo, and stores. Dr Samuel Prescott said “the regulars are coming out!” Then Paul Revere, William Dawes, and Dr. Samuel Prescott spread the word across the countryside. This is the famous ride of Paul Revere.

It’s interesting that the ride of Paul Revere is so famous but the gun control aspect of the events is almost never told. England tried several times to confiscate guns and also banned the importation of powder to the colonies among other things. This is how tyranny behaves; this is how the Obama administration is behaving. This is why we have the Second Amendment.

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

The Second Amendment has two clauses. The first clause is about the militia. A militia is to be well regulated. The word “regulated” is often misinterpreted and wrongfully applied. If we look at Federalist Paper 29 it says:

…To oblige the great body of the yeomanry, and of the other classes of the citizens, to be under arms for the purpose of going through military exercises and evolutions, as often as might be necessary to acquire the degree of perfection which would entitle them to the character of a well-regulated militia…

Obviously ‘well-regulated’ doesn’t mean limited or restricted but it means a ‘degree of perfection’.

The second clause of the Second Amendment is about “the people”. This is the same group referred to in the First Amendment. The purpose is to guarantee the voluntary arming of citizens. The arming of citizens “shall not be infringed”. The right to bear those arms “shall not be infringed”. Federalist Paper 46 says:

…To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves…

Obviously citizens have a right to keep and bear arms, any arms the militia has. The framers of the constitution certainly intended for an armed citizenry and for it to act as an opposition to the militia if tyranny threatens our country. I’ve heard from many people that some guns only purpose is to kill. My answer is “so?” The Second Amendment isn’t about less-than-lethal weapons and it’s not about hunting either. It’s only about defending ourselves and our nation with the most lethal arms and ammunition we can afford.

Should citizens have so-called military type rifles? According to the Second Amendment and Federalist Papers the answer is yes. Realistically our military uses nearly every type of arms available to civilians. This includes shotguns, handguns, hunting rifles (Remington 700, etc), and even a hugely popular hunting rifle the Ruger 10/22. Obama’s big push to ban guns is a violation of our constitutional rights. Any gun ban is unconstitutional and disrupts the checks and balances intended by the constitution.

What gain could there be from a gun ban? Studies have shown that guns are used around 2 million times a year in self-defense. The harm a gun ban would cause far outweighs any benefit. The CDC lists guns 25th cause of death in America. Swimming pools, bicycles, and crossing the street are more dangerous than guns. FBI statistics show that more people are killed with knives than rifles like the one used at Sand Hook Elementary in Newtown Connecticut. FBI statistics show that more people are killed by fists and feet than by rifles. Nothing good comes from any gun ban. We have no reason to trust an administration that arms the drug cartel and al-Qaeda but aspires to disarm the People. Quite possibly a severe restriction of our rights might have the same effect as it did in 1775.

 

The Republican Party’s Core Beliefs

December 13, 2012

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One of the most interesting things about the modern Republican Party is their strange penchant for pushing and/or believing in ideas that can be factually proven as incorrect or at the very least incompatible with their “core beliefs.” I’m not entirely sure what Republican “core beliefs” are, but from what I can gather from Fox News snippets and what my friends say, they want small government, low taxes, and lots of personal freedom – or at least the freedom for their state to choose what defines personal freedom.

On the first issue, small government, let me start out by saying that the single biggest expansion of federal government since FDR came from … no. Not Barack Obama. Not Bill Clinton, either. It wasn’t Jimmy Carter. Not even JFK. The single biggest expansion of the US Government came from George W. Bush and his creation of the Homeland Security Department . The Reagan administration, after lambasting Jimmy Carter during the 1980 presidential campaign for governmental spending, actually spent MORE than Carter did.  So according to what they say, Republicans favor small government and lowering government spending, but according to what they do, they actually increase government size and spend more? I wonder why Mitch McConnell is so intent on criticizing President Obama for government spending, yet he voted along with the vast majority of George W. Bush’s spending, and Bush’s rate of spending was higher than Obama’s.  I don’t remember him ever once criticizing Bush’s spending record.

 

Next we get to Republicans wanting low taxes. This one they actually seem to deliver on, wanting to lower taxes across the board, but especially on those poor, overburdened millionaires. Yet the reasons they claim taxes should go down just don’t seem to mesh with reality. First and foremost they say that so-called “job creators” aren’t hiring because their tax burden is too crushing. Yet history disagrees with that assessment – in fact whenever the marginal tax rate on upper brackets is lowered history has shown lower growth. In fact the Congressional Research Office came to the same conclusion:

There is not conclusive evidence, however, to substantiate a clear relationship between the 65-year steady reduction in the top tax rates and economic growth. Analysis of such data suggests the reduction in the top tax rates have had little association with saving, investment, or productivity growth.

I would love to get Mitch McConnell or John Boehner in a room and get their opinions on those facts.

Finally we get to the issue on personal freedom. One of the Tea Parties greatest cries against that “socialist, fascist” Obama is that he’s crushing our personal freedoms. As I wrote about in my last article, the NRA supported Mitt Romney in this most recent presidential election, dredging up scary stories that Obama was going to be personally taking all your guns and this was despite the fact that in Obama’s first term he actually loosened gun laws, and in Mitt Romney’s term as governor he signed a gun restricting bill into law.

In addition, Republicans seem to be on the side of banning “gay marriage” (or as my gay friends call it, “marriage”) despite the fact that no factual evidence to say it’s better or worse than heterosexual marriage. Go ahead, search the internet and find a non-biased site that offers peer-reviewed and cited facts showing somehow that men marrying men or women marrying women is somehow worse for society, children or the marriage itself. If it’s no worse for people, does not infringe upon others, and is not being forced on society (legalizing same-sex unions will not force churches to marry anyone), why is it being suppressed by Republicans?

Finally on the personal freedom issue, I was very happy to see that Washington State has legalized marijuana for recreational use. Two of the most recent Republican presidential candidates agreed with me. Ron Paul and Gary Johnson actually said they would not only legalize marijuana but also consider even more sweeping changes such as ending the war on drugs and pardoning anyone in prison for non-violent marijuana crimes.  Sadly the rest of the mainstream Republican candidates ranged from a non-stance – Rick Perry stating he’s personally against any use, but ok with states deciding medical use – to a psychotically harsh stance -Newt Gingrich sponsoring a bill that would see the death penalty used for people importing more than 2 ounces.  Seeing as there’s little evidence that marijuana is worse for you than alcohol or tobacco and much stands to be gained from the taxation of legal marijuana, including a drastic reduction in violent crime, I wonder once again why Republicans would go against their stance on personal freedom here.

So to sum it up, I have a hard time giving any support or even credibility to a political party that says one thing and then does the polar opposite. I’d actually LOVE to see a more viable Republican party because frankly I’m sick of the vast majority of Democratic politicians. As a friend of mine says often, “We don’t need a 3rd political party, we need a 2nd one.”

 

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Fiscal Cliff Predictions

December 6, 2012

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The fiscal cliff is looming at the end of the year, and we will be hearing more about it as we get closer to the end of the year.

My predictions regarding the fiscal cliff.

  • A deal will get done, but it might not be until early January.  The new congressional session begins on January 3rd.  This may result in congress having to re-do some of the earlier work, due to the changed in the membership of the congress.
  • The payroll tax holiday will end.  Extending this long term would probably be a bad idea anyway, since this is money that goes into Social Security.  If we’re reducing the funds going into Social Security, we’re increasing the risk that Social Security will be a viable program in the future.  This may even be phased in over 2-3 years to allow families to slowly adjust to the lower take home pay.
  • The Bush era tax cuts for families making less than $250,000 per year will remain in place.
  • Rates for families making more than $250,000 will rise, but not quite to the levels they were at before the Bush era cuts.  Maybe slightly above the midway point between the old and new rates.  Yes, I am predicting an actual compromise.
  • The capital gains rate will rise, perhaps to a maximum rate of 18-20%.  One misconception about capital gains is that they are a form of double taxation.  This can be the case, if the rise in a stock’s price is attributable to the company retaining/reinvesting earnings rather than paying dividends.  However, in many cases a stock price rises for other reasons.  Sometimes the company has never made a profit, but has a very promising future.  In this case, corporate taxes have never been paid.  Additionally, capital gains can arise from the ownership of non-stock assets (real estate and physical objects).

Up to this point, both sides have been hesitant to budge very much, although some Republicans have said they would support a tax increase on the wealthy.  Without action, tax rates for everyone will go up on January 1st.  In essence, this is a game of high stakes chicken.  It may even make sense, politically, to wait until 2013 to pass the legislation.  If the legislation passes this year, before the rates revert, it would just be an extension of the earlier cuts.  If the legislation passed after the rates have already reverted, it would be an actual cut of those new rates.  Very little difference in the grand scheme of things, but a big difference on the political trail in 2014.

A New Religion – And Obama Is Their Profit

November 29, 2012

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I totally flubbed up my election prediction last month. I don’t feel bad, GOP’s experts who are paid millions totally flubbed up too. Nearly all of their polls were wrong on battleground states. Half of the Democrat Obama voters I knew we’re voting Romney this time around and I didn’t even have to give them the ‘vote your values’ pitch.

Jamie Foxx’s recent praise service to Obama is quite indicative of neo-American Culture which many credit to Obama’s win. I always assumed “Hope and Change” was faith and expectations in the Obama policies. How in the world could Obama win after breaking every campaign promise? The only promise I can think of that he’s kept is universal healthcare (AKA Obamacare). I remember George HW Bush, our 41st president, only breaking one campaign promise “…no new taxes” and he lost. Learning from his father’s mistake’s, George W. Bush our 43rd president, worked quickly to fulfill campaign promises his first term and won reelection.

The faith of liberals is not in policies and campaign promises but in the cultural change of President Obama. Nominating Romney fulfilled the doctrine of the New Religion. A rich white male is the antithesis to the New Religion and is, symbolically, the devil. Obama has it out for the rich and the successful. Obama’s followers worship at the same altar. Obama doesn’t have to succeed today or keep any of his promises as long as the rich suffer. Obama doctrine is that it is better that all suffer if the rich suffer more. It is not allowed for all to succeed if the success is unequal. That is the first commandment:

“There is a certain point where you have made enough money.”

-President Obama

Congressional Democrats are on board with this and certainly approve of taking from the rich so the poor can stay home.

“Unemployment benefits are creating jobs faster than practically any other program.”

-Nancy Pelosi

Sounds nice don’t it? None of the government programs have created jobs including unemployment benefits but what she says is good doctrine because it punishes the rich. All this spending and debt will force the hand of conservative to raise taxes to pay for it. Guess who Obama wants to tax. Everyone! Tax everyone but start with the rich they must suffer more.

Harry Reid and others are doing their part by pushing UN treaties like UN Agenda 21 whose purpose is:

“…to promote patterns of consumption and production that reduces environmental stress and meet the basic needs of society.”

– Agenda 21 Chapter 4 Objective 7(A)

I added emphasis because it is the New Religion’s doctrine that “basic needs” are provided for by the government after wealth is confiscated from the rich. Agenda 21 is anti-capitalist and fits nicely with the New Religion. The UN is a perfect vehicle for limiting wealth, production, consumption, and destroy capitalism. This is why Harry Reid pushes UN treaties so hard in the Senate. Watch the Senate this next week on the UN CRPD treaty Harry is bringing to a vote. If the US enacts UN treaties our standard of living will decline but the rich people will suffer more.

Romney and others said the “47%” will vote with their pocket books. Conservatives have said The People have voted for free stuff. That is half the truth. The People voted to punish the rich, for free stuff, and ‘basic needs’ taken care of by the government. It is the only thing the Obama administration has succeeded at in the last four years.

I’m Thankful For A Romney Loss

November 22, 2012

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Thursday we gathered with our families and friends giving thanks for the blessings we have, so I thought I’d share one of mine with you here. This year I am thankful that Mitt Romney is not going to be the next President of the United States of America. Sorry if you have just been crawling out from under a rock the past few weeks and I just broke this news to you.

The next day when I went to work you could literally see whose parents were all worked up by the events of the previous night. Just like all conservatives around the country they were filled with anger, outrage and disbelief that a Kenyan-born Muslim Socialist Antichrist was reelected with relative ease. The final tally for the electoral college was Obama 332 Romney 206, the only battle ground state that Romney picked up was North Carolina and the popular vote margin currently stands at right around a three percent win for Obama as well.

It just was not a good night for the Republican party. They lost the Senate even more with Democrats and the caucusing independents accounting for 55 members of the body. If it was not for a lot of gerrymandering in various states in redrawing those district lines they very well could have lost control of the house as well. It just was not a good night for Republicans. Now it is on to the blame game. Every thing under the sun has been thrown out to why they lost. The plain and simple answer is that appealing only to racists, religious zealots and rich people is not enough of a consensus to win as a national party.

My favorite though was the man himself Romney bringing his 47% comments back to life again with a post election discussion with donors that he lost only because the people that did not vote did so because they wanted to recieve gifts. Like I said this Thanksgiving I am happy that this man is not going to be the next President and it was quite funny that his popular vote tally came to 47 percent.

Obama Wins Second Term

November 7, 2012

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Presidential race

Empire State Building turns blue. Obama wins.

Empire State Building turns blue. Obama wins. (Photo credit: Lisa Bettany {Mostly Lisa})

Barack Obama rolled to a fairly comfortable win on Tuesday night, winning in excess of 300 electoral votes.  Florida is still undecided, but leaning slightly to Obama.  If he wins that state, he’ll end up with 332 electoral votes.  Obama dominated the battleground states, with his win in Ohio punctuating the victory.

The base of the Democratic party, the states which Democratic candidates have won in each of the last six elections, now accounts for 242 electoral votes.  In essence, this means that the 2016 Democratic candidate starts with 242 electoral votes in his/her pocket and need to only capture 28 more from Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Currently, the Republicans win amongst white males and get beaten by Democrats in most other demographic groups.  If the Republican platform remain the same, this could create a problem, as the racial/ethnic makeup of the country is changing, with Caucasians becoming a smaller percentage of the population every year.  The Republicans must make more of an effort to the issues that are important to women and racial and ethnic minorities.

Congress

The new Senate will consist of 54 Democrats (this includes Bernie Sanders), 45 Republicans, and one Independent.  Former Maine governor Angus “Burger” King won the Senate race.  While he has not disclosed which party he will caucus with, most insiders feel he will side with Democrats.  The Democratic party actually gave no support to the actual Democrat in the race, fearing a splintered vote would allow the Republican to win.  Two of the higher profile losses were Akin and Mourdock gaffe-ing their way to defeat in races where they had a good chance to win.

The Republicans will maintain their majority in the House, with numbers approaching their current strength of 240 members.

Speaker of the House John Boehner was quick to say “The American people also made clear there’s no mandate for raising tax rates.”  That’s true, speaker Boehner, but tax rates WILL increase at the end of the year unless congress and the president agree on a solution.  The Bush-era tax cuts and the FICA reduction will be expiring. 

While there have been rhetoric about bi-partisanship this morning, there will surely be a tense battle as we approach the fiscal cliff at the end of the year.  Buckle your seat belts.

Meanwhile, in Iowa

Iowa’s representation in the House dropped from five to four.  This meant that Republican incumbent Tom Latham and Democratic incumbent Leonard Boswell went head-to-head in a new district.  Latham won, and overall the voters elected two Democrats and two Republicans.  Iowa’s Senators – who were not up for re-election and long-term members Chuck Grassley (Republican) and Tom Harkin (Democrat).  The governor is Republican, the state legislature has one house controlled by each party, and Obama won the presidential vote.  Iowa is purple.

In 2009, Iowa’s Supreme Court struck down a ban on gay marriage, declaring it unconstitutional.  All seven members of the court joined the unanimous decision.

Iowa’s Supreme Court justices are appointed by the governor (from a pool nominated by commission).  They are on the ballot for retention after one year on the job, and then again every eight years.  In 2010, it happened that three of those justices were up for retention.  A well-funded effort to have them removed from office narrowly won.

The same group tried again this year, running ads against Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins.  This time around, voters chose to retain Wiggins.  I think 2010 was a serious wake-up call to a lot of voters, making them aware of the dangers of politicizing the judicial process.  If a political group could make judges fear for their jobs – and kicking 43% of the court out in one election could definitely instill such fear – then might the judges be fearful of making unpopular decisions, even if they were the legally correct decisions?  Let our judges be just, even when their decisions are not popular.

For the moment, the attempt to replace the justices and replace them with ones who might over the decision seems dead.

There’s a second way to negate the decision, and that would be to amend the state constitution.  However, that’s a pretty cumbersome process.  It involves passage of both houses of the legislature in two consecutive sessions.  A session is two years.  With the Democrats appearing to be in control of the state senate, the issue seems to be off the table until at least the 2015-2016 session.  This means that the very earliest it could reach the voters is 2017.  Barring a change in the makeup of the legislature (members leaving to to death, illness, scandal, etc) or a reversal by the supreme court, it seems that gay marriage will be legal in Iowa for a number of years.

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My Prediction: Obama Wins

November 6, 2012

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Election day has finally arrived.  For those of us in the battleground states, it will signal the end of political ads and the returns of ads for Ruffles, Charmin, and Tide.  Hooray for Charmin!

The mainstream media likes to talk about the national polls, but as I have said in the past, these polls are completely worthless.  There’s no prize for the candidate who wins the national popular vote.

Most of the polls have had President Obama maintaining a lead in the electoral college (based on his performance in various state polls) for several months now.  While it’s true that Obama’s leads are within the margin of error in many states, he will most likely win most of those states.  As long as the polling errors are not matter of systemic bias (unintentional or intentional) and are simply independent errors, these polls should be erring on the side of Obama roughly half the time and on the side of Romney half the time.  The fact that the margin is within the poll’s margin of error does not necessarily mean that the trailing candidate is the one getting the short end of the stick – the poll could also be understating the lead of a candidate.

There has been much talk about Ohio.  Without it, Romney has a nearly impossible task in front of him.  I see Obama winning Ohio, due in part to election day weather.  There is very little chance of rain on Tuesday in Cleveland and Cincinnati, and this helps Obama.  Every inch of rain on election days boosts Republicans by 2.5%?  Why?  This is simply a bus vs. car issue.  Taking a bus somewhere in the rain is a worse experience that driving a car, because of how wet you get walking to and from bus stops.  Two demographics that use public transit more than others are the poor and inner city dwellers (poor and non-poor alike).  Both of these groups skew to the left.

Election Fraud

There has been much talk about voter fraud and the possibility of requiring IDs to vote.  I really think people are missing the forest for the trees.  Studies have shown that in-person voter fraud is very rare.  Absentee fraud is far more common.

The real danger, though, is people who are being disenfranchised.  There are shenanigans every year.  Among the tricks this year and notifying voters of alternative voting methods (phone and email) that are not actually legitimate, throwing away voter registration forms for a particular party, and sending in a fraudulent absentee ballot for a vote, so that when the voter appears at the poll in person, they will not be allowed to vote.

At this point, I would suggest that you never trust anyone to help with your registration – handle it yourself.  Even taking the precaution of waiting for the registration card in the mail isn’t good enough, as it would be very easy for the perpetrators to send out counterfeit cards (which, of course, would be worthless when trying to prove you are registered).

Some international observers recently have been critical about the US election process.  With some of the tricks that get pulled by partisans, and the outright lies in many campaign commercials, I do think our election process falls well short of the standards we should strive for.  Today’s voters may have more information than at any time in the past, but in many cases, they aren’t more informed – they are misinformed.  Take a few minutes to find the context for quotes and “facts” and you’ll be a more educated voter.  We should strive for a future when voters are correctly informed and when every eligible voter is allowed to cast a vote – even when their party differs from yours.

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