Photo of the day

Iditarod:

Voter suppression

I really should write more about the heinous efforts of Republicans to win by trying to keep people from voting based on entirely trumped of fears of voter fraud.  Since I’m too lazy to do a good job, just read this great Kevin Drum summary of the recent decision in Texas (or at least my extended excerpt):

The state of Texas recently adopted a law that requires residents to present photo ID at the polling place before voting. These kinds of laws are problematic even in the best cases, but Texas being Texas, their law is almost laughably brazen in its intentions. For example, in addition to driver’s licenses, the law specifies that military ID and handgun permits are acceptable forms of identification; specifies that student IDs aren’t acceptable forms of identification; and automatically qualifies elderly voters to cast mail-in ballots, which require no ID. In other words, the law does its best to make voting easy for every possible identifiably Republican-leaning constituency and hard for every possible identifiably Democratic-leaning constituency.

And those are just the identifiable Democratic constituencies. There are others that, for pesky legal reasons, can only be indirectly targeted: primarily blacks, Hispanics, and the poor. These constituencies lack photo ID at higher rates than white, middle-class voters, and this is what the Justice Department homed in on today when it put the Texas law on hold:

Our analysis of the January data indicates that 10.8 percent of Hispanic registered voters do not have a driver’s license or personal identification card issued by DPS, but only 4.9 percent of non-Hispanic registered voters do not have such identification. So, Hispanic registered voters are more than twice as likely as non-Hispanic registered voters to lack such identification.

….An applicant for an election identification certificate will be required to provide two pieces of secondary identification, or one piece of secondary identification and two supporting documents. If a voter does not possess any of these documents, the least expensive option will be to spend $22 on a copy of the voter’s birth certificate….As noted above, an applicant for an election identification certificate will have to travel to a driver’s license office. This raises three discrete issues. First, according to the most recent American Community Survey three-year estimates, 7.3 percent of Hispanic or Latino households do not have an available vehicle….Second, in 81 of the state’s 254 counties, there are no operational driver’s license offices….The third and final point is the limited hours that such offices are open. Only 49 of the 221 currently open driver’s license offices across the state have extended hours.

The second paragraph here is a key one. Lots of people assume that getting photo ID is no big deal. Most people have it, and even the ones who don’t can easily get it. After all, it’s free! But that’s not true. First, you need a birth certificate. Middle-class folks might not realize this, but not everyone has a birth certificate handy, and both the hassle factor and the cost of getting one can be real deterrents. Add to that the hassle of getting a ride to a DMV office two counties away during working hours, and voting in the next election suddenly got a whole lot harder for you than it is for your average middle-class white suburbanite. You might even never get around to it.

Which, of course, is the whole idea. Kudos to the Justice Department for pointing that out and doing the right thing here by putting the Texas law on hold.

And in the event you rely on Fox or the National Review for your news sources, the Washington Post does a nice job laying out how voter fraud is nothing but an essentially fictional (it happens, but its truly minuscule) problem kicked up by the GOP to justify its voter suppression efforts.  I wish there were at least some decent, reality-based Republicans who would stand up against this.  Sadly, haven’t seen any yet.

Newt meets the marriage gap

I was scrolling through the Alabama exit polls just looking for interesting differences to jump out.  This is definitely the favorite that caught my eye:

I think that pretty much speaks for itself.

Is the South too Republican

Big night for Rick Santorum.  Most interesting piece on such things, though, I read before the actual results.  Alec McGillis has a long, but very interesting post on how the South being so Republican puts Republicans in an interesting position:

Well, here’s one thing to think about. What if the South has become so monolithically Republican that actual conservative proposals and argument of the sort that Santorum and Romney have been offering don’t actually resonate all that much?

Consider: Republicans in Alabama and Mississippi reside in a universe where virtually all white voters vote Republican. And no, this isn’t just an Obama thing—Obama only got 11 percent of the white vote in Mississsippi in 2008, but that was barely worse than the 14 percent John Kerry got four years earlier. [emphasis mine]  Increasingly, being a Democrat in the Deep South—a Democrat when it comes to national politics—means being African-American. This means that political polarization in the Deep South is of a different sort than it is elsewhere. It is very much aligned with the region’s deep racial divides, but it is also arguably less ideological than it is elsewhere. For Rick Santorum, being a Republican and conservative in Pennsylvania and northern Virginia where he now lives means standing up for what he believes in amid the liberal, secular hordes who are pressing around him. For Mitt Romney, being a Republican in Massachusetts has been a less combative stance, but still one that sets him apart from many of the people he moved about with. Whereas in Mississippi, being Republican these days basically just means being … a white Mississippian. To the extent that daily life still remains racially segregated (not just in the Deep South, of course) that means that most Deep South Republicans are interacting with other Republicans.

Such isolation, political science suggests, leads to more extreme positions, on either end of the spectrum (see the poll Monday showing that GOP primary voters in the two states are evenly divided on whether Barack Obama is a Muslim and are only marginally in support of interracial marriage.) But it also could make voters less attuned to the sorts of arguments and sound-bites that Romney and Santorum have become used to offering to Republicans who are more used to having it out with people in their own communities.

Hard to know if this is really going on, but it certainly makes for a compelling argument.  It’s not like I haven’t seen that statistic about whites in the deep South before, but it still is pretty shocking every time I am reminded of it.

The biggest difference in American public opinion

Okay, maybe not the “biggest,” but certainly among the most consequential is the difference between abstract and concrete. Terrific post by Suzy Khimm that makes this point quite dramatically (and graphically).  First, we find that Americans hate “regulations”

Even framed in the oh-so-friendly way of “protecting the public interest” regulations are a big loser.  However, when we actually ask about specific regulations, it’s a very different story:

Khimm goes on to make the same point that occurred to me since I just talked about it in my public policy class yesterday– Americans are not big fans of “health care reform” or “the Affordable Care Act” but they sure like the vast majority of policy changes it provides (minus the individual mandate necessary to make all those other changes actually workable).

I also see this as quite similar to the fact that a plurality of Americans consider themselves “conservative” yet are all for a bigger, more expensive government when you actually get down to policy specifics.  But there’s also more going on there, and that’s a different post I’ve been meaning to get around to (and promise to soon).

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