Voter ID could swing swing states

Voter ID laws could affect 5 million people; the dark money universe grows; and other top Monday stories

Topics: 2012 Elections, Voter Fraud, Afghanistan, Campaign Finance,

Voter ID laws could swing swing states: Politico finally accepts what progressive critics have long argued: New Republican-backed voter ID laws, ostensibly meant to combat voter fraud, could disenfranchise millions of voters and potentially sway the election. The Beltway paper reports: “At least 5 million voters, predominantly young and from minority groups sympathetic to President Barack Obama, could be affected by an unprecedented flurry of new legislation by Republican governors and GOP-led legislatures to change or restrict voting rights by Election Day 2012.” Voter ID laws have been implemented in many swing states and could tip a very close election in these states by shaving off a few tenths of a percent or more from Democratic-leaning demographics. “To the extent that it’s a political tactic to try and game the system,” said Wendy Weiser of the Brennan Center for Justice, which tracks these laws, “it does make sense that that [swing states] is where we see a lot of that because that is where it could make a difference to the outcome.” The Obama campaign is fighting some states’ laws with legal challenges, but the vast majority are likely to survive through November.

Florida’s former Republican Party chairman recently said in a sworn deposition that party officials had met to discuss “voter suppression and keeping blacks from voting.” Still, for the moment, at least, Obama has an overall edge in the 12 swing states, the Hill reports today.
Dark matter universe: Astronomers say dark matter makes up a huge portion of our universe, even though we know almost nothing about it, and the same goes for dark money in the universe of campaign finance. The Huffington Post’s Paul Blumenthal reports that dark money — spending from outside political groups that don’t have to disclose their donors or much else to the public — has made up almost half of all spending thus far: ”Through July 26, politically involved groups that do not disclose their donors have spent at least $172 million on campaigns that include television, radio and Internet advertising … Total spending by these groups is likely far greater, since they are required to report only a fraction of their spending to the FEC. Politically involved independent groups that publicly disclose their donors, including super PACs, have spent $174 million so far this election cycle.”



The truth is that we don’t know how much these groups are actually spending because they don’t have to tell us. Last week, the FEC issued a statement that may add some new disclosure to these groups, but it appears to contain such huge loopholes that the new policy likely won’t change much.

Afghanistan quagmire: As the U.S. military looks to begin withdrawing from Afghanistan next year, a damning new report from the watchdog agency overseeing the reconstruction efforts in the country say preparations for the exit are way behind schedule. The Washington Post reports: “A U.S. initiative to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on construction projects in Afghanistan, originally pitched as a vital tool in the military campaign against the Taliban, is running so far behind schedule that it will not yield benefits until most U.S. combat forces have departed the country … The report, by the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, also concludes that the Afghan government will not have the money or skill to maintain many of the projects, creating an ‘expectations gap’ among the population that could harm overall stabilization efforts.”

The report adds more doubts about the upcoming U.S. withdrawal and could be used by hawks to argue that American troops should stay in country longer to make sure the country doesn’t fall into civil war after we leave, though that may be unavoidable.

Jesse Jackson Jr. found: Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., a Democrat from Illinois who took a mysterious leave of absence nearly seven weeks ago and  could not be found, is being treated for depression and gastrointestinal issues at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, the hospital revealed late Friday. Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. told reporters this weekend that there is “no timetable on his recovery,” suggesting his son may he hospitalized for some time. “Such a challenge is a game-changer, and challenges all members of a given family … We hope he will fully recover,” Jackson Sr. said.

Cheney goes hunting with Palin: Former Vice President Dick Cheney said John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008 was “a mistake.” He told ABC News yesterday of the VP choice, “I don’t think it was well handled.” He said Mitt Romney should avoid making a similar choice and instead pick someone who is “capable of being president of the United States.” Still, Cheney offered some kind words about the former Alaska governor and reality TV star: ““I like Governor Palin,” Cheney said of the former Alaska governor. “I’ve met her. I know her … Attractive candidate. But based on her background, she’d only been governor for, what, two years. I don’t think she passed that test … of being ready to take over. And I think that was a mistake.”

Alex Seitz-Wald

Alex Seitz-Wald is Salon's political reporter. Email him at aseitz-wald@salon.com, and follow him on Twitter @aseitzwald.

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