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November 2012, Week 2

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Races in Arizona Still Hang in the Balance
By FERNANDA SANTOS
New York Times
November 9, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/10/us/politics/arizona-races-still-hang-in-the-balance-over-uncounted-votes.html

On Thursday, Secretary of State Ken Bennett revealed the
magnitude of the situation: 631,274 votes remained
uncounted, he said, more than in any presidential
election in memory and enough to anger voting- and
immigrant-rights advocates, who have called on the
Justice Department to investigate. (By Friday, there
were 524,633 uncounted ballots. There are 3.1 million
registered voters in the state.)

The advocates, who have been staging nearly continuous
protests outside the Maricopa County Tabulation and
Election Center, where most of the votes are being
tallied, have raised accusations of disenfranchisement,
saying the same Latino voters they worked so diligently
to register may have been disproportionately affected.
Based on accounts they have been collecting since before
the polls closed, among the 115,000 voters who cast
provisional ballots in Maricopa County on Tuesday were
many first-time minority voters who signed up to get
their ballots by mail, but never did.

"We're concerned that some of the barriers we're seeing
fell heavily on Latino and African-American voters,"
said Monica Sandschafer, acting coordinator for One
Arizona, a coalition of nonprofit groups working to
increase voter participation among working families.

Volunteers took to the phones on Friday at the offices
of Unite Here, which represents hospitality workers,
calling Latinos on the early-voting registry to find out
if they got their ballots in time to vote by mail.
Meanwhile, the Arizona chapter of the American Civil
Liberties Union wrote a letter to the county recorder,
Helen Purcell, saying the "public confidence in the
voting process" was at stake.

The uncertainty has also unsettled candidates and
campaign staffs, prompting at least one of them - Mark
Napier, the Republican candidate for sheriff in Pima
County, which had 80,735 uncounted votes on Wednesday -
to rescind his concession.

"I was down by 7,400 votes on election night," Mr.
Napier said. "I assumed it was over, but this election
could change."

Three Congressional races remained too close to call on
Friday, and there were also some misgivings about the
outcome of several other races. One of them was the
United States Senate race, where, as of Friday, Jeff
Flake, a Republican congressman, was ahead of his
Democratic challenger, Richard H. Carmona, by 78,775
votes, according to unofficial results posted by the
secretary of state.

Mr. Carmona conceded on Tuesday; on Friday, in a message
to supporters, he wrote, "We will take every necessary
step to make sure all of our supporters' ballots are
counted."

Activists say that they believe, based on what they have
heard from people in the field, that provisional ballots
tended to be used most often in Hispanic and black
neighborhoods. But that cannot be verified until all the
ballots are counted, and officials in each of Arizona's
15 counties have until next Friday to do that.

Matt Roberts, a spokesman for Mr. Bennett, said that all
valid votes would be counted. Advocates and elected
officials are worried, though, that voters who had to
cast conditional provisional ballots because they forgot
to bring identification to the polls, as state law
requires, may not know they have to present their ID at
the county elections office by Wednesday for their vote
to count.

"You should do it not just for the Democrats or the
Republicans, or for the Hispanic voters and the black
voters. You should do it because it's the right thing to
do," State Representative Ruben Gallego, a Democrat,
said at a protest on Friday.

Deborah Curtis, a poll observer at Xavier College
Preparatory in Central Phoenix attending the same
protest, said she saw a black voter being told she could
drop off her early ballot only in her neighborhood
precinct, although early ballots can be left at any
polling place.

"I wondered how many other people were told the same
thing," Ms. Curtis said.

On Thursday night, more than a hundred people -
activists, high school students who are too young to
vote but worked for months to register voters, and
voters who said they were forced to use provisional
ballots at the polls - joined hands in a human chain and
prayed outside the election center, a squat brick
building on a desolate stretch of downtown, next to the
train tracks and across the street from a jail.

Friday morning, they marched five blocks along Third
Avenue to the county recorder's office, where they
delivered a petition with at least 20,000 signatures,
demanding answers. Outside, on small pieces of paper,
they left messages taped to a wooden board. One of them
read, "We have rights." Another read, "Justice."

(2)
How the GOP's War on Voting Backfired
Ari Berman
The Nation
November 8, 2012
http://www.thenation.com/blog/171146/how-gops-war-voting-backfired

Since the 2010 election, Republicans passed new voting
restrictions in more than a dozen states aimed at
reducing the turnout of Barack Obama's "coalition of the
ascendant"-young voters, African-Americans and
Hispanics.

"This is not rocket science," Bill Clinton said last
year. "They are trying to make the 2012 electorate look
more like the 2010 electorate than the 2008 electorate."
By pushing voter suppression laws, Republicans wanted
the 2012 electorate to be older, whiter and more
conservative than the young and diverse 2008 electorate.

But the GOP's suppression strategy failed. Ten major
restrictive voting laws were blocked in court and
turnout among young, black and Hispanic voters increased
as a share of the electorate relative to 2008.

Take a look at Ohio, where Ohio Republicans limited
early voting hours as a way to decrease the African-
American vote, which made up a majority of early voters
in cities like Cleveland and Dayton. Early voting did
fall relative to 2008 as a result of Ohio Secretary of
State Jon Husted's cutbacks in early voting days and
hours, but the overall share of the black electorate
increased from 11 percent in 2008 to 15 percent in 2012.
More than anything else, that explains why Barack Obama
once again carried the state.

I spent the weekend before the election in black
churches in Cleveland, and there's no doubt in my mind
that the GOP's push to curtail the rights of black
voters made them even more motivated to cast a ballot.
"When they went after big mama's voting rights, they
made all of us mad," said Reverend Tony Minor, Ohio
coordinator of the African American Ministers Leadership
Council. According to CBS News: "More African-Americans
voted in Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida than
in 2008."

The same thing happened with the Latino vote, which
increased as a share of the electorate (from 9 percent
in 2008 to 10 percent in 2012) and broke even stronger
for Obama than in 2008 (from 67-31 in 2008 to 71-27 in
2012, according to CNN exit polling). The share of the
Latino vote increased in swing states like Nevada (up 4
percent), Florida (up 3 percent) and Colorado (up 1
percent). Increased turnout and increased support for
Obama among Latinos exceeded the margin of victory for
the president in these three swing states.

We're still waiting on the data to confirm this theory,
but a backlash against voter suppression laws could help
explain why minority voter turnout increased in 2012.
"That's an extremely reasonable theory to be operating
from," says Matt Barreto, co-founder of Latino
Decisions, a Latino-focused polling and research firm.
"There were huge organizing efforts in the black,
Hispanic and Asian community, more than there would've
been, as a direct result of the voter suppression
efforts." Groups like the NAACP, National Council of La
Raza, National Association of Latino Elected and
Appointed Officials, and the Asian-American Legal
Defense Fund worked overtime to make sure their
constituencies knew their voting rights.

As Andrew Cohen of The Atlantic wrote:

    If there is one thing this election has proven, if
    there is one thing I have come to know, it is that
    Americans don't like it when their right to vote is
    threatened. The very people whose votes the
    Republicans sought to suppress came out to vote. In
    places like Akron and Orlando and Denver and
    Milwaukee, they came. They waited in long lines and
    endured the indignities of poll workers. Yet they
    were not cowed. Today is their day. A day when they
    can look at one another and appreciate that they are
    truly a part of the history of civil rights in this
    country.

There are, of course, major caveats to this theory. If
voter ID laws had been on the books in states like
Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, turnout might've shifted in
the Republicans' favor, as the political science
literature suggests. (Nate Silver predicted that
Pennsylvania's voter ID law would've provided a net 1.2
percent shift to Republican candidates.) We don't know
how many voters were disenfranchised by voter ID laws in
states like Kansas and Tennessee or didn't vote in
Florida because of long lines or a felony conviction or
were forced to cast a provisional ballot in Ohio that
will not be counted. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act
could be invalidated by the Supreme Court, which would
be a devastating setback for voting rights, and new
voting restrictions that were temporarily blocked in
state courts could be ultimately upheld.

But, for now, the momentum is shifting away from the GOP
when it comes to voting rights. For the first time, in
Minnesota, voters defeated a photo ID ballot initiative.

The measure started with a double-digit lead, but
opponents of voter ID were able to convince a purple-
state electorate that such laws are unnecessary and
discriminatory. This could be a harbinger of things to
come in other swing states.

In a recent piece in The Nation, I wrote that voter
suppression efforts have become the "new normal" in the
GOP. Unless or until Republicans get serious about
courting an increasingly diverse and younger electorate,
they'll continue to pass laws to undermine the political
power of this growing constituency.

But they'll do so at their own peril. Racial minorities
made up 28 percent of the electorate in 2012, up from 26
percent in 2008, and voted 80 percent for Obama. "Romney
matched the best performance among white voters ever for
a Republican challenger-and yet he lost decisively in
the Electoral College," wrote Ron Brownstein of National
Journal. Minorities also accounted for 45 percent of
Obama's total vote. That means that in the not-so-
distant-future, a Democrat will be able to win the
presidency without needing a majority of white votes in
his or her own coalition. In a country with growing
diversity, if one party is committed to expanding the
right to vote and the other party is committed to
restricting the right to vote, it's not hard to figure
out which one will ultimately be more successful.

___________________________________________

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