Republican Sen. Bryan King told Roby Brock he'll seek approval Thursday of his bill to suppress the vote of elderly, minority and other Democratic friendly constituencies in Arkansas.
He'll call it a voter ID bill. It is nothing less than an attack on voter rights.
Studies everywhere show voter ID laws have the effect desired by Republican sponsors — depression in turnout by voters who trend Democratic. Many people don't have IDs. Many people don't have the wherewithall to get them. The ability to vote under challenge is meaningless because of the hoops that must be cleared to get a challenged ballot counted. There is virtually no evidence of in-person voter fraud in Arkansas or the rest of the country. Absentee misdeeds, which have indeed occurred, are not affected by voter ID bills.
Given the majority Republican makeup of the legislature, the bill will pass. They've fallen to court challenges in other states. The improper aims are no different here. They've also had the effect in other states of stirring up those targeted for suppression and renewing their vigor to participate. See the presidential election of 2012. Arkansas is heading with the rest of the South to be a country for old angry white men. Short term, it's a great strategy for GOP dominance. Long-term, the demographers say it's not so hot.
Republicans have thrown up obstacles like this in other states, plus they've selectively made it very hard to vote in Democratic-rich regions, with inadequate election machinery producing long lines that discourage voting.
Democrats in Congress are fighting back. In the mill are measures to make it easier to register to vote and, importantly, ensuring that there are rich early voting opportunities.
Do Republicans really value the ballot. Or only ballots cast by Republicans? If the former, they'd push for easier registration, more early voting, measures to reduce lines. Ideally, on-line and postcard voting will become a national fact of life someday. What are the chances Bryan King, the great vote protector, favors universal access of this sort? He could demonstrate good intentions by companion legislation to his disenfranchisement measures. It's important.
Fourteen states are also considering whether to expand early voting, including the battlegrounds of Florida, Ohio and Virginia, according to FairVote, a nonprofit group that advocates electoral change. Florida, New York, Texas and Washington are looking at whether to ease registration and establish preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds.
Several recent polls and studies suggest that long waiting times in some places depressed turnout in 2012 and that lines were longest in cities, where Democrats outnumber Republicans. In a New York Times/CBS News poll taken shortly after Election Day, 18 percent of Democrats said they waited at least a half-hour to vote, compared with 11 percent of independents and 9 percent of Republicans.
A Massachusetts Institute of Technology analysis determined that blacks and Hispanics waited nearly twice as long in line to vote on average than whites. Florida had the nation’s longest lines, at 45 minutes, followed by the District of Columbia, Maryland, South Carolina and Virginia, according to Charles Stewart III, the political science professor who conducted the analysis.
A separate analysis, by an Ohio State University professor and The Orlando Sentinel, concluded that more than 200,000 voters in Florida “gave up in frustration” without voting.
The Arkansas Citizens First Congress has begun a welcome counterpoint to the Republican drive for Voter ID legislation aimed at depressing the turnout of segments of the population that generally favor Democratic candidate.
There's no evidence of any meaningful ID fraud at the polls. (It's not that people are so honest. It's just that, as a practical matter, impersonation is a highly impractical way of influencing elections. Absentee ballot schemes — something Voter ID wouldn't affect — are another matter.)
Citizens First has begun circulating a petition for something better. Its pitch to legislators:
Dear Senators and Representatives:
I ask you to support the Citizens First Congress’ Campaign to ensure fair elections across Arkansas!
Arkansas needs increased monitoring of elections and more training for poll workers. We do not need a Voter ID bill that could disenfranchise thousands of legitimate voters. Arkansas only has two election monitors for the entire state, and only requires training for one poll worker per polling site.
Please join us in our efforts to advance this critical issue!
Citizens First is a grassroots organizing group. They've worked across a range of issues, but wingers would call them liberal because they support civil rights, fair immigration rules, gas drilling accountability, the Equal Rights Amendment, clean water and other radical stuff like that.
Rep. Tracy Steele surprised by leading the ticket in the race for North Little Rock mayor, to succeed the retiring Pat Hays.
Steele finished with 11,524 votes, or 48.26 percent. Joe Smith, Hays' chief of staff and the current city establishment's pick for the job, finished with 9,820 or 41.13 percent of the vote. Mark Clinton, with 1,791 or 7.53 percent, and John Parker, with 741, or 3.1 percent, trailed.
Steele is close enough to 50 percent that he would need only a small percentage of the other candidates' votes to win. But Smith has been better financed to date and there won't be a lot on the ballot post-Thanksgiving — notably lacking a presidential race — to encourage turnout similar to Tuesday's.
Smith's campaign said:
It's not a surprising result. Tracy Steele is a true career politician - he's been on the ballot countless times so it makes sense that he had much higher name ID. Joe sits in a really good spot now going into this runoff and definitely has the momentum. He is energized, as is our team. We are ready to go on this sprint.
I've sought a comment from Tracy Steele, but haven't heard back. But he wrote on Facebook:
What an exciting election night!
I am extremely grateful for everything you've done on my behalf. Thank You! The next three weeks are crucial and I need you more than I ever have before.
I look forward to the next three weeks before the run-off election. It is time to look to our future and move this great city forward by focusing on our public servants, our children and school district and our workers and business community.
If we stand together, we can accomplish great things. Your support is what keeps me going.
Steele touched obliquely on a point in his favor — the North Little Rock School District. Its supporters carried out an impressive piece of community organizing in winning broad and deep community support for a huge tax increase to rebuild the entire school district. The Hays administration was slow to get on the school tax bandwagon. This rankled school supporters, as did the mayor's earlier push to take school tax money for downtown development. Some of these school supporters jumped to the Steele campaign. He was an early and vigorous supporter of the school tax. He's a black candidate in a city where racially polarized voting occurs and where whites still constitute the voting majority. But there was clear evidence yesterday of biracial support for Steele, including 25 to 30 percent totals in some higher income predominantly white neighborhoods. A good sign for him.
The three weeks leading to the runoff Nov. 27 will increase calls for examination of Steele's record as both a legislator and an administrator of a state agency, the Martin Luther King Commission. A Democrat-Gazette editorial endorsing Steele, in part on his administrative experience, was, simply, laughable. His tenure at the King Commission was perpetually dogged by controversy, political disputes and criticism of administrative practices, not to mention the fact that Steele had capitalized on his legislative position to get a paying job with a state agency. Steele has used his legislative clout in other ways, particularly to help get business for family enterprises, such as his own media company. Competitors also think his brother's ad agency has benefitted from the state connection. Worse than all that was Steele's solicitation of charitable contributions to a foundation he established from business interests that need help from the legislature. As we've reported before based on public documents, the majority of money raised for that charity has gone — not to direct services to youth — but into Tracy Steele's pocket or to provide him with an office. Critics of Smith argue that the Hays administration, with Smith as lead administrator, also took care of friends, too. I hope both sides speak directly and candidly on these issues. This is a big job, overseeing a lot of money in a city where a couple of aldermen were packed off to prison not long ago.
Steele is a better personal campaigner. That's no small plus in a city where the mayor is such a dominant figure in city government.
UPDATE: Steele announced Wednesday evening that opponent Mark Clinton, who's from the teabagger political school, would endorse him tomorrow. That's a reason NOT to support Steele.
Well, here we go. I lift a commemorative Republican mug this morning to the GOP sweep of Arkansas congressional seats and the new Republican majority in the Arkansas Senate and, perhaps, though this is still distantly in doubt, in the House. (PS — I trust regular readers know I'm only congratulating, not celebrating.)
Though built on enmity toward Barack Obama, who'll lead our country for four more years thanks to an electoral college landslide, the GOP victory is no passing fancy. It is a cultural shift of Arkansas political leaning to align with the rest of the Deep South and likely to be with us for many years to come. I heard a first-time voter explain in a radio interview today that she voted Republican because that was her family tradition.
Rich irony: Many Republicans were elected on mailed pleas to defeat Democrats who'd voted to put a highway sales tax proposal on the ballot. The sales tax was overwhelmingly approved the same night many of those criticzed Democrats were turned out.
The night's results likely will be reflected in a still-divided Congress.
The Arkansas legislature will grow to more resemble Washington, beginning with a Senate controlled by a party different from that of the chief executive. Republicans rode to power on very specific promises on taxes and reduction in the size of government. They'll press those issues — as they should to keep their promises. They'll be understandably reluctant to work with a governor who spent $1 million to defeat them, often with personal dirt dug up in research of business, tax and criminal records.
Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, ultimately, must accede to the legislative majority in many things, because a simple majority can override a veto. The 75 percent vote requirement for most spending bills presents a challenge for both sides.
But will there be a Republican majority in both houses? The answer is not yet wholly certain, though it appears so.
If the Republican majority in both houses prevails, there'll be no constitutional impediment to a raft of social issue legislation, voter ID laws and other GOP agenda items already in place in neighboring states. Massive resistance will continue to expansion of Medicaid. The health institutions that will be harmed by this might bring some Republicans to their side, but a solid bloc of the new Republican majority truly means what it says about reducing the size of government (and employment and services by government).
There will be a lot to cover that's for sure in the brave new world.
Good news on the local scene was spotty, but there was some:
* BIG NEWS IN THE HOUSE: I gave up too soon last night and believed the bold and repeated cocky (and dramatically exaggerated) assertions of Republican pollsters and consultants that they were headed to a giant win in the House. The early trends didn't hold up as Democrats won a number of seats they were expected to lose. The Republican majority fell well short of the lofty heights predicted by Republican sycophants and putative polling experts. They talked of wins of high as 65, 70 seats. The scant 1-vote majority of 51 also came on the strength of very tight wins.
Here's where it stands this morning in the Arkansas House.
With tallies completed, the count: 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats and one Green candidate, Fred Smith, who once was a Democrat until the party sued to disqualify him from an earlier term on account of a theft conviction. He was succeeded by a Democrat himself ruled ineligible in a vote buying scheme.
That's a working majority — enough to elect Terry Rice as speaker over Democrat Darrin Williams and to turn over the House staff. (The Senate staff is likely in peril as well, though that new governing bunch isn't quite as mean and vengeful as the rising Republican House majority.) But ....
Roby Brock of Talk Business reports that L.J. Bryant, a Democrat from Augusta, who trailed Republican John Hutchinson of Harrisburg by 45 votes, will likely seek a recount and there may be ground for a change in this election. Talk Business quotes Bryant as saying some 200 provisional ballots are at issue in this race. A swing here would move the count to 50-49-1 and make Fred Smith a very important man.
The Senate currently is split 21-14, but this counts a very close race between Mike Akin and Eddie Cheatham in Southeast Arkansas as Democratic, where Democrat Cheatham has a 342-vote lead but a couple of precincts (in Democratic Chicot County) are unaccounted for. (UPDATE: Akin has now conceded.) This again falls short of the number which Republicans had publicly boasted they'd win.
* THE THREE REPUBLICAN STOOGES: David Kizzia of Malvern beat neo-Confederate Republican Loy Mauch of Bismarck; Harold Copenhaver of Jonesboro defeated another Republican slavery apologist and imnmigrant hater, Rep. Jon Hubbard, and James McLean beat the wacky former Republican Rep. Charlie Fuqua in Batesville. A flurry of last-minute publicity about these races (yes, it was driven by the Arkansas Times and this blog) helped Democrats immeasurably and tightened the final House count considerably.
* SO MUCH FOR RESUME PADDING: Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, a heavily funded, disciplined and energetic candidate with national backing scored the lowest of any of the Republican congressional winners Tuesday night, only about 55 percent of the vote in his district against a lightly funded, low-profile challenger. He suffered a sound loss in his home county of Pulaski, where he only got 44 percent of the vote. It's not a great start for a planned U.S. Senate race in 2014. Republican Tom Cotton, the big winner in the 4th Congressional District, may be a stronger Senate contender when all is said and done. I'm expecting Griffin also will lose his own voting precinct, as he lost his home county, to Democratic challenger Herb Rule. UPDATE: In fairness, Griffin eked out a win at the Fire Station in the Heights — 579-552 for the other candidates at one of the precincts there; 536-510 at the other.
* HUMAN RIGHTS: Talk about a bright spot. As the old folks die and younger people come forward, human rights advance. Maine voters made history, passing the first voter-approved marriage equality law for gay couples. Maryland voters affirmed the state's marriage equality law. A same sex marriage law won in the state of Washington, 52-48. Minnesota voters, by a similar margin, defeated a proposal to constitutionally ban same sex marriage. A four-state sweep on this issue would be a watershed, even if that mighty stream isn't going to roll down on Arkansas and the rest of the South anytime soon. Arkansan Chad Griffin, another proud product of Hope, Ark., is the leader of the nation's most important gay rights organization, the Human Rights Campaign. It mounted a smart and massive effort in behalf of these outcomes. A lesbian was elected to the U.S. Senate in Wisconsin. Iowa voters refused to turn out more of the state Supreme Court justices who'd permitted same-sex marriage there. This was an unalloyed great night for sexual minorities, particularly when you add the president's re-election and his record in support of same-sex marriage, gays in the military and all the rest. More here from NY Times.
AND GETTA LOAD OF THIS: Mike Huckabee was quoted as saying yesterday was going to be a national show of support for Chick-fil-A and all those who endorsed its owners' work against gay rights. Say what?
* WOMEN'S CHOICE: Strident anti-abortion candidates were the reason the Republicans failed to make gains in the U.S. Senate. A majority in America is not ready to strip American women of choice or birth control pills, Jason Rapert's victory in the Conway-centered Arkansas Senate district over the valiant Linda Tyler notwithstanding. Will the new Republican majority, if it holds, really join Rapert in his bill to require forced vaginal probes of women seeking abortion in the earliest stages of pregnancy? We'll see.
Whatever else, the sun will still rise tomorrow.
PS — The ready assumption of Republicans and some others is that President Obama will remain an albatross to state Democrats in 2014, when statewide races will be on the ballot. I heard Jay Barth explain reasons that might not be so, beginning with hopes that an improved economy will change electoral dynamics tremendously. Obama didn't cost Democrats congressional seats. Lack of strong, well-financed candidates spelled defeat in two districts wiith potential to go Democratic. Obama didn't prove nearly the drag that Republicans expected on legislative elections. Their predictions for victory were exaggerated by 20 percent in the House and by 15 to 20 percent in the Senate. How Republicans govern in the next two years in tandem with a still-popular Democratic governor might give Democrats something to run with in two years. Dustin McDaniel or Bill Halter best hope so. Old Southern white men won't vote for Obama, no doubt about it. But the Arkansas variety of the species might still have enough memory of the recent past to cast some votes for Democratic candidates down ballot in two years. Tuesday night's outcomes — see state legislative races in the 1st District particularly — offered a little hope for that premise.
A break from TV gives me a chance to say:
Without Florida, Mitt Romney loses and Florida isn't looking good.
UPDATE: It's over. Ohio goes Obama and so goes the nation. A historic victory on a night when Arkansas will make history of its own by not edging, but leaping into the Republican column with total control of U.S. House seats and what appear to be huge margins in the legislature.
Republicans will sweep the Arkansas congressional seats. Moral victory for Herb Rule, who appears to be heading to a big win in incumbent Congressman Tim Griffin's home county. Maybe Griffin should move to Benton, Conway or Searcy, which overwhelmingly supported him and will give him a comfortable victory overall. He never legislates with Pulaski interests in mind. Repudiation at home isn't a great springboard for his 2014 Senate race.
The Arkansas legislative final tally is a long way off, but a Republican majority is a certainty. House staff members will be typing up resumes. Republicans may sweep most of of the contested Senate races. Gov. Mike Beebe will be figuring out how to govern a legislative majority he tried to thwart. Among the outcomes: Barbara Graves has conceded her hard-fought race against Republican Allen Kerr. Rep. Jim Nickels, a progressive Democrat, narrowly survived a Republican challenger from Sherwood. Some other Pulaski legislative races are still up in the air, but Sen. David Johnson will handily defeat a Tea Party opponent. Mark Lowery apparently has defeated Kelly Halstead for a Maumelle House seat. The Barry Hyde-Jane English Senate race in North Little Rock is tight, but with Republican English ahead. Tight, too, are Senate races in Northeast and Southeast Arkansas.
RUNOFF: It's likely for North Little Rock mayor, where Tracy Steele is leading 48-40 Joe Smith, the designated heir to Pat Hays. If Steele doesn't top 50 percent (and with 98.5 percent of the vote counted it doesn't seem likely), the runoff will be the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.
LITTLE ROCK CITY BOARD: Gene Fortson edged ahead of Willard Proctor to apparenlty retain his Little Rock City Board seat with a 46-40 edge. The minor candidate who picked up 13 percent might have saved Fortson's rear in the no-runoff race.
STATEWIDE BALLOT ISSUES: The highway sales tax is comfortably ahead; opponents are beating medical marijuana 52-48 (Pulaski voters are approving it heavily); Issue 2, a corporate welfare scheme, is being defeated with about a third of the vote in.
Pulaski and Perry County voters will select a juvenile judge Tuesday. It's a runoff in a race that Little Rock's Patti James very nearly won outright in May. John Hout barely squeaked into the runoff.
I had thought it was a typically quiet campaign between two competent lawyers for a seat that operates mostly outside the public eye. Juvenile proceedings are closed. They are part of a system in which successful handling of young violators can send them to another chance in life unburdened by a public criminal record. You want a judge with a heart in this court, but you also want someone with clear-eyed judgment. There IS, after all, such a thing as a bad kid.
I thought that I detected a false note when I saw Hout campaign with a law-and-order themed campaign sign outside the polls. He is a deputy prosecutor, though.
But then I saw Hout's mailer, shown above. It reads more like something from a candidate for prosecutor than juvenile judge. The boast about police support is unfortunately timed. The police department is under heavy criticism for excessive use of force. Officers must depend on prosecutors to believe their side of events in such encounters.
But the truly inexcusable part of the mailer is the attack on James because she's part of a family law firm that represents criminal defendants. Right to counsel is a bedrock of the American justice system. It's a constitutional right so revered that we even pay for lawyers for those who can't afford their own. Patti James' husband, Bill, takes a lot of such cases and they are the grist for this mailer, which smacks of desperation.
She wrote on her Facebook page:
Here is the mailer that my opponent has mailed out about me, well actually about my husband. I have always been a family attorney, and I've spent my career helping children and families. Dirty dirty dirty.
Hard to disagree.
There is thoughtful opposition, such as from veteran newsman Roy Ockert, who writes a column for the Jonesboro Sun. I"ve made it clear before that, even though we do endorsements here, I'm acutely aware of the limited influence they carry. I do think, though, that a respected voice in a local community on an intensely local race can have an impact. I certainly hope that's the case with Ockert's piece. He writes:
State representative, District 58 — Harold Copenhaver. He’ll be a strong voice for Jonesboro and Northeast Arkansas, which is needed. The incumbent, Jon Hubbard, has embarrassed us while pushing his own weird ideas instead of representing his district.
I note that Ockert also endorsed Democratic Prosecutor Scott Ellington over Rep. Rick Crawford, the Republican incjmbent, for the 1st District congressional seat. He noted that Crawford refused to participate in a statewide debate with Ellington, whom Ockert said had done a good job as prosecutor.
I think I see now why Republican Jason Rapert's Twitter posts have gotten even more shrill of late. Democratic opponent Rep. Linda Tyler has hit TV with some tough ads against Rapert.
Tyler also has a website detailing Rapert's recorded votes against the state budget bill, with money for education and higher education, when Republicans were mounting a rump drive to upend Gov. Beebe's budget plan. It notes Rapert has claimed to work with Beebe. It also notes his shrill criticism of Obama's economic stimulus program, even though he took some of the stimulus money too convert his pickup to gas power.
Rapert of late has been quoting the Bible extensively, apparently throwing in with the new Huckabee theme that only Republican voters are going to heaven.
A Talk Business/Hendrix poll today shows voters mostly in the dark on a legislatively proposed constitutional amendment that is a Trojan horse for yet another giveaway to real estate developers.
A NO vote is the proper option, as we've said before.
The poll says that 35 percent favor it, 35 percent oppose it and the rest are undecided. Not surprising. There's been no talk about it and no organized advertising so far. If any emerges, it will be a last-minute dishonest blitz from real estate developers anxious for approval of a deal by which compliant city and county officials (see Little Rock, whose board is controlled by the business community) would authorize a sales tax on hamburgers, groceries and everything else to subsidize commercial development, typically the likes of big sporting good stores and entertainment districts.
I bet some developers are waiting in the wings to seek this subsidy in Little Rock and that the chamber of ocmmerce-controlled board — which thinks free enterprise means free financing on the taxpayer tab — has lots of good ideas about taxing local people to benefit private interests. Sure they'll create some new waitressing and clerk jobs. But they'll also kill some at competitors elsewhere who don't enjoy such subsidies.
The amendment also makes it easier for local governments to borrow money and would allow taxes to shore up police and fire pension funds. Police and firefighters are the figleaf for another naked grab at corporate welfare, stymied by court rulings in the case of the Tax Increment Finance boondoggle, another real estate developer enrichment scheme.
Hold your breath: Looks like Teresa Oelke and the other running dogs at the Koch boys' Arkansas lobby and I are in agreement on this one. Haven't seen them doing any mailing on this one, however.
Oh, Jesus, I've just learned Debbie Pelley is against Issue 2 as well because it will supposedly fund UN projects. If Jerry Cox joins in, I may have to rethink.
They will…I would anticipate that the voters in their districts will send them back to the legislature,” said Webb. “Once again, we are a representative democracy and those candidates have done a good job at working for lower taxes, for job creation, for economic development, better education.”
They have said some things that are not the position of the Republican Party of Arkansas, but we believe in the freedom of conscience and the freedom of speech. And if they are successful, then we wish them good luck,” Webb said.
Got it? If a candidate is Republican, all is forgiven.
Bad as billionaire Jim Walton wants an automaton rubber stamp on his charter school legislation, even he had the good grace to say there are points beyond which he won't go for a vote and asked for his money back from Loy Mauch.
(Seem funny to you that no other news media seem interested in Jim Walton's written repudiation of Mauch's utterances?)
There isn't a better example of Republican Party principles and how low they'll go for control. You wonder what it would take for Doyle Webb to repudiate a Republican candidate. Profiteering on a widow woman's estate or undercutting a family member on a relative's estate probably aren't disqualifiers, given the history.
We also have the example of Faulkner County, where the Republican Party is urging re-election of a county official who finally resigned office because he wasn't eligible to serve. What's law got to do with it?
Nothing like numbers. They seem so firm and real. Thus the increasing journalistic obsession with them. The monthly housing report. The monthly new car report. The monthly revenue report. The Dow Jones average. Early voting.
Election officials have been energetically tallying early vote totals and news outlets have been vigorously reporting them, sometimes breathlessly.
People forget some truisms that existed when the only polling was done election day. A line does not necessarily mean a big turnout. It may just mean a line longer than an undermanned polling station can handle. The early returns are meaningless, unless you know where they come from. TV reporters love to follow a dynamic of changing leads. "Joe Blow took an early lead, but Jane Doe came roaring back." It's not a 400-meter dash where a strong finishing kick overcomes a quick starter. Changing totals are only a function of how quickly votes are tallied in disparate precincts.
I'm reminded of this today by a Public Policy Polling Twitter on North Carolina results:
Obama's up 57/42 among early voters in NC, Romney leads 50/45 with those who have yet to vote:
Which tells us little until we know how many people vote early as a percentage of the total vote and how many vote late.
Early voting doesn't mean more voting, by the way, though increased opportunity, it's hoped, will produce more participation.
To quote Yogi Berra (supposedly): It ain't over until it's over. Remember when libs were sure that an incredible ground game was going to result in the recall of all those baddies in Wisconsin? Remember the tidal wave of black voters that was expected to respond in, among others, Arkansas to the first black presidential candidate in 2008?
This is clear: It is too soon to predict outcomes, either in total voting percentage or outcome, based on what's happened so far.
But, it can't hurt to "just freaking vote" as the tableau erected in North Little Rock suggests. If the smaller sign is not legible, it notes that no rigid Voter ID law applies here yet. But election officials may ask for an ID and may set your ballot aside for challenge if sufficiently in doubt.
Kerr received the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette endorsement, in part for his protests of the (legal) practice by which state employees have been able to retire, draw a state pension and be rehired in state jobs. Fair enough. The system had some basis in a theory of encouraging valuable employees to work longer, but it has been abused. The editorialist, in praising Kerr, scorned other legislators, the "live-for-per-diem types grabbing all the tax money they can get."
Allen Kerr was a "live-for-per-diem" guy himself, in violation of the Arkansas Constitution. Yes, Allen Kerr for almost four years drew undocumented office expenses and an $850 monthly per diem waiver, worth about $2,200 a month altogether in the most recent year, merely for filing a bogus form for that monthly paycheck. That's more than $26,000 a year (on top of legislative salary), which sounds a lot like "grabbing all they can get." Over his four years in the House, Kerr piled up more than $80,000 in unconstitutional expense reimbursements, until a taxpayer lawsuit put a stop to the odious practice. Kerr was nowhere to be found cleaning up his own smelly stable, but state employees with real jobs? He was happy to kick THEM around.
The DOG editorial commented:
"Somebody needs to keep a sharp eye on the books."
Based on his sticky fingers, I'm not sure Allen Kerr is the guy to entrust with the green eyeshade.
Early voting doesn't suggest a highly motivated Arkansas electorate.
First-day voting in Arkansas was 26,763, according to the secretary of state, up a mere 503, or 1.9 percent, from first-day voting in 2008. That increase is below the state's population growth since 2008 of about 2.8 percent. (UPDATE: A Republican shill notes that (to the delight of the vote suppressing Republicans) the number of registered voters has declined slightly since 2008. So the increase is a tiny bit higher than first day four years ago on a percentage basis, though still up less than one-tenth of one percent. That seems lukewarm to me against the overheated partisan rhetoric.)
Opening day, then, indicated a turnout roughly equal to 2008's 65 percent of registered voters. That is, on balance, not good news for Democrats, whose traditional constituencies underwhelmed in 2008.
I voted first day at the county office on Broadway. It couldn't have gone more smoothly or quickly. There was a steady procession of voters, but ample workers on hand to accommodate them without a wait at 3:45 p.m. Lots of candidates — not just surrogates, but actual candidates — on hand with signs and a handshake.
UPDATE — GLITCH REPORT: A White County voter reports that the electronic ballot in Searcy doesn't fully print Rep. Tiffany Rogers' name. It cuts off about midway through — "State Representative Tiffany Ro....". Rogers, a Democrat from Stuttgart, is opposing Jonathan Dismang of Beebe in a hot Senate race. The Rogers campaign hopes to get the ballot corrected today, too late for those who voted early yesterday. At least one Democrat muddled through.
UPDATE II — RECOUNT: A Tuesday count by the secretary of state lifted first-day voting over 29,000, which is a more sizable increase. If it holds through the end of voting, his earlier prediction of a 65 percent turnout might be bested.
Two good examples in the morning paper of what to expect from a rising Republican majority:
* EROSION OF ETHICS LAWS: State Republican Party Chairman Doyle Webb wants the state Ethics Commission to allow political candidates to use campaign money to attend national political conventions. This is boodling, pure and simple. There's no need for campaign money to be used to stay in an expensive hotel in a faraway city to rub shoulders with party pals except for self-aggrandizement. This is essentially an incumbent enhancement act. Only incumbents — who rake in cash from lobbyists sufficient to build up the unconscionable incumbent reserve fund allowed by the legislature — are likely to have the dough to use for these trips anyway. This will essentially open a back door for corporate interests to pay for deluxe travel for sitting legislators. It's wrong. Regnat Populus is coming. It's overdue. If you think this is the last money cadging gimmick in the quiver of Doyle Webb and the unemployed Republicans who live off the public teat and lobbyists' credit cards you ain't seen nothing yet.
* DISHONESTY: Rep. Bryan King is back with another lament on the op-ed page about the push for Voter ID laws to suppress voting by important Democratic constituencies — the poor, minorities and students. He is being dishonest yet again. He links absentee vote law abuse to the Voter ID laws. There is NO connection. Voter ID doesn't apply to absentee balloting, where abuses do indeed occur. In fact, Republicans in other states have objected to stiffening absentee voting laws for fear of depressing this vote, which is generally a Republican strength. If anything, in swing states, Republicans have worked to increase absentee voting.
But almost nothing has been done about the distinctive challenges posed by absentee ballots. To the contrary, Ohio’s Republican secretary of state recently sent absentee ballot applications to every registered voter in the state. And Republican lawmakers in Florida recently revised state law to allow ballots to be mailed wherever voters want, rather than typically to only their registered addresses.
“This is the only area in Florida where we’ve made it easier to cast a ballot,” Daniel A. Smith, a political scientist at the University of Florida, said of absentee voting.
He posited a reason that Republican officials in particular have pushed to expand absentee voting. “The conventional wisdom is that Republicans use absentee ballots and Democrats vote early,” he said.
Yes, Arkansas Republicans have tried to curb early voting, becoming particularly enraged one year when black churches organized voter drives on Sundays before an election. Black people voting? That is fraud to Republicans.
Hey Durango, I know I can be in the group of 100, right? I have…
Nice toupee Curt
And where does a Senator earning 165 thousand per year get 1 million dollars to…
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