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Voter Intimidation Still in Play

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

This article is a reprint of an article appearing in Black Voices News by NNNPA wire correspondent Maya Rhoadan. I was interviewed for the article on Wed. October 25, 2012.

Post Script: Since early voting has started, there have been many more voters than expected with long lines in many states like FL, MD, NC and OH. And Democrats have been outnumbering Republicans.

Monday, 29 October 2012 09:23 0

By Maya Rhodan, NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Although President Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney have duked it out in three televised debates and are running opposing ads in the waning days of the election, a nastier fight to intimidate Black voters is taking place away from the limelight.

“It has taken many disguises,” says Chanelle Hardy, senior vice president of policy at the National Urban League’s Policy Institute. “Robo calls, telling people the date has changed, telling people that there are criminal penalties for showing up without an ID or that if you haven’t paid your child support, you’ll be arrested are some of them.”

Last week, anonymous billboards popped up across Black and Latino neighborhoods in Ohio and Wisconsin, two battleground states. “Voter Fraud is a Felony! Up to 3 ½ years in jail and a $10,000 fine,” read the signs.

Although the nearly 200 signs have been taken down, Debbie Hines, an attorney and the blogger behind, says the efforts to intimidate are just pieces of a larger scheme to keep Democratic voters from the polls.

“It’s as if they said, ‘If the voter ID laws don’t work that well, lets make telephone calls, let’s follow them around, let’s put up billboards to intimidate them’,” says Hines.

Since 2010, state legislatures have been passing laws that make it more difficult to vote, such as requiring government-issued photo IDs and cutting back on the number of days citizens can vote.

But the latest efforts go far beyond that.

A Tea Party organization, True the Vote, and its Ohio affiliate, the Voter Integrity Project, have been urging conservatives to become poll watchers to make voting feel like “driving and seeing the police following you.”

They have also sought to remove 2,100 names from polling rosters in Ohio, many in counties President Obama won in 2008, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In fact, a number of instances have come to light recently, as reported by The Nation magazine’s Voting Rights Watch 2012, that prove there have been a number of efforts to blatantly discourage voters from getting to the polls, aside from the billboards in Ohio.

In Virginia, another battleground state, a contract employee of the Republican Party of Virginia was arrested recently for dumping voter registration cards. Voter information fliers in Arizona were printed in Spanish with the wrong election date.

Hardy of the National Urban League said such actions are part of a larger effort to keep people of color from helping to re-elect President Obama.

“In ‘08 we saw what we were able to accomplish – the Black vote was outstanding and similar to the White vote for once in our history,” Hardy says. “It’s clear from the timing of when the ID action were introduced that there were bad actors in our society who sought to keep that from happening again.”

Although supporters of the tougher voter requirements say it is an effort to reduce fraud, others said it is a solution in search of a problem.

“There’s been no data that shows that in person voter fraud exists,” says Hines, the attorney who is fighting increased voter restrictions. “It happens but you have a greater chance of being stricken by lightning than there being a person involved in voter fraud.”

According to a study by a Knight Foundation funded project called News21, there were a total of 2,068 alleged election-fraud cases since 2000, only 10 of which involved voter impersonation—the very issue that led states across the country to enact strict voter identification laws.

“The intention of the suppressors is to shave off a small percentage of the Black vote to help Gov. Romney secure the win,” says Rashad Robinson, executive director of, that organization that led the campaign to remove the intimidating billboards in Ohio. “But Black folks are used to feeling this kind of oppression and we aren’t afraid to fight back. And we know that it could have an opposite effect and end up getting people more mobilized.”

In an effort to prevent these voter suppression and intimidation practices from being successful, organizations from National Council of La Raza to the NAACP and even members of Congress are fighting back to make sure every American’s voice is heard on Election Day.

The National Urban League has been involved with getting voters educated about their rights and empowering citizens with the information that will ensure that their voice is heard on Tuesday.

“We’re hoping they don’t have as much of an effect,” Hardy says. “The folks who came up with the bad laws have generated more attention than they intended getting people more encouraged to vote early and absentee.”

Throughout the election season, Robinson and ColorofChange have also been working to stop attempts to end early voting in Ohio, petitioning the Secretary of State and making sure members of the community stay informed about their rights.

“There are millions of dollars being spent by forces that do not share our values, that want to make our communities less safe, make our young people have a rougher time getting ahead by ignoring public education,” says Robinson. “We want to ensure that people know their rights and make their voices heard.”

In addition, members of the UN affiliated Organization for Security and Cooperation will be bringing in members from the international community to monitor the election.

Debbie Hines will be one of many attorneys on hand to monitor polls in states like Virginia, where she’ll be, to make sure “voters rights aren’t under attack.”

She says the most important note Blacks and other minorities should take away from the intimidation schemes is that their votes matter.

“I don’t think Blacks should take for granted the value of their vote,” Hines says.

“Because for Republicans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to get the laws passed, to do all of the things that they’re doing, our vote is valuable.”

Romney Says No to Federal Disaster Aid for Storm Victims

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

President Obama is watching the Sandy hurricane/storm to see where federal resources might be needed for the states in harm’s way. During the primary GOP presidential debates, Mitt Romney was asked about the federal government and FEMA assisting the states in a disaster. If left up to Mitt Romney, the federal government would not assist those states that will need assistance due to potential damage by Hurricane Sandy. Those things we don’t have to keep, we ought to stop doing—including FEMA. That would be one more thing that the Romney presidency would cut out of the federal budget as unnecessary.

Hurricane Sandy is expected to affect the east coast from Florida to possibly all the way up to Maine and also inland states like Ohio. Mitt’s position should be highlighted during the storm for those affected to see what a Romney presidency would mean for them. It may not be the right time for President Obama to deal with the issue as he deals with helping these states. But the main stream media should certainly remind viewers of Romney’s position which is spelled out in his debate answer.
I recently wrote an article on the top 10 ways that Romney says “No I can’t”. Helping storm victims through FEMA and disaster aid is one more way that Romney says no. Hopefully, those undecided voters, in the areas where Hurricane Sandy is expected to hit, will give thought to what denial of federal government assistance to their state would mean.

I guess Mitt Romney thinks that disaster victims are –well victims. In Romney world, victim is a bad word. And victims belong in the 47% category of Americans whom Romney detests. And by Romney’s own words and comments about the 47% Americans, we know that Romney does not intend to do anything for citizens he calls victims.

During the unprecedented Sandy hurricane, I hope that all will be safe and that no lives are lost. And if aid is needed by the states to assist their citizens, be thankful that FEMA and federal government aid is available. Where will we be without helping our fellow citizen during these times? That’s the political lesson of Hurricane Sandy.

If Mitt Romney is elected president, there may be no federal aid for disaster help for victims next year. But there will continue to be storms and hurricanes. And there will continue to be aid needed to help Americans during these disasters. Disasters come in the form of hurricanes, snow storms, fires, flooding and other natural disasters. And aid from the federal government will be needed this year and next year and so on. Under a Romney presidency, aid would be diverted to the private sector. Good luck with getting disaster aid under a Romney presidency.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a former prosecutor and founder of LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics. As a legal and political commentator she has appeared in national, international and local media including the Michael Eric Dyson Show, local NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates, RT TV, CBC- Canadian TV, NPR, XM Sirius radio, the Baltimore Sun, Washington Post and Washington Times among others. She also contributes articles to the Huffington Post and the Women’s Media Center.

Vote Now or Forever Hold Your Peace

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

President Obama

Some people who voted for President Obama in 2008 are undecided, disillusioned, or not planning on voting. In 2000, the victory of George W. Bush over Al Gore was won by 537 votes, after the Supreme Court interceded. At weddings, there is a time in the wedding ceremony when the person officiating says “speak now or forever hold your peace” We are coming to that time in the presidential election of 2012.

This election outcome will determine our country’s future for generations to come—much longer than most marriages will ever last. That’s how long the effect of appointment of any new Supreme Court justices will have on this country. A Supreme Court justice holds a position for a life time—not just four years.

If President Obama is re-elected, universal health care will remain the law of the land. It will end denial of insurance coverage for those with pre-existing illnesses and diseases and cover over 30 million uninsured Americans. With obesity on the rise with its accompanying diseases of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, anyone who has these diseases or knows of someone who has these diseases, should be voting for President Obama.

A vote for Mitt Romney will repeal health care for the uninsured and those with pre-existing illnesses. And anyone can become uninsured by losing a job—to China or otherwise. And at the rate that obesity is rising among our population, if you don’t already have one of the forbidden diseases associated with obesity, chances are 40% or greater that you will get it sometime in your life time.

Everyone who lives long enough will one day retire, perhaps at 65. At that point, Medicare will be needed to take care of one’s health needs. One’s health does not usually get better after 65. Chances are the benefits of Medicare will be needed. Under Romney’s plan, you will be reduced to the use of vouchers for your health issues. Vouchers will not keep pace with expected rising health issues and treatment as one grows older. That means, more out of your pocketbook will be needed to cover health costs when you are no longer working. A vote for President Obama ensures that Medicare will not be taken over with vouchers.

Everyone is concerned about the economy. For the economy, the situation is improving. President Obama has laid a solid foundation. The jobs report on unemployment was the lowest in October since the President took office in 2009. No doubt that people are still struggling. Everyone was affected by the down turn in the economy due to the eight years under the Bush Administration. Even with the slower than expected recovery, I find it shocking that people want to go from the bad 8 years of Bush to worse years under a Romney presidency.

Romney keeps his money in foreign banks, sends jobs to China and would have refused to bring back the auto industry. A person is known by their acts and deeds—not just words alone. Romney’s acts show he is hedging his bets on the American recovery with money in foreign offshore bank accounts; supports the Chinese economy more than the U.S. with Bain Capital’s implosion of jobs there; and would deny bailouts to the U.S. auto industry and GM and Chrysler which saved jobs. There is nothing in Romney’s resume where it shows he builds or creates jobs. During his term as governor of Massachusetts, the state was 48 out of 50 when it came to small business growth.

Romney is a businessman who outsources jobs to other countries. And a Romney presidency would be far worse than that of George Bush. I thought I would never think anything could be worse than George W. Bush and the almost depression he brought on to America. But, Mr. Bush, to his credit, did not try to send our jobs to China or overseas.

As for the decreasing the deficit, President Obama has ended one war and is on track to get us out of the longest war—Afghanistan. Most of our money goes towards defense and the two Bush wars. President Obama has captured and killed Osama bin Laden which decreases the al Qaeda risk and the threat of war. Mitt Romney went on a foreign overseas tour and insulted just about everyone in every country he came into contact. My guess is with his lack of foreign experience and intelligence, it won’t take long before he does something stupid enough to start a war and not end one.

For voters “thinking that your vote doesn’t count, that it won’t matter,” in the 2000 presidential race “there were probably 537 people who felt the same way. Make your voice heard.” Vote now or forever hold your peace.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is founder of LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics. As a legal and political commentator she has appeared in national, international and local media including the Michael Eric Dyson Show, local NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates, RT TV, CBC- Canadian TV, NPR, XM Sirius radio, the Baltimore Sun, Washington Post and Washington Times among others. She also contributes articles to the Huffington Post and the Women’s Media Center.

Mitt Romney Says “No We Can’t”

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Mitt Romney is The Man of “No We Can’t”

President Obama rode into office in 2008 on the slogan of “Yes we Can.” In 2012, Mitt Romney is campaigning on a slogan of “No we can’t”. Romney and many GOP supports are criticizing President Obama for his message of hope, change and moving the country forward. Romney’s replacement message is one of negativity. Here are some of the ways that Romney says “No We Can’t”:

• No to ObamaCare and Universal Health Care Coverage- Romney proudly says that his first act, if elected president, will be to eliminate health coverage for over 30 million uninsured Americans, young adults who can stay of their parents’ coverage until 26 and for children who are denied coverage due to pre-existing illnesses, among others. He will leave in its place, the option of going to hospital emergency rooms to seek treatment.

• No to a woman’s right to choose her reproductive rights- A Romney presidency would mean the end of Roe v. Wad. Romney only wants to nominate Supreme Court justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade, according to his prior statements.

• No to the U.S. automobile industry bailout- Romney’s own words said “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt”. He said no to allow General Motors and Chrysler a bail out from the federal government which would have meant closing shop and the auto industry forever. It would have left million out of work who rely on the automobile industry such as assembly line workers, car dealers, mechanics, parts suppliers, and all who support the auto industry across the country.

• No to Small Business growth- Romney while governor of Massachusetts was almost dead last in small business growth for the state. Massachusetts ranked at the very bottom at 48 out of 50 states. (More to follow in another blog on why the people of Massachusetts are supporting President Obama)

• No to Medicare System- Romney wants to replace the current Medicare system with vouchers which will not keep pace with seniors’ health costs and limit future seniors’ health choices.

• No to Medicaid- Romney wants to say no to families who receive Medicaid for children with autism, Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy and to parents and grandparents with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Our most vulnerable citizens are our youth and our seniors. And the most vulnerable within those two groups are the mentally and physically challenged whether due to birth defects, dementia, autism which are beyond their control. Nursing homes are paid for in many instances with Medicaid and not Medicare. Although, I doubt if your voucher for Medicare would cover it anyway.

• No to increasing tax rates on millionaires- Romney will not increase tax rates on millionaires even to help our struggling economy and to lower the deficit. He prefers to protect the pocketbooks of millionaires rather than help the middle class. He has his priorities right for the class that he represents.

• No to Lilly Ledbetter Act- Romney says no to Lilly Ledbetter equal pay act for women. And for now, he says he will not repeal it, if elected president. Romney prefers concessions for women to allow them to leave work early to prepare dinner as he did for one of his senior staffers while governor of Massachusetts. Women want equal pay to that of a man now. Dinner can wait.

• No to Gun control- During the debate Romney inferred the cause of gun violence has to do with young single mothers raising children. The gun control issue and assault rifle shootings at malls, movie theaters and schools have nothing to do with single parenthood. But, I guess it’s easier to blame single parents and mothers than face the National Rifle Association.

Mitt Romney does say yes to a few things. Romney says yes to sending our jobs to China, helping millionaires to stay rich with lower taxes and yes to a plan to take America backwards. If those things are important to you, then vote for Mitt Romney. If you are not trying to get a job in China and want to move the country forward, then vote for President Obama. The choice is that clear.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is founder of LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics. As a legal and political commentator she has appeared in national, international and local media including the Michael Eric Dyson Show, local NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates, RT TV, CBC- Canadian TV, NPR, XM Sirius radio, the Baltimore Sun, Washington Post and Washington Times among others. She also contributes articles to the Huffington Post and the Women’s Media Center.

GOP Voter Suppression Efforts are a Crime and a Shame

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

Everyone hates a cheater. That’s what I thought before the 2012 election. In Republican circles, targeting Democrat voters, to cheat them out of the right to vote, has become the new norm. Instead of being vilified, many Republicans are applauding the efforts—saying it will give them the win for Mitt Romney. The Republicans’ clever ways, to suppress voters during this election cycle, bring cheating to a new low.

Cheating suggests dishonest, false, deceitful and dishonorable acts. If a student cheats in school on a test, he or she may be suspended or expelled. In sports, players found to have cheated can be banned for life, such as former baseball player Pete Rose, banned for betting on baseball. And the NFL recently fined and suspended several New Orleans Saints’ football players, their coach and general manager for being part of a forbidden “pay for pain bounty”. With Republicans’ schemes to cheat voters out of their right to vote, little has been done to punish, prevent or deter future acts. And their antics will have a far reaching and chilling effect on our democracy, if not stopped.

Republicans invented in person voter fraud hysteria, without any real supporting evidence, as a means of enacting voter ID laws in 34 states. Republicans purged hundreds of legitimate voters from voting lists in some states. Billboards have been placed strategically in black and Hispanic communities in Ohio that voter fraud is a felony punishable up to 3 ½ years in jail and a $10,000 fine. These billboards misleadingly suggest that some voters will be in trouble with the law if they vote. Clear Channel agreed to remove them.

Pennsylvania voters are being told they need an ID when in fact the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled ID may be asked but is not needed to vote. Republican groups in Virginia, Florida and North Carolina have thrown out registration forms and improperly provided bogus addresses and names for others. There are pending criminal charges for some of these acts.

True the Vote, a Tea Party group that claims to be nonpartisan, says it wants to make in-person voting feel like “driving with the police following you.” True the Vote is currently under investigation prompted by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D. MD) for trying to improperly voters from voter lists. Congressman Cummings says “If these efforts are intentional, politically-motivated, and widespread across multiple states, they could amount to a criminal conspiracy to deny legitimate voters their constitutional rights.”
We must protect our democracy by passing better laws to protect the vote and prevent disenfranchisement of voters and use current laws to attack these actions. Rep. Cummings introduced the America Votes Act of 2012, HR 6419, to combat voter suppression efforts. There are federal statutes such as the 1965 Voter Rights Act but loopholes exist to allow the blatant acts performed by many Republicans during this election. Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland agrees stating:

It is time for Congress to once again take action to stop the latest reprehensible tactics that are being used against African-American, Latino, and other minority voters to interfere with (a) their right to vote or (b) their right to vote for the candidate of their choice, as protected in Constitution and in civil rights statutes. These tactics undermine and corrode our very democracy and threaten the very integrity of our electoral process.

Under legislation that was proposed by Senator Cardin, it would make illegal within 90 days of voting any communications that includes knowingly false information on: the time or place of the election; voter qualifications; criminal penalties associated with voting; and a voter’s registration status or eligibility. This is but one example of what is needed to close the gap of cheating voters out of their right to vote by punishing the cheaters.

Any tactic or attempt to dissuade or prevent voters from voting destroys democracy. Voting is the foundation upon which democracy stands. As President Lyndon Johnson said on signing the 1965 Voter Rights Act, “this right to vote is the basic right without which all others are meaningless.”

We cannot let Republicans or anyone else cheat us out of democracy. I want to take our country back to liberty, justice, freedom and yes, voting rights for all citizens.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a former prosecutor and founder of LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics. As a legal and political commentator she has appeared in national, international and local media including the Michael Eric Dyson Show, local NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates, RT TV, CBC- Canadian TV, NPR, XM Sirius radio, the Baltimore Sun, Washington Post and Washington Times among others. She also contributes articles to the Huffington Post and the Women’s Media Center.

Why Romney is Wrong for Women

Friday, October 19th, 2012

Mitt Romney is wrong for women from all age groups. Let me count the ways. But don’t take my word for it. Listen to his words, acts and ever evolving positions.

First, Mitt Romney blamed gun violence on single parents. Many women are single head of households for a variety of reasons. Romney during the debate said that gun violence is a result of single parents. When asked for his opinion on assault rifles and banning them, Romney proceeded to answer that kids should not be having babies before they’re married—as if that has something to do with assault rifles and killings in movie theaters and schools.

Many women are single head of households by choice, by divorce, by death of a spouse or partner, due to domestic violence by the child’s father and a myriad of other reasons—none having anything to do with contributing to gun violence on our streets. For single parents, women need pay equity to better support their children.

When Romney was asked by President Obama about whether he supported equal pay for women, Romney said he’ll get back on that one. During the debate, he didn’t respond to the question directly. He made mention that he made concessions for women when Governor of Massachusetts to see that women were home in time to cook dinner. Women want equal pay as men. They are not as concerned as getting home to cook dinner. Either you’re for equal pay for women or you’re against it. It’s not a maybe type of issue. So we can take Romney’s reluctance to give an answer as a no.

A Romney administration would help women by defunding Planned Parenthood which provides contraceptives to millions and then blame it on women for having babies while single—causing gun violence. Not only is Romney out of touch with most women living in the 21st century, he is hypocritical.

We know by now that Romney will take great pride in repealing Obamacare, eliminating insurance for women and women’s health. He’s already gone on record as saying that people can get health care at the hospital emergency room. He incorrectly stated that lack of insurance does not cause anyone to die. As anyone without insurance knows, you are not likely to go to the doctor for preventive care without insurance. If you don’t have insurance, it’s likely because you cannot afford it. And diseases like breast and cervical cancer rely on early treatment and diagnosis for a better success rate.

The overriding concern for women is jobs. Many of these other issues seem secondary to the jobs issue. But we cannot cut off our nose to spite our face. That’s what voting for Romney, the jobs creator, would do. We would be getting someone who professes to be able to create jobs even now as Bain Capital is sending jobs overseas in October, 2012.

Romney talks a good game and unfortunately many women believe it. The folks at Sensata, a manufacturing plant owned by Bain Capital in Illinois, know better as they fight to keep their jobs from floating to China. Their pleas to Romney to prevent their plant from closing and moving to China have fell on deaf ears. Romney has not responded. Wake up women—if he doesn’t respond to jobs going overseas before the election, he won’t care after the election.

Women’s rights have advanced through the Supreme Court. And if Romney is elected, that’s a scary thought of what will happen to women’s rights. Mitt Romney will be able to change the face of women’s rights for many generations. He has said he will appoint justices that are counter to issues that are of important to women. Mr. Romney, like many of his Republican counterparts, do not believe in abortion rights. While that may his personal belief, it should not be imposed on millions of women and their families who deserve the right to choose. Romney’s position on equal pay is to allow women leave time to get home early to start dinner.

All women that I know regardless of party affiliation want a quality education, good health care and a job with equal pay as men to advance in society. That’s what will advance this country forward too and level the playing field. President Obama has made all three of these possible for all women by increasing Pell grants to make college more affordable; passing the affordable Health Care Act to provide health care for those uninsured; provide for mammograms, cervical and breast cancer screening and prevention of insurance denial due to pre-existing conditions; and passing the Lilly Ledbetter act as his first piece of legislation to assist women in filing claims of unequal pay in the work force.

If re-elected, President Obama will continue to obtain greater gains for women. Mitt Romney will leave women barefoot and pregnant without a care in the world, except to get home early from work to cook dinner. Oh and let’s not forget worrying about our survival.