Our Common Good
The city council in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, voted unanimously this week to create a buffer zone around the entrances and driveways to reproductive health clinics and medical facilities, stopping protesters from being closer than 20 feet to offices. Planned Parenthood had asked for the measure to prevent anti-abortion protesters from harassing patients and staff at its local clinic.

And the Harrisburg clinic has a reason to fear additional violence between protesters and people trying to get into the reproductive health clinic. In Oregon, an altercation between a woman and an anti-abortion protester at a Planned Parenthood clinic that does not even perform abortions led to a stabbing. And harassment from anti-abortion protesters forced one anti-abortion clinic in New York to stop providing services.

Officials in New York City are also pushing back against clinic harassment. The city has started a program to recruit and train clinic escorts who will assist women in passing the anti-abortion protesters and so-called sidewalk counselors outside of health care offices.

Pennsylvania City Enacts A Buffer Zone Around Abortion Clinics To Protect Patients And Staff | ThinkProgress

Obama wins Pennsylvania
Early this month, a federal judge partially overturned Pennsylvania’s voter ID law, ruling that the state couldn’t require voters to show photo identification at the polls until after the 2012 election. But the ruling has not stopped the state from running ads suggesting otherwise—ads that have disproportionately targeted urban and minority communities that tend to vote for Democrats.
In English, the billboard pictured above reads: “This election, if you’ve got it, show it.” It is one of 58 billboards erected by Pennsylvania’s Republican-led Department of State, mostly in Democratic-leaning Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Though Latinos make up only 6 percent of the state’s population, about 20 percent of the billboards are in Spanish. Similar Spanish-language ads appear on public buses.
[…]
Before the court overturned Pennsylvania’s voter ID law, the state had already publicized it with TV ads, thousands of mailers, and numerous billboards and bus advertisements. In the weeks since, the state has taken down some of those ads. But one Spanish-language billboard saying, “If you want to vote, show it,” remained up for many days. And the state has not sent out mailers to clarify the altered circumstances. Voting-rights advocates accuse state elections officials of sowing more confusion with the new billboards.
"What our groups are concerned about is that the billboards are not sending voters the message that the ID is not needed for this election," says Marcia Johnson-Blanco, codirector of the Voting Rights Project. Her group is fighting back with its own ads, which say that people without IDs can still vote this year.
(via Pennsylvania Officials Accused of Running Misleading Voter ID Ads | Mother Jones)

Early this month, a federal judge partially overturned Pennsylvania’s voter ID law, ruling that the state couldn’t require voters to show photo identification at the polls until after the 2012 election. But the ruling has not stopped the state from running ads suggesting otherwise—ads that have disproportionately targeted urban and minority communities that tend to vote for Democrats.

In English, the billboard pictured above reads: “This election, if you’ve got it, show it.” It is one of 58 billboards erected by Pennsylvania’s Republican-led Department of State, mostly in Democratic-leaning Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Though Latinos make up only 6 percent of the state’s population, about 20 percent of the billboards are in Spanish. Similar Spanish-language ads appear on public buses.

[…]

Before the court overturned Pennsylvania’s voter ID law, the state had already publicized it with TV ads, thousands of mailers, and numerous billboards and bus advertisements. In the weeks since, the state has taken down some of those ads. But one Spanish-language billboard saying, “If you want to vote, show it,” remained up for many days. And the state has not sent out mailers to clarify the altered circumstances. Voting-rights advocates accuse state elections officials of sowing more confusion with the new billboards.

"What our groups are concerned about is that the billboards are not sending voters the message that the ID is not needed for this election," says Marcia Johnson-Blanco, codirector of the Voting Rights Project. Her group is fighting back with its own ads, which say that people without IDs can still vote this year.

(via Pennsylvania Officials Accused of Running Misleading Voter ID Ads | Mother Jones)

As governor of Massachusetts he was considered a moderate and managed to work with both political parties in the Legislature, creating along the way a health care plan so successful the federal government used it as a model.

That is the type of candidate this newspaper could endorse to run our country. Unfortunately, that is not the type of candidate we see in Romney as he campaigns for president, and is why we endorse President Barack Obama for a second term. From issues as varied as health care reform, abortion, global warming and illegal immigration, Romney has morphed his positions.

And with that, he’s altered his moderate stance to one of a self-described “severely conservative” leader. Now, in the waning days of the campaign, his pendulum seems to have moved again, back toward the middle as he courts undecided voters.

Also troubling is Romney’s tax plan. He says he is not proposing a tax cut for the wealthy on the back of the middle class, but many experts say it would do just that. He also has not explained how it will create the millions of jobs he touts.

By contrast, Obama has helped put the nation on a road toward recovery and created a successful foreign policy, many aspects of which Romney supports. When criticizing the current financial state of the nation, it is easy to forget the president took office during one of the worst economies in our country since the Great Depression.

seriouslyamerica:

A Pennsylvania House bill seeks to limit the amount of TANF assistance that low-income women receive based on the amount of children they give birth to while covered under the program.

Despite the fact that low-income women who give birth to children would logically need increased assistance to care for their larger family, Pennsylvania lawmakers — State Reps. Rose Marie Swanger (R), Tom Caltagirone (D), Mark Gillen (R), Keith Gillespie (R), Adam Harris (R), and Mike Tobash (R) — don’t want their state’s welfare program to provide additional benefits for that newborn. If a woman gives birth to a child who was conceived from rape, she may seek an exception to this rule so that her welfare benefits aren’t slashed, butonly if she can provide proof that she reported her sexual assault and her abuser’s identity to the police:

“In determining the amount of assistance payments to a recipient family of benefits under the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) Program, the department shall revise the schedule of benefits to be paid to the recipient family by eliminating the increment in benefits under the program for which that family would otherwise be eligible as a result of the birth of a child conceived during the period in which the family is eligible for benefits under the TANF Program. […]

Elimination of benefits under subsection (d) shall not apply to any child conceived as a result of rape or incest if the department: (1) receives a non-notarized, signed statement from the pregnant woman stating that she was a victim of rape or incest, as the case may be, and that she reported the crime, including the identity of the offender, if known, to a law enforcement agency having the requisite jurisdiction or, in the case of incest where a pregnant minor is the victim, to the county child protective service agency and stating the name of the law enforcement agency or child protective service agency to which the report was made and the date such report was made.”

The languageof the bill goes on to note that a sexual assault victim applying for an exemption will be required to sign a statement affirming she understands that “false reports to law enforcement authorities are punishable by law,” and stipulates that Pennsylvania will report any “evidence of false statements or fraud” to the correct department, all the way up to the Attorney General’s office.

Aside from punishing women who have children — particularly low-income women who may not have reliable access to affordable contraception— the proposed bill perpetrates a dangerous attitude toward survivors of sexual assault. Forcing women to prove the legitimacy of their sexual assault, and warning them about the serious consequences of “crying rape” to cheat the system, puts forth the misguided assumption that victims of sexual violence are not to be believed. Furthermore, countless women choose not to report their rapists to the police because they fear repercussions from their abusers, who could threaten their lives. An estimated 54 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the authorities.

This is not the first type of legislation of its kind. Last month, New Mexico proposed a bill that would have required women seeking childcare assistance to prove they were “forcibly raped,” although Gov. Susana Martinez (R) has requested to remove that language.

MORE PROOF that anti-choicers don’t give a shit about children - just punishing women* for having sex.

Family values…

A bill that landed on Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s (R) desk this week would give companies that hire more than 250 new workers a gobsmacking tax incentive: 95 percent of those workers’ state income taxes would be paid to the employer, and not the state.

It’s a bizarre strategy meant to attract companies from other states, specifically designed to lure California-based software maker Oracle into Pennsylvania. It’s also, as Philadelphia City Paper put it, “lavish corporate welfare” writ large across state government.

The bill, HB 2626, passed on October 17 with bipartisan support. Just 80 members of Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives, most of the Democrats, voted in opposition.

Several people have called to complain about ads the Pennsylvania Department of State is running stating that voters need their ID in order to vote. The Voter ID law was delayed by the courts, which should have led to all the ads being pulled. But the department hasn’t pulled them.


This is very confusing to people. Well, let me clear it up. No, you don’t have to have your ID at the polling place this election, but it will be needed for all other elections after this one. This election should be the same as all other elections in the past.

Why the GOP controlled department is still running these ads is because they are still trying to confuse people and keep people who planned to vote for President Obama, away from the polls.

Also anyone voting at a closed school should call to find out where they are voting. I called, and was told that most of the closed schools that closed this year will be open for the election. But for those who haven’t voted since 2008 this may not be the case. Call the Voter Registration office at 412-350-4500.

Colin Small worked for Strategic until they were fired by the party last month- but after being “fired”, he and his team were immediately rehired under a vendor paid for and supervised by the Republican Party of Virginia, which is why he was running this operation from the GOP Victory Office in Harrisonburg.
Despite an Oct. 2 ruling by a Pennsylvania judge putting the state’s new voter ID law on hold, a series of misleading ads and announcements is creating confusion and fear among residents two weeks before Election Day

abaldwin360:

Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson ruled that election officials can still ask voters to produce photo identification, but not require it as a condition of casting a ballot. Simpson, who called photo ID a reasonable and non-discriminatory requirement, said there wasn’t enough time before the Nov. 6 election to ensure that voters who lacked photo ID would not be disenfranchised by the change in the law.

That critical detail in Simpson’s opinion — that photo ID is not required in this election — has been lost in much of the $5 million advertising campaign by the Pennsylvania Department of State, voters rights advocates charge. On buses, one ad displays a photo ID with “SHOW IT” in big block lettering. In smaller type, it says photo ID is not mandatory. Moreover, state officials acknowledge that it was not until Tuesday, a full two weeks after the court opinion, that the last of the pre-decision billboards announcing photo ID as a requirement came down.Confusion has been deepened by an announcement that accompanied October bills sent to 840,000 customers of PECO, the Philadelphia power company, saying that voters must have a valid photo ID. Company officials said the newsletter started going out to customers a couple of days before the court decision.

Irwin Aronson, an attorney for the The Lawyers Coordinating Committee of the AFL-CIO, a group of 2,000 volunteer labor attorneys working on elections rights issues in key states, said that the act of poll workers even asking for photo ID could end up suppressing the vote in some communities.

read more

More of this this election year’s GOP strategy - if you can’t beat ‘em, cheat ‘em.

Milton and Catherine Hershey signed the deed of trust establishing the Milton Hershey School as an orphanage in 1909, funding it with revenue from the famous candy company. Since then, the school has officially been dedicated to “the purpose of nurturing and educating children in need.” Because its founder gave MHS Trust a controlling interest in the Hershey Company, today it boasts a massive $8.5 billion in assets and also owns Hershey Entertainment & Resorts (operating hotels and an amusement park). In keeping with its mission, the Milton Hershey School serves about 1,800 students from pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade, who study in state-of-the-art school buildings in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

What the charity also does, of late, is shovel money and favors to a coterie of prominent Pennsylvania Republicans. MHS’s alleged wrongdoing is pervasive and well documented, but thanks to the GOP’s grip on power in the state—most crucially its iron lock on the attorney general’s office—the charity has never been effectively called to account. With the first real possibility of the attorney general’s office shifting to the Democrats since it became an elected position thirty-two years ago, all this may change come November.

For a sense of MHS’s alleged misdeeds and the culture of impunity surrounding the charity, consider how, in 2006, board members of the school allowed the trust fund to purchase a failing luxury golf course called Wren Dale. The $12 million investment was two to three times the appraised value of the course and bailed out as many as fifty prominent local businessmen and doctors—including a former Hershey Company CEO who also sat on the MHS board. These investors stood to lose tens of thousands of dollars if the course closed. With the purchase, the investors turned their potential losses into profits of between $15,000 and $100,000. MHS’s board then sank another $5 million into a swanky, Scottish-themed clubhouse for the money-losing course, all paid for by the charity. The charity explained the purchase as necessary to create a “buffer” between MHS students and the community, and later claimed the land was for future MHS expansion.

By the fall of 2010, mounting questions and a probing Philadelphia Inquirer [1] series pressured then–Attorney General Tom Corbett, now the state’s Republican governor, to launch an investigation. Since then, the attorney general’s office has confirmed only that an investigation is ongoing, without releasing any further information about its progress. “Normally, an investigation like this would never take that long,” said Randall Roth, a charitable trust and legal ethics expert at the University of Hawaii, who has written extensively on a parallel case in Hawaii involving the Bishops Estate trust. “It’s very surprising that it’s taking longer than two years.”

The ties between the charity and state Republicans go way back. In 2002, when Republican D. Michael Fisher was Pennsylvania’s attorney general, reform advocates (including myself) were pushing for an investigation of the charity. As Fisher’s subordinates were sitting down for a key Hershey meeting, Fisher was reportedly at Hotel Hershey—wholly owned by the charity—passing the hat among executives associated with Hershey for contributions to his gubernatorial campaign.

A Pennsylvania judge on Tuesday issued a ruling on the state’s voting law that will allow poll workers to ask for photo identification but will still allow voters to cast a ballot without subsequently having to show an ID.

The ruling strikes down two provisions of the law that would have required voters to without identification to show their IDs within six days of voting or appear before the county board of elections. The state will also still be allowed to educate voters about the new identification requirement.

The preliminary injunction by Judge Robert Simpson only applies to the election this November. Simpson said he would schedule a trial on the merits of the law at a future date.

While celebrating the partial victory, civil rights groups are still worried that having the state ask for photo identification could create chaos at the polls unless Pennsylvania properly educates poll workers. The NAACP announced it would “work to ensure that poll workers do not wrongly enforce the law, and that all counties are monitored on Election Day.”

A Commonwealth Court judge ruled today that Pennsylvania’s controversial new voter ID law can remain mostly intact for the November election, but will impose a very narrow injunction that will allow even those without identification to vote.

In his ruling, which is widely expected to be appealed to the Supreme Court, Simpson ordered an injunction that would target the portion of the law that deals with provisional ballots.

As written, the law said voters who do not bring proper photo ID on Election Day can cast a provisional ballot. They would then have six days to bring in the required photo ID for their votes to count.

But as he had indicated last week during hearings in the case, Simpson decided that the law does not disenfranchise voters simply because it requires poll workers to ask for photo ID. Rather, the risk comes when a voter casts a provisional ballot but then cannot obtain the necessary identification in time.

As a result, Simpson decided that for the November 6 election only, voters without appropriate photo ID could vote, but would no longer have to produce identification within six days, as their votes would be counted.

If you’re aware of the GOP’s unprecedented effort to stop eligible voters from casting a ballot this November, you should probably thank Ari Berman, contributing writer at The Nation and the author of Herding Donkeys:The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics.

For more than a year, Berman has been waging a one-man war on the GOP’s voter suppression efforts. In this Q and A with The National Memo, he explains how this coordinated effort to deny the vote to core members of Obama’s winning coalition from 2008 could still swing the 2012 election, despite some recent victories in federal court.

[…]

Even if the laws aren’t particularly effective in stopping voting, could they still affect turnout?

Nate Silver has found that voter ID laws can reduce turnout by two to three percent among registered voters, which is certainly more than enough to swing a close election. He projects that Pennsylvania’s voter ID law, for example, will reduce voter turnout by 2.4 percent and provide a net 1.2 swing to a Republican candidate. That may not be enough to shift the presidential election, given Obama’s 8-point lead in the state, but it could influence the outcome in other races, particularly down-ballot. The scary thing is that we won’t know the impact of these laws until after the election — at which point it will be too late to do anything about it. At the very least, we’re looking at a lot of confusion and possible chaos on Election Day in important battleground states.

Is there any sign these efforts will let up if they fail in 2012?

No chance. Until Republicans recruit candidates who can win over a younger and more diverse electorate, they will continue to pass laws to shape an electorate in their favor. Six Republican Attorneys General are also attempting to challenge the Constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, a very important provision that forces parts or all of 16 states with a history of discrimination to clear voting changes with the federal government or a federal court in Washington, before the Supreme Court. If Republicans succeed in overturning or significantly weakening Section 5, it will be a huge setback for voting rights — equivalent, in some ways, to what the Citizens United decision did to campaign-finance reform. Hopefully the Supreme Court won’t let that happen. In lieu of the laws passed since 2010, we should be strengthening the Voting Rights Act, not weakening it.

Since 2010, Republicans have changed the voting rules by demanding proof of citizenship to register to vote, restricting voter registration drives, curtailing early voting days, passing government-issued photo ID laws, disenfranchising ex-felons and purging the voter rolls. All of these steps reduce voter turnout.

It’s tough to pick the most egregious law, because there are so many, but the most disturbing tactic, to me, is disenfranchising ex-felons. Florida and Iowa did this following the 2010 election, essentially telling a specific group of people that after they served their time and paid their debt to society, they still cannot get their voting rights back unless they wait seven years (in Florida) or specifically petition the governor (in Iowa). That’s un-American to me.

The voter purges are also very alarming, because once you’re removed from the voting rolls your only option would be to cast a provisional ballot, which there’s no guarantee will be counted. In Florida in 2000, 12,000 registered voters — 41 percent of them African-American — were wrongly identified as felons and kicked off the voting rolls. That voter purge could have very well cost Al Gore the election.

Nate Silver has found that voter ID laws can reduce turnout by two to three percent among registered voters, which is certainly more than enough to swing a close election. He projects that Pennsylvania’s voter ID law, for example, will reduce voter turnout by 2.4 percent and provide a net 1.2 swing to a Republican candidate. That may not be enough to shift the presidential election, given Obama’s 8-point lead in the state, but it could influence the outcome in other races, particularly down-ballot. The scary thing is that we won’t know the impact of these laws until after the election — at which point it will be too late to do anything about it. At the very least, we’re looking at a lot of confusion and possible chaos on Election Day in important battleground states.