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Voter ID states have no voter impersonation problem

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Supreme Court faced with tough major decisions

One of the nation’s more liberal nonprofits and one of the most conservative U.S. think tanks may not agree on the best outcomes of the new Supreme Court term, but there’s concurrence on the most significant cases before the justices.

There also seems to be all-around agreement that progressives may not win the type of landmark victories achieved in the 2014–15 term, most notably the high court’s ruling in late June that paved the way for marriage equality across the country. Conservative wins are far more common from the Roberts court.

The court began its new term on Oct. 5, with 34 cases already on the docket and many more expected. The justices will hear arguments in 10 cases this month and arguments in another 10 in November.

Days before the term opened, the liberal People for the American Way issued its “term preview” and the conservative Heritage Foundation issued its “overview.” Both groups said the most significant cases to be heard this fall will deal with affirmative action, organized labor and redistricting. The court also is likely to take up cases dealing with religious liberty, abortion rights and affordable health care.

PFAW, in its preview, cautioned that the justices “have chosen to hear a number of cases that risk continuing the aggressive rightward march that has characterized the past decade. The 2015–16 term may be yet another one where the American people enjoy less liberty, less equality, less power and less control over our own democracy on the last day of the term than we had on the first.”

The Heritage Foundation did not issue such a warning.

A look at new term …

To be argued:

• Redistricting. Perhaps the most prominent case currently before the court is Evenwel v. Abbott from Texas. The justices will decide whether states can or must exclude those not eligible to vote or not registered to vote from population counts in redistricting.

The case deals with equal representation in elected bodies, the constitutional guarantee of “one person, one vote.” The plaintiffs, who live in rural Texas, maintain that the Constitution requires each vote to be equal, so districts should have equal numbers of eligible voters not equal populations. Current practice is to count everyone in the district.

Another case, Harris v. Arizona Independent Commission, involves a state redistricting plan adopted by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, which was created as a result of a ballot initiative aimed at removing partisanship from the mapping process.

The plaintiffs argue that the commission, for partisan reasons, created a map that carved out districts for both parties but to the disadvantage of Republicans.

• Affirmative action. Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. The court will hear this case for a second time. The plaintiff’s first equal protection challenge to the use of race in undergrad admissions at UT was heard in 2013. Then, the court said schools must prove their use of race in admissions decisions is narrowly tailored to further compelling government interests and remanded the case to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Heritage says the justices will decide whether UT’s diversity rationale for enrolling more minority students from majority-white high schools justifies using race in admissions.

• Union representation. Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. In this case, the plaintiffs argue that because they are not union members, they should not pay fair share fees toward the public employee union’s costs in representing members and non-members alike. The plaintiffs’ claim is that public sector collective bargaining is like lobbying and their fair share fees support political activity, violating their First Amendment rights.

PFAW says, “The decision in this case will have an enormous impact on working people’s ability to join together and effectively negotiate for fair wages and benefits.”

Possible arguments:

• Abortion rights. Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole out of Texas. The case is a challenge to Texas’ requirements that licensed abortion facilities meet the same building requirements as an ambulatory surgical center and that doctors performing abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles.

Doctors and choice advocates maintain that these types of regulations — adopted in Wisconsin under Gov. Scott Walker — are medically unnecessary and infringe on women’s ability to exercise their constitutional rights.

Another case, Currier v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, challenges a court ruling against a Mississippi admitting-privileges law.

Conservatives would like the court to hear Currier and progressives would like the court to hear the Texas case.

• Religious liberty. Multiple petitioners want the court to address the accommodation for religious nonprofits to opt out of the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage requirement. The faith-based groups argue that even the accommodation violates religious liberty under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Anti-gay Sen. DeMint resigning to head conservative think tank

Republican U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, a tea party favorite known backing challenges to centrists in his own party, is resigning Jan. 1 to take the helm of a conservative think tank.

The South Carolina lawmaker said in a statement he was stepping down to become president of the Heritage Foundation.

DeMint was first elected to the Senate in 2004 and easily re-elected six years later. He previously served in the U.S. House of Representatives for three terms.

His positions have earned him rankings as one of the most conservative senators. He supported partially privatizing Social Security and installing a flat sales tax to replace income taxes. He once suggested that gays and unwed pregnant women should not teach in public schools.

“I’m leaving the Senate now, but I’m not leaving the fight. I’ve decided to join The Heritage Foundation at a time when the conservative movement needs strong leadership in the battle of ideas,” DeMint, 61, said in a statement.

His job with the foundation starts Jan. 3, but DeMint won’t officially become president until April 3, when founder Edwin Feulner retires, said foundation spokesman Jim Weidman.

DeMint’s resignation comes a day after the foundation board voted to make DeMint the next president.

Republican Gov. Nikki Haley will appoint DeMint’s Senate successor. She told a Greenville talk radio station she plans to pick someone who will fight for conservative ideas. She said she wouldn’t let the process drag out. Haley didn’t specify anyone she favored to replace him, but did take one name out of contention.

“I will not be appointing myself. That’s not even an option,” Haley told WORD-FM.

DeMint’s former state director, Luke Byars, said the senator’s new role will allow him to effect change outside the U.S. Capitol. In the fall election, Democrats strengthened their majority in the Senate.

DeMint, who previously ran a marketing firm, thought conservatives didn’t do a good job communicating their message in the presidential race, Byars said.

“He knows how to communicate,” said Byars, a political consultant. “This is a vehicle for him to push and pull on conservative issues on a national stage, to get the attention of folks inside Washington.”

The resignation of DeMint will have a ripple effect on the state GOP leadership.

Whomever Haley appoints would face a special election in 2014 to finish DeMint’s term, which expires in 2016. U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, DeMint’s Republican colleague from the state, faces re-election in 2014.

South Carolina GOP Chairman Chad Connelly said DeMint redefined how the U.S. Senate worked, taking principled stands against party leaders.

“He’s been a conservative rock star,” Connelly said. “I’m sure the conservatives in South Carolina will be heartbroken.”

DeMint never was much for compromise in the U.S. Senate. He said plenty of times he would rather stand with a committed minority than a big-tent majority.

DeMint has ties to, but no longer runs, the Senate Conservatives Fund, which ranked sitting senators. He formally cut ties with the political action committee he founded earlier this year. He helped raise more than $25 million for the fund for the 2010 and 2012 elections.

DeMint also wasn’t shy about going after people in his own party if he thought they weren’t conservative enough.

He opposed longtime Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, just before the veteran Republican, facing a challenge from the right, switched to become a Democrat. DeMint also broke with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in the Republican leader’s backyard to support tea party favorite Rand Paul in the Kentucky Senate primary. Both Paul and Pat Toomey, the conservative who won the GOP nomination in Pennsylvania, were elected in 2010. 

Conservative women call ‘war on women’ a myth

With the “Values Bus” parked nearby, a group of conservative women today will gather in New Hampshire’s capital to challenge the “war on women myth.”

The event, set to take place at 10 a.m. EST in Concord, N.H., is organized by the anti-gay Family Research Council and The Heritage Foundation. It is headlined as “Conservative Women Leaders Speak Out” and is part of the Values Bus Tour coordinated by FRC and Heritage that recently rolled in and out of Wisconsin.

Speakers on the agenda include Connie Mackey of FRC Action, Karen Testerman of First Principles of New Hampshire and Jessica Anderson of Heritage Action.

The press release said the participants “will debunk the idea that conservatives are attacking women’s rights, and discuss how the Obama administration is threatening religious liberty.”

“As we approach the most important election of our time, it is essential that conservatives of every stripe step up to speak against the divisions President Obama depends upon for victory in the fall elections,” said Connie Mackey. “The conservative women speaking in Concord are only a few of the thousands of women leaders who stand firmly for the values that made this country great and who look forward to getting this country back on the right road. Each of these respected leaders will address the myth of the ‘war on women’ and bring truth to what has made this a great country such as religious liberty, smaller government, respect for life, marriage and a return to the rule of law.”

With the tour, the right-wing groups are hoping to rally voters for the Nov. 6 election. Heritage, according to the news release, is educating voters, and FRC is registering them.

The scheduled speakers at the “speak out” include Mackey, Testerman, Anderson, Shannon McGinley of Cornerstone of New Hampshire, Susan Olsen of Smart Girl Politics, New Hampshire candidate Jane Cromier and Verity Swayne of Families Across New Hampshire.

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Anti-gay bus tour coming to Wisconsin

The anti-gay Family Research Council and The Heritage Foundation have teamed up for a summer bus tour to spread far-right rhetoric in advance of the Nov. 6 elections.

The so-called “Values Bus Tour” rolls into Wisconsin on June 20 and will make six stops over the following four days in parks and rural parking lots in the state.

The Family Research Council has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its mission of spreading falsehoods about LGBT people with the purpose of marginalizing them.

FRC president Tony Perkins is one of the most visible and outspoken anti-gay pundits on the media circuit. He has blamed the lagging economy on gays as well as the recent Secret Service prostitution scandal. He has blasted LGBT people as terrorists.

“They are intolerant. They are hateful. They are vile. They are spiteful,” Perkins said of gays who lobby for equality.  

Perkins has been part of the Values Bus Tour in the past but it’s unclear whether he will be along for the ride in Wisconsin. Former Gov. Tommy Thompson is scheduled to make an appearance at one of the stops. Thompson is a GOP candidate for U.S. senator who will face off against Tammy Baldwin if he wins his party’s nod.

In addition to whipping up frenzy against LGBT people, single moms and contraception, the tour is intended to denounce “big government” and spread anxiety about the national debt.

The Values Bus Tour’s scheduled stops in Wisconsin include:

Thursday, June 21: rally from 12-1 p.m. at the former Walmart Parking Lot, 616 Highway 54 East, Black River Falls; and 5-6 p.m. at Shell Lake Park, 200 W. Lake Dr., Shell Lake.

Friday, June 22: Tea Party event from 10:30-11:30 a.m. at Cranberry Productions Inc. Parking Lot, 703 W. Pine St., Eagle River; Tea Party event from 6-8 p.m. at Rock K Ranch BBQ, 2372 Day Street, Greenleaf.

Saturday, June 23: Tea Party event from 11 a.m.-12 p.m. at Jaycee Park Quarry, 3401 Calumet Drive, Sheboygan.

Sunday, June 24: Tea Party event from 2-3 p.m., Lincoln Park, 7010 22nd Ave., Kenosha.

The tour’s complete schedule is at www.valuesbus.com.

Christian right groups launch bus tour

Two of the nation’s largest and best-funded Christian right groups – the Family Research Council and The Heritage Foundation – are launching the “Values Voter Bus Tour.”

The purpose of the tour, according to an FRC news release, is to “tell Americans about practical, conservative solutions to the most critical issues confronting the nation.” The “solutions” include eliminating abortion rights, halting the legalization of same-sex marriage and challenging anti-discrimination laws.

The first stops for the bus is the College of Charleston in South Carolina. The bus will arrive on Jan. 19, in time for speeches by North Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a tea party favorite, FRC president Tony Perkins and Heritage president Ed Feulner.

The bus tour will continue until the Nov. 6 general elections.

FRC, a leading force in anti-gay initiatives, also plans a voter registration drive.

Perkins said FRC wants the next president “to address the values issues which include restoring fiscal sanity, protecting marriage, safeguarding religious liberty and protecting the rights of the unborn.”

He said, “The president has said that this election ‘is a contest of values.’ I couldn’t agree more. It is about values, and whose values will guide our nation into the future. President Obama’s values are clear – marriage, life and the Constitution mean little to him in the pursuit of his radical agenda.”

Earlier this week, Perkins led a coalition of Christian right leaders to endorse ultra-conservative Rick Santorum for president.

Florida is on the tour itinerary for later this month, followed by stops in Washington, D.C., St. Louis and Nashville.

GOProud to get booted from CPAC

The website WorldNetDaily reports that GOProud, the gay conservative group, will not be invited back to CPAC next year – nor will any other group that engages in “homosexual advocacy.”

The inclusion of GOProud in last weekend’s event and the one in 2010 sparked controversy on the fringes of the right. Such groups as Heritage Foundation, Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America boycotted the largest annual gathering of conservative leaders, held in the nation’s capital, both years.

WND also reports that there’s been a shakeup in the board of the American Conservative Union, which sponsors CPAC. Longtime chairman David Keene is being replaced by Al Cardenas, who promised “a comprehensive vetting process on each CPAC participant.” Cardenas reportedly said he wanted to make certain that longtime supporters of the conservative movement, such as the Heritage Foundation, are brought ‘back into the fold.”

Cardenas had said over the weekend that an incident in which GOProud’s director Chris Barron referred to ACU chair Cleta Mitchell as a “nasty bigot” might have been the last straw.