Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Last Call For Unbelieveable Numbers

Last week I noted that the black community in Ferguson had gained more than 3,000 voter registrations in response to the shooting of Michael Brown.

Today I find out that never actually happened.

Last week, numerous news outlets, national and local, reported on a huge increase in registered voters in Ferguson, Mo., following the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown. But it apparently didn't actually happen.

The St. Louis County elections board reported that 3,287 Ferguson residents had registered to vote. That is a huge surge for a city of 21,000, particularly as controversy swelled about the racial make-up of the city government after the shooting. Ferguson is two-thirds African-American, but its mayor and all but one member of the six-person city council are white.

But apparently that first report was in error. There was no voter registration spike. The county elections board reversed course on Tuesday and said that, actually, only 128 people had registered to vote since the shooting.

That sucks.  I mean, I'm glad that the 128 people registered.  It's a start.  But it's heartbreaking to see that the news was too good to be true, especially when it comes to voting.

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

A whole bunch of people are asking why SCOTUS punted on Monday, allowing to stand the various Circuit Court rulings overturning of several state bans on same-sex marriage on Constitutional grounds.

Answer is simple.  It's a compromise.  And it has everything to do with Justice Kennedy.

Here's what I've come up with having had a day to think about it: you need four justices to grant a review for a case (cert).  If the four liberal justices who sided with Kennedy on striking down DOMA were confident Kennedy would join them and that they had five votes, they would have taken up the case in a heartbeat. Likewise, if the four conservative justices were confident Kennedy would side with them, they certainly would have taken the case.

Now, you would think given the usual impasse (which is "What the hell will Kennedy do this time?") they'd all decide it was worth taking up the cases and deciding for the nation.  But that didn't happen, which means there's a reason why.

The why is that I believe Justice Kennedy made it clear that he was going to take his decision on DOMA to its logical endpoint: giving LGBTQ Americans protected status as a minority, meaning that they would be protected from discrimination under a number of existing laws and the four liberal justices were going to back him.  I think Roberts worked out a deal where SCOTUS then punted to keep that from happening, with the understanding that the other justices wouldn't interfere with Circuit Court decisions overturning these state bans on same-sex marriages.  This would immediately put same-sex marriage into effect in a number of states, and did.

In other words, SCOTUS is saying "Hey, remaining Circuit Courts, we expect all of your guys to come to the same conclusion on this issue."  Liberals get same-sex marriage now, instead of next June.  Conservatives avoid a Kennedy decision that gives LGBTQ Americans special status under the law across the board.

The turd in the punchbowl is the Fifth Circuit, heavily stocked with conservatives.  If they uphold Texas's ban on same-sex marriage when all of the other Circuit Courts rule to overturn various state bans, then SCOTUS can no longer punt. (It's also possible the 11th Circuit could do the same thing with Georgia's ban, or on an outside shot, the 6th Circuit with Ohio's ban.)  That would force SCOTUS to take up the case and issue a ruling next year sometime (probably June).

But it would also completely mess up existing same-sex marriages in the states where SCOTUS punted on Monday.  I don't think they'd do that unless they had to.

Thing is, the Fifth or 11th Circuit may force it.

We'll see.  Meanwhile, there's evidence that Republicans have effectively given up on blocking same-sex marriage because it's bad politics.

I don't buy it yet, but as I said, we'll see.

The Republican Non-Reaction To Marriage Equality

As BuzzFeed's Kate Nocera notes, Republicans were virtually silent on the Supreme Court's surprise decision to pass on hearing any same-sex marriage appeals from the states this term, meaning that Circuit Court rulings striking down same-sex marriage bans as unconstitutional in five states are now settled law.

There has been one notable (and loud) exception to that GOP non-response, however:  Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who vowed to stop same-sex marriages across the country.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz likewise criticized the decision on the part of the court and announced that he would introduce a constitutional amendment that would allow the states to define marriage.

I will be introducing a constitutional amendment to prevent the federal government or the courts from attacking or striking down state marriage laws,” Cruz said.

Now, Cruz isn't being totally stupid here.  He knows there's zero chance of getting two-thirds majorities in both the House and Senate necessary for passing an amendment on to the states for ratification. But he's got the field to himself here on pushing that amendment, and that's going to mean intense fundraising from the millions of bigots who infest the GOP.  He knows what he's doing.

He also knows that he's put his 2016 competition in a bad spot.  Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and yes, Jeb Bush are going to have to answer some uncomfortable questions about whether or not they back Cruz on this.

How much this SCOTUS decision will play in 2014, I can't tell you.  Depending on how quickly appeals move in the states affected by the Circuit Court rulings, North Carolina and Colorado could have marriage equality before Election Day, meaning that the ruling could play a part for both Kay Hagan and Mark Udall.  How much that will affect turnout, well I don't know.

We'll see how this plays out.


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