Judge Upholds Alabama Voter ID Law in Win for Common Sense

A federal judge in Alabama has thrown out a lawsuit against the state’s voter ID law, finding that the law doesn’t prevent anyone from voting because “nearly the entire population of registered voters in Alabama already possess a photo ID that can be used for voting.”

For those who don’t, obtaining a qualifying ID can be done “with little to no effort and no cost.”

In 2011, the Alabama Legislature passed a photo ID requirement for both in-person and absentee voting. The law was enacted in an effort to strengthen voter confidence and to reduce the potential for voter fraud in the state.

The Alabama law accepts seven different types of ID, including an Alabama driver/non-driver’s license, a photo ID card issued by any state or the federal government, a U.S. passport, a student or employee ID, a military ID card, or a tribal ID card.

Voters can obtain a voter ID card from the state for free—something that as of fall of 2017, only 33 voters in the entire state had requested. And voters who need a birth or marriage certificate to get an ID can get those for free, too.

In addition, even if voters show up at a voting booth without an ID, they can still vote if two election officials at the polling place positively identify them.

Those voting absentee are required to include a photocopy of their photo ID (in a separate envelope) when they mail in their ballot. Individuals without an ID can vote by provisional ballot, and that ballot will be counted if they show the local county registrar an ID by the Friday after the election.

Despite these voter-friendly provisions, the NAACP and a number of other plaintiffs challenged the law, claiming that it violated the Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution.

They alleged that it would disproportionally affect minority communities because minority voters hold an ID at a lesser rate than whites, and would also supposedly find it more difficult to obtain an ID than whites in Alabama.

But that is simply not the case. As Judge Scott Coogler pointed out, “[m]inorities do not have less opportunity to vote under Alabama’s Photo ID law, because everyone has the same opportunity to obtain an ID.” And obtaining an ID is very easy.

In fact, Coogler concluded that the provisions of the law are such that “[t]here is no person who is qualified to register to vote who cannot also get a photo ID.” The program to provide a free voter ID card is widely accessible to anyone who makes the effort to utilize it.

There is even a mobile ID unit that can travel to voters who lack transportation to get to an ID center. That mobile ID unit has “made more than 350 visits across the state” and visited every county.

Coogler argued that “the ‘impact’ of the law should not be measured by how many people lack a given ID at a given point in time, but by whether someone without an ID can easily get one.”

In this case, he found the state had provided adequate accessibility and information to help voters—including minorities—obtain proper forms of ID.

The foolishness of this lawsuit was shown by the expert testimony in the case. The NAACP’s expert claimed only 1.37 percent of whites, 2.44 percent of blacks, and 2.29 percent of Hispanics lacked an acceptable ID.

So the plaintiffs’ case was based on the laughable claim that an almost negligible 1 percentage point difference between whites, blacks, and Hispanics who lack an ID card was so discriminatory that it violated the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution.

By the way, it turned out that when a survey was done of that small percentage of minorities who supposedly didn’t have an ID, 80 of them were dead, 784 no longer lived at their registered address, and 1,933 questionnaires were returned as undeliverable.

Alabama’s expert determined that only 0.87 percent of whites, 1.44 percent of blacks, and 1.26 percent of Hispanics lack an ID. He also found that black and Hispanic voters without an ID were “actually more likely than white voters without photo IDs to live” closer to a county office where an ID could be obtained.

Coogler also discussed something that opponents of voter ID and other security measures and their friends in the media say doesn’t exist: Alabama’s documented history of voter fraud, including absentee ballot fraud, which this ID law was also intended to target.

According to Coogler, affidavits and courtroom testimony have established the following abuses in the state:

  • Absentee ballots cast in the names of dead people and people who have long since moved out of the county.
  • Absentee ballots mailed to unregistered voters.
  • Voter brokers following mail trucks and removing absentee ballots from mailboxes.
  • Intimidation of poor and elderly voters who are made to fear a cutoff of their governmental assistance from local politicians if they do not cooperate by handing over their absentee ballots.
  • Pressuring and solicitation of nursing home patients.
  • Vote-buying at $5 and $10 apiece.
  • Bulk mailing of hundreds of absentee ballots by just a few individuals in some counties.

The judge mentioned criminal voter fraud prosecutions in Wilcox and Greene counties.

The Greene County case is described in a Heritage Foundation case study from 2008 that detailed the conviction of 11 conspirators who had been fixing local elections for years. That case in particular shows how voter fraud threatens the right to free and fair elections and how those most often harmed are the poor and minorities.

In addition to Greene County, The Heritage Foundation’s own voter fraud database shows numerous other convictions in the state for crimes ranging from vote-buying to fraudulent use of absentee ballots to ineligible voting by an illegal alien.

The bottom line is that Alabama’s ID law for both in-person and absentee voting is constitutional and does not violate the Voting Rights Act.

Alabama thus joins more than a dozen states that have implemented sensible, nondiscriminatory voter ID requirements—requirements that have been upheld in the courts in almost every state with only a few exceptions.

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Jeff Sessions Just Reversed Obama’s Pot Policy. Why That’s Good News for America.

Reversing Obama-era policy, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has given federal prosecutors the discretion to prosecute marijuana traffickers.

That’s good news for those who believe in the rule of law. And good news, too, for those concerned about public health and the safety of our nation’s youth.

On Jan. 4, Sessions revoked the Cole Memo, a 2014 Justice Department directive issued by then-Deputy Attorney General James Cole. The memo essentially gave marijuana producers and distributors in states that had legalized the drug immunity for violating federal drug laws.

Sessions’ directive gives the 94 U.S. attorneys all over the country clear guidance for deciding when to prosecute those who violate federal law prohibiting marijuana cultivation and distribution.

The Baby Boomers reading this column should realize that the marijuana being produced today is many times stronger and more potent than what we saw in the 1960s.

The science today is also much clearer: We have far greater knowledge of the long-term, deleterious effects of marijuana on the physical and mental health of users, particular children and teenagers.

The bottom line: Today’s pot is a potentially dangerous substance. That’s why it is classified as a Schedule I controlled drug along with heroin, LSD, and ecstasy—it isn’t alcohol.

While alcohol can be abused, it is not addictive for most people. Moreover, most consumers stop well shy of the point of intoxication. Moderate amounts even have some positive health benefits such as reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

>>> 11 Ways Trump’s DOJ Can Start Enforcing Federal Marijuana Law

Compared to alcohol, we now know that long-term marijuana use can cause physical disorders such as respiratory disease, social problems such as anomie, and mental health problems such as schizophrenia, something we didn’t know about in the 1960s.

Its effect on the young may be more pernicious. It may impair the brain development of children and teenagers. It is associated with lower test scores and lower education attainment. Teenagers who use pot are also much less likely to graduate from college and much more likely to attempt suicide.

Today’s pot is genetically modified to boost the “high” a user can get. The goal, naturally, is to get more people hooked on pot, just like Big Tobacco’s goal was to get more people hooked on cigarettes.

Today’s pot pushers are just Big Tobacco 2.0. Why else would they be infusing THC, the active ingredient, into everything from cookies to ice cream to Gummy Bears?

These products directly target the young, creating serious risks for children who may not know what they are ingesting and teenagers who use these products to hide what they are doing from their parents.

States like Colorado that have legalized marijuana use have seen huge increases in marijuana-related traffic accidents and fatalities as well as accidental poisonings of both children and pets. Pot use by teenagers, who are most vulnerable to its damaging effects, has also greatly increased, as have school suspensions and expulsions for pot use.

The Cole Memo ignored all of this information, directing federal prosecutors to back off enforcement.

So does Sessions’ directive mean federal prosecutors are now going to go after the college kid who smokes a joint in his dormitory?

Of course not. U.S. attorneys have limited resources. They don’t prosecute misdemeanors. The only criminals they will take to court are the large-scale manufacturers and distributors.

Revenue-hungry lawmakers in states like California and Colorado may be willing to trade the problems created by marijuana legalization for the tax bonanza they expect to reap. But it’s a very raw deal for their neighbors.

States like Nebraska and Oklahoma have complained that Colorado’s legalization has increased trafficking into their states, with all of the myriad problems associated with increased drug abuse.

As Sessions’ memo notes, Congress “determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that marijuana activity is a serious crime.” The attorney general has no authority to simply decide not to enforce a law, which is exactly what the Holder/Lynch Justice Department did.

States cannot authorize parties to engage in conduct that federal law prohibits and as long as the Controlled Substances Act is on the books, states cannot tell their citizens to disregard it.

From a policy standpoint, it is wise to battle the growth of an industry that distributes a potentially dangerous drug in what is a national market and thus a national, not just a local, problem.

But Sessions has also done the right thing from a legal standpoint. He has acted to preserve a constitutional government in which Congress determines what the law is, and the president and the attorney general fulfill their duty to enforce the law—not ignore it.

Originally published by Fox News.

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Cutting Through the Media’s Falsehoods About ‘Dreamers’

When members of Congress battled over the budget, some threatened to block funding unless Congress provided amnesty to illegal alien Dreamers who benefited from President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which President Donald Trump announced he is ending.

Conscientious members of Congress should not give in to this threat. Amnesty will encourage even more illegal immigration—just as the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act did.

That bill provided citizenship to 2.7 million illegal aliens. Yet by 1995, another 5.7 million illegal aliens were residing in the U.S. Many of them crossed the border to join their newly legalized friends and family. Others, no doubt, believed that since the U.S. provided amnesty once, it would do so again.

However Congress decides to deal with Dreamers, it should be based on the real demographics of the DACA populace, not the glamorized image typically presented by the media.

Watching television reports concerning Dreamers, one would think that the DACA program applied only to college-educated immigrants who were just a few years old when their parents brought them into the country illegally.

We are led to believe that most are so fully Americanized that they would now have trouble speaking their native language and are all but ignorant of their birth countries’ cultural norms. Thus, we are supposed to believe, returning them to their native lands would be a cruel hardship.

In fact, many DACA beneficiaries came here as teenagers. All were eligible for the program as long as they entered the U.S. before their 16th birthday. By that time, there is no doubt that they spoke the language of their native countries fluently and knew their culture intimately.

DACA had no requirement of English fluency, as evidenced by the application form that had a space to list the translator used to complete the form.

The Center for Immigration Studies estimates that “perhaps 24 percent of the DACA-eligible population fall into the functionally illiterate category and another 46 percent have only ‘basic’ English ability.”

Unfortunately, many Dreamers are poorly educated. Only 49 percent of DACA beneficiaries have a high school education, even though a majority are now adults. And while military service could also qualify an illegal alien for DACA, out of the current 690,000 DACA beneficiaries, only 900 are serving in the military.

The Obama administration did not check the background of each DACA beneficiary, despite a requirement that they have no felony convictions and pose no threat to national security. Only a few randomly selected DACA applicants were ever actually vetted.

This may explain why, by August this year, more than 2,100 DACA beneficiaries had had their eligibility pulled because of criminal convictions and gang affiliation.

Even if a random background investigation produced substantial evidence that an illegal alien might have committed multiple crimes, the alien would still be eligible for DACA if he wasn’t convicted.

Thus, it seems that a significant percentage of DACA beneficiaries have serious limitations in their education, work experience, and English fluency. What’s the likelihood that they’ll be able to function in American society without being substantial burdens to U.S. taxpayers?

Without changing the sponsorship rules, any congressional amnesty bill providing citizenship could significantly increase the number of illegal aliens who will benefit beyond the immediate DACA beneficiaries. Giving lawful status to Dreamers will allow them and their families to profit from illegal conduct.

History shows that providing amnesty will attract even more illegal immigration and won’t solve our enforcement problems. Congress shouldn’t even consider such relief unless and until we have a sustained period of concentrated enforcement that stems illegal entry and reduces the illegal alien population in the U.S.

Congress should instead concentrate on providing the resources needed to enforce our immigration laws and secure our border.

Originally published by the Washington Times.

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The State Government Agency That Spied on Citizens

A new report on a government spying operation conducted by partisan bureaucrats should outrage and scare Americans everywhere.  It shows what can happen when, as the report says, partisans “weaponize” a government agency and use its powers to advance “political goals.”

Americans already have seen that when federal bureaucrats such as Lois Lerner or Samantha Power do that with the fearsome power of the IRS and our intelligence agencies, we face a threat to our liberty and the democratic process that is unparalleled in our history.

The 88-page report by Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel details the notorious “John Doe” investigations that went after almost every conservative, nonprofit organization in Wisconsin (the state chapter of Club for Growth among them) for supposed violations of campaign finance laws.

Except that there were not any actual violations of the law, according to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.  The court shut down the prosecutions in 2015, calling the legal theory under which the prosecutors were pursuing the case “unsupported in either reason or law.”

The state’s highest court used the word “amazing” in describing the “breadth” of documents seized by prosecutors through numerous, wide-ranging subpoenas and search warrants.  This included “virtually every document possessed by the [targets] relating to every aspect of their lives, both personal and professional, over a five-year span.”

The report from Schimel, a Republican, has an unbelievable list of 218 subpoenas and search warrants issued in the investigation–and this is only a “partial” list.

Prosecutors treated conservative organizations as if they were dangerous drug cartels or mob operations. As the Wisconsin Supreme Court said, they executed search warrants against the personal homes and families of the leaders of these nonprofits in “pre-dawn, armed, paramilitary-style raids in which bright floodlights were used to illuminate the targets’ homes.”

Here is the meritless theory behind the investigations: Any support for issues important to Gov. Scott Walker, such as the bill reducing union power over state government employees, was illegal “coordination.”

As the state Supreme Court said, however, our democracy is supposed to assure the “unfettered interchange of ideas for the bringing about of political and social changes desired by the people.” Instead, the prosecutors’ theories “would assure that such political speech will be investigated with paramilitary-style home invasions conducted in the pre-dawn hours and then prosecuted and punished.”

Meet John Doe

These investigations tried to criminalize political speech and political activity protected by the First Amendment.

The John Doe harassment was conducted by the state’s now-defunct Government Accountability Board–the agency responsible for elections and ethics matters–and local prosecutors, led by unrepentant Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisolm.

As this writer previously reported, the motive of Chisolm, a Democrat, was apparently very personal: His wife was a steward for the teachers union at a local high school and was upset over the union bill sponsored by Walker, a Republican.

The accountability board, known as GAB, was broken up into two separate agencies by the Wisconsin legislature after this debacle, and its former longtime director, Kevin Kennedy, the chief miscreant behind this abusive behavior, retired. Kennedy was part of the state’s elections bureaucracy for nearly 40 years.

Until this report, we only knew about two John Doe investigations.  Amazingly enough, however, Schimel’s investigators discovered a third and secret case, not revealed by bureaucrats, when they searched the former offices of the accountability board.

What Schimel labeled as “John Doe III” went even further that the John Doe I and John Doe II investigations.  According to his report, it “collected hundreds of thousands of private emails from dozens of Wisconsin Republicans (and at least two national conservative leaders, Ed Gillespie and Leonard Leo).” Gillespie, a Republican, just lost the governor’s race in Virginia; Leo is executive vice president of the Federalist Society, the conservative legal group.

The John Doe III investigation gathered over 500,000 personal emails, which the report says were found in “unsecured boxes” in the basement of the board’s former offices. Thousands of private emails from Wisconsin Republicans also were found in several folders on computer servers marked “Opposition Research,” the report says.

In other words, the state agency that was supposed to be the nonpartisan regulator of elections and ethics in Wisconsin was staffed by bureaucrats who labeled Republican legislators as the “opposition” and saw nothing wrong with using the legal process to secretly obtain their personal email communications.

Getting Personal

How personal were these emails, and how far removed were they from having anything to do with elections, campaigning, or fundraising?

Schimel details some of the emails his investigators found on pages 67 and 68 of his report.  They include over 1,000 emails among members of a private Bible study group that met at a church in Middleton, Wisconsin; an email between parents discussing a daughter’s need for an OB-GYN; an email about prescription medications; and “dozens of emails sent to, received from, or regarding radio talk show hosts Mark Belling, Vicki McKenna, and Charlie Sykes.”

That means that emails from this writer, a guest numerous times on McKenna’s radio show, very well may be in this collection.  A leading conservative voice in Wisconsin, McKenna went after the Government Accountability Board and its abusive tactics in the John Doe investigations.

Schimel also found that the John Doe investigators “obtained, categorized, and maintained over 150 personal emails between state Sen. Leah Vukmir and her daughter, including emails containing private medical information and other highly personal information.”

These emails were found in one of the folders marked as “Opposition Research.” Vukmir plans to challenge U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat, next year.

Leaks to the press by individuals involved in the John Doe investigations sparked Schimel’s probe.

When the courts ruled against the prosecutors, they issued orders that the prosecutors and bureaucrats no longer could review, examine, or access any of the documents they had seized. The Wisconsin Supreme Court later ordered all of the information destroyed and all seized property returned to its owners.

The Leak

Despite those orders, the London-based Guardian newspaper published an article in 2016 linking to 1,500 pages of documents under seal from the John Doe investigations. The leak occurred just 11 days before the U.S. Supreme Court was set to consider the prosecutors’ petition for it to overturn the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision ending the prosecution.

Schimel’s extensive investigation concluded that the leak, a criminal violation of the law, came from inside the Government Accountability Board.  From the particular documents leaked and the timing, it was clear to the state attorney general that the motivation was to attempt to influence the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision. The high court, though, ultimately refused to take up the case.

Schimel notes that “only someone with an intimate knowledge of the case, a knowledge of campaign finance law, and familiarity with the leaked documents would know which documents to leak that would respond directly” to issues raised in the petition seeking review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Schimel also was able to determine the leak did not come from the Wisconsin courts or any of the district attorneys. The source was the accountability board, but that agency so mismanaged–through incompetence or intentional conduct–the handling of all of the documents in an unsecured, unmonitored setting that Schimel could not determine the leaker’s identity with the amount of proof required to win a criminal conviction.

The evidence, however, seems to point to Shane Falk, a former attorney at the accountability board. In his report, Schimel recommends action against a long list of individuals, including referring Falk to the Wisconsin Office of Lawyer Regulation, which oversees the licensing of lawyers and disciplines those who violate ethics rules.

Schimel also recommends initiation of contempt proceedings against nine individuals for violating various court orders issued by the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the lower courts, including for leaving “hundreds of thousands of confidential documents” in the basement of the former board offices “in violation of a Supreme Court order.”

Among the nine are employees, lawyers, and investigators of both the Government Accountability Board and the Milwaukee District Attorney’s Office, as well as the special prosecutor hired to help run the case—Frances Schmitz, a former U.S. Justice Department lawyer.

Prejudging the Evidence

Kennedy, the former head of the accountability board, also is on this list. To its great shame, the National Association of State Election Directors last year gave Kennedy an award despite all of the evidence of his wrongdoing and misbehavior in the John Doe investigations. The fact that Kennedy now is on the board of the U.S. Vote Foundation, a nonprofit voting rights organization, tells you everything you need to know about that entity.

Here is the bottom line, according to Wisconsin’s attorney general, after his review of the evidence in the case, including emails exchanged between prosecutors and Government Accountability Board lawyers:

GAB attorneys had prejudged the guilt of Governor Walker, Wisconsin Republicans, and related organizations that they were investigating and this dramatically influenced their ability to give competent legal advice.

GAB attorneys did not act in a detached and professional manner … they were on a mission to bring down the Walker campaign and the governor himself. … Because the attorneys for GAB (none of whom were experienced criminal prosecutors) prejudged the evidence and what it meant, they had difficulty accepting that their interpretation of the law was wrong.

The Government Accountability Board’s attorneys refused to accept the legitimacy of court rulings against them, too, labeling the rulings as a “bad joke” and “pathetic” and indulging in conspiracy paranoia.  One of the board’s lawyers, commenting on an adverse ruling, said: “I’m not a conspiracy theorist by nature, but something does not smell right here.”

In his report, Schimel writes that the

words and actions by individuals supposedly part of a ‘non-partisan’ governmental body demonstrate … that some or all of these individuals did not maintain the kind of objectivity that is expected of officials legitimately investigating potential civil campaign law violations.  Indeed, it is to the Legislature’s credit that it disbanded GAB following this sordid tale.

This “sordid tale” of government spying on private individuals is a stain on Wisconsin’s reputation.  It should serve as a warning to the public about the dangers of out-of-control, unaccountable government bureaucrats who abuse their power and threaten Americans’ freedom to participate in the political process.

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