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    News Round-Up: November 5, 2013

    Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

    NJ mall shooter is found dead; nine skydivers survive a crazy plane collision midair; and Election Day 2013 has arrived with major elections in New Jersey, Virginia, NYC as well as other cities & states across the country. Meanwhile, Drew Barrymore is pregnant again (yippee!) and Lea Michele dedicates a song to her late love, Cory Monteith, on her new album.

    -Sandy + Maura


    New Jersey Mall Shooter Found Dead With Self-Inflicted Gunshot Wound, Police Say,http://rtvote.com/1hK7rEn
    Richard Shoop, 20, opened fire in New Jersey’s Westfield Garden State Plaza Mall ten minutes before closing time last night. Shoop fired at least six shots, none of which were aimed at people; witnesses described Shoop’s demeanor as extraordinarily calm. His body was found in a back area of the mall at 3:20 AM this morning. There have been no other reported injuries at this time. Stay tuned as this story continues to develop.

    Watch nine skydivers survive fiery two-plane collision in midairhttp://rtvote.com/HEmNNg
    As if skydiving weren’t terrifying enough. Skydivers in Wisconsin pulled off the stunt of their lives last weekend as they found themselves in the middle of something that looks straight from a James Bond movie. Two planes collided 12,000 feet in the air on Saturday, and a group of skydivers, along with the pilot, jumped from the exploding wreckage. The second plane was landed safely by another pilot, despite damage to the wing and the propeller.

    Obama: ENDA vote in Senate an ‘opportunity’http://rtvote.com/1hKcfcW
    At a dinner for top Organizing for Action donors, President Obama praised Senate’s 61-30 vote to advance the Employment Non-Discrimination Act on Monday. The bill forbids employers from firing employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. However, it is still too soon to celebrate since the bill has yet to pass in the House.

    Takoma Park 16-year-old savors his history-making moment at the pollshttp://rtvote.com/1aCoAyi
    Ben Miller, 16, will step into a voting booth today and cast his ballot, along with 350 other 16- and 17-year-olds, who were granted the right to vote in municipal elections by the Takoma City Council in May. Montgomery County, Maryland, is the nation’s first community to lower the voting age from 18 to 16 in municipal elections; council member Tim Male said this was intended as a way to boost voter turnout. It seems to be working, as young Ben Miller proudly exercises his newfound civic duty.


    Election Day 2013: Five things to watch todayhttp://rtvote.com/HEmxhb
    Today, voters in Virginia and New Jersey will elect their new governors, while new mayors are chosen in New York, Boston, Detroit, and a heck of a lot of other cities. Important issues are at stake on many of these ballots. Here are five things to keep an eye out for.


    The New York Times Editorial Board discusses the ENA decision in “Toward Ending Workplace Discrimination”, http://rtvote.com/1aCD1m7

    Rocker Austin Estes tells us why young voters are a force to be reckoned with in “Young Americans Will Help Change History This Election Day – If They Vote,” http://rtvote.com/1a5stsW

    Writers respond to the increased incidents in gun violence in “LAX shooting heats up gun debate: Opinionline,”http://rtvote.com/177qaYc


    Teen Mom’s Amber Portwood Released From Jail, http://rtvote.com/1hgnV9B

    Drew Barrymore Is Pregnant, Expecting Second Child With Husband Will Kopelman, http://rtvote.com/1hKirlf

    Lea Michele Recorded a Song About Cory Monteith For Her Debut Album, http://rtvote.com/1bVBzrt

    Chris Pratt Was an Amateur Stripper at Age 18, http://rtvote.com/1a5vk5b


    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com


    Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

    The SAT and ACT impose new registration rules after cheating scandals; JetBlue blames a captain’s meltdown on a “medical situation;” a newly released Human Rights Watch report covers the “moral” crimes Afghan women have been accused of; The New York Times reports on lower amounts of voter registrations in Florida after restrictions; also, the Wisconsin state Supreme Court receives challenges to the state’s voter ID law; Newt Gingrich cuts down on staffing; and George H.W. Bush endorses Mitt Romney. Meanwhile, Dr. Seuss’s home is vandalized; and Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke calls himself “a nerd.”

    Kelly + Caitlin


    SAT and ACT to Tighten Rules After Cheating Scandal, http://nyti.ms/H0qQzj
    The SAT and ACT exams will now require students nationwide to provide their photograph when registering for tests. On the day of the test, students’ IDs will be checked against their photographs in order to make sure no one is taking the test for them. These new rules were laid out after dozens of Long Island high school students engaged in a cheating scandal, where high-scoring students used fake IDs to take the SAT or ACT for other students. Fifty students may have been involved in the cheating ring. The SAT and ACT will also eliminate “standby test registration,” where students can register the same day as the exam. The new ID rule will take effect this Fall.

    Passengers recount fears during captain breakdown, http://bit.ly/HeAHS3
    During an early morning flight from New York to Las Vegas, JetBlue captain Clayton Osbon had a nervous breakdown, alarming passengers and his co-pilots. Coming out of the cockpit and running down the plane’s aisles screaming about a bomb, passengers of the plan eventually tackled and restrained him while the co-pilots landed the plane in Amarillo, Texas. JetBlue airlines have called the incident a “medical situation” and insist that Osbon’s record never indicated flight risk.

    Afghanistan’s War on Women Detailed in New Human Rights Watch Report, http://bit.ly/GSJd7l
    A new Human Rights Watch report released today cites a troubling lack of justice for women in Afghanistan. The report detailed 60 cases of women and girls in prison for “moral crimes,” which include premarital sex, running away from forced marriages, and fleeing abusive husbands and homes. Of 42 married women interviewed, 22 were arrested as a direct result of running away from abusive husbands or extended family members. In follow-up interviews with their prosecutors, only one man had been arrested for the abuse.

    (via New York Times) Florida’s New Election Law Blunts Voter Drives: Florida, expected to be a vital swing state once again, is enrolling fewer new voters than it did four years ago as prominent civic organizations have suspended registration drives because of what they describe as onerous restrictions imposed last year by Republican state officials. The state’s new elections law requires groups that register voters to turn in completed forms within 48 hours or risk fines, among other things. Rock the Vote, a national organization that encourages young people to vote, began an effort last week to register high school students around the nation — but not in Florida, over fears that teachers could face fines. In the months since its new law took effect in July, 81,471 fewer Floridians have registered to vote than during the same period before the 2008 presidential election, according to an analysis of registration data by The New York Times. All told, there are 11.3 million voters registered in the state. The law in Florida also reduces the number of early voting days in the state. Last Friday, on the anniversary of the passage of the 26th Amendment, which gave 18-year-olds the right to vote, Rock the Vote opened its national program to educate and register high school students, though not in Florida. “It’s a real shame,” said Heather Smith, the president of Rock the Vote, which joined the lawsuit. “We just cannot put those high school teachers at risk,” http://nyti.ms/GWG8Sq

    (via WISN.com) Voter ID Lawsuits Sent To State Supreme Court: Appeals courts sent two lawsuits challenging Wisconsin’s blocked new voter ID law directly to the state Supreme Court on Wednesday, determining it was imperative to resolve the cases quickly given the slate of important upcoming elections, including the state’s presidential primaries next week. If the Supreme Court agrees to take the cases, it could reinstate the state’s new requirement that voters show photo identification at the polls just days before Tuesday’s election. However, attorneys challenging the law said it is unlikely a decision would come that quickly.The voter ID requirement was in effect for the February primary election and few problems were reported in the low-turnout election. But the judges’ orders blocked it for Tuesday’s spring election in which 35 percent turnout is predicted in the Republican presidential primary, http://bit.ly/Hga0tz

    Newt Gingrich cuts staff, aims for Tampa, http://politi.co/GVdRPN
    Newt Gingrich has cut about a third of his staff and has significantly reduced his campaign schedule for a “big-choice convention” strategy. Most of the layoffs affect junior and advance staff, with advance staff being contracted out from Gordon James Public Relations. Political strategists are surprised to see that Gingrich has not withdrawn from the race completely after a series of primary losses. Gingrich remains in a marginal third place and his campaign-finance report for February has shown that there is more debt than available cash-on-hand. The biggest change-up is the resignation of campaign coordinator Michael Krull and his replacement by Vince Haley, a deputy campaign manager and policy director.

    (via Huffington post) George H.W. Bush To Formally Endorse Mitt Romney: Former President George H.W. Bush plans to endorse Mitt Romney at an event Thursday in Houston. Romney spokeswoman Gail Gitcho says the two will appear together and speak to reporters. Formal backing from the 41st president is another sign that the Republican Party is uniting behind Romney as pressure builds on challengers Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich to leave the race. The elder Bush has offered encouraging words to Romney throughout the primary season but had withheld a formal endorsement. Former first lady Barbara Bush has formally backed Romney. She recorded automated telephone calls for him during the primary in Ohio. Their son, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, endorsed Romney last week, http://huff.to/HeC7aZ


    Fox pulls movie ads due to Trayvon Martin case, http://reut.rs/HcxmDZ

    Mega Millions soars to half a billion, http://nydn.us/HdmCq5

    Ben Bernanke: ‘I Am Very Proud Of My Nerd-Dom,’ http://huff.to/HnapMS

    Kris Humphries Divorce: Basketball Star Wants $8 Million From Kim Kardashian, http://huff.to/GWqdcr

    ‘Modern Family’ Cast Seeks Huge Raises As Contract Renegotiation Begins, http://bit.ly/HdwY88

    Magic Johnson-led group is picked as Dodgers’ next owner, http://lat.ms/GWMRAQ

    Lorax Statue Stolen From Dr. Seuss’ Garden, Family Hopes For Its Return, http://n.pr/HfntV6

    Justin Bieber’s Tweet Ties Up Great Grandma’s Phone, http://bit.ly/HeUJgs

    Kelly Holleran

    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com

    War on Voting: Week(s) End Update

    Friday, August 12th, 2011

    It has been a while since we surveyed the battlefield in the war on voting, so here are some odds and ends from the states. I’m doing this alphabetically, I hope:

    Kansas: Earlier this year, Kansas enacted new photo ID and proof of citizenship requirements for voting. Under the new law, these requirements would go into effect in 2013. Not good enough, says Secretary of State Kris Kobach. He wants to get those bad boys implemented for the 2012 elections – an idea rejected by the state Senate when it decided to go with the 2013 implementation. Kobach may try to do it anyway. Good luck with that.

    Maine: This week, the Protect Maine Votes coalition submitted more than 68,000 signatures to halt the elimination of Election Day registration by placing a People’s Veto on the ballot in November. Earlier this year, the Maine legislature overturned a 38-year old practice that nearly 70,000 people used to register and cast their ballots during the last two elections. The good news: Maine voters – not self-interested politicians – will get to decide whether we will continue to be able to register to vote at the polls.

    For more information on the campaign to protect Election Day registration, go to www.ProtectMaineVotes.com.

    New Hampshire: It looks like the state legislature is going to try to override the Governor’s veto of the strict photo ID legislation in early September. Nine state Senators will need to vote to uphold the Governor’s veto; right now there are only seven or eight votes to sustain the veto. We’ll see what happens.

    North Carolina: The state House failed to override the Governor’s veto last month, but the legislative leadership is still holding out the possibility that they will try again at a later date.

    The latest twist in the state is that nine people are being prosecuted for double voting in the 2008 election. To that I say, “GOOD! Fraudulent voting is ILLEGAL and should be punished.”

    Of course, proponents of photo ID have jumped on this. As the Raleigh News & Observer wrote, the state Republican Party sent out an “I-told-you-so news release,” which said: “The reason why Republicans have fought to promote proper voter-identification laws is to prevent fraud like this from happening.”

    The problem, as the article points out: “None of the cases would have been prevented if the voters had been required to show photo identification…” Exactly right. Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby, the man prosecuting the double voters, noted: “I don’t think voter ID had anything to do with this – just people voting twice, not using another person’s name or dead Aunt Betty.”

    Read the whole story here.

    Ohio: Voting rights organizations, lead by former Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, are taking steps to put the new election “reform” bill on the ballot in 2012 so voters can decide if they want to implement the law. Highlights of the bill: shortens the early voting period, eliminates the “golden week” when voters could go to the polls to register and vote at the same time, and eliminates the requirement that poll workers tell you if you are in the wrong polling place. (We’ve written about its non-awesomeness here.)

    What’s cool about this approach is that if enough signatures are collected to put a referendum on the ballot, the law itself cannot be implemented until after the 2012 elections.

    Tennessee: The state government is trying to help people get photo IDs before the new law kicks into effect in 2012. That’s nice. Read about it here.

    Texas: The Texas Tribune did a short write-up about how the new Texas law, which still needs to be cleared by the Department of Justice under the Voting Rights Act, compares with other states’ laws. Conclusion: it is one of the strictest. You can read the primer here.

    Wisconsin: Some potentially good news on the photo ID front on Wisconsin campuses. You may recall that the new photo ID law in the Badger State allows for student IDs to be used at the polls provided they have a photo, a signature and expire every two years. Of course, no student ID at any college or university in the state met those requirements. Now word is coming out that several schools are working to solve the problem by making changes to student IDs.

    We pick up the story in Platteville:

    Students at University of Wisconsin-Platteville might see these changes this fall. Officials said that they’ve remade the identification cards.

    “We had to come up with a different way to look at a different ID card or something to modify our ID card,” said Jim Mueller, of UW-Platteville auxiliary services.

    The current IDs at Platteville only have a photo and no expiration date. Instead of changing all the IDs, the school will create a special card for voting.

    “If we change it to our whole student ID card, there would be 8,000 cards we’d have to issue immediately. Then, about every year because of the expiration date, it would be about 2,000 every year, Mueller said.

    Instead of the 2,000 some out-of-state students could get a voter ID card and the rest could use their state driver’s license.

    “We just want to make sure that our students can vote, and to make it as easy for them as possible so they can be part of the democratic process,” Mueller said.

    The story also notes that UW-Lacrosse is considering a similar plan of issuing “voting IDs” to out-of-state students and UW-Madison is looking at changing the actual student ID to be compliant.

    Thomas Bates
    Bio: Thomas is Rock the Vote's Vice President of Civic Engagement.
    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com

    Bank Account Activity New Voting Requirement in Wisconsin?

    Thursday, July 28th, 2011

    Did you know that your constitutional right to vote actually hinges on how often you swipe your debit card at Starbucks?

    No? Neither did a Wisconsin voter who went to the DMV to get his “free” voter ID card.

    Since you will need to show a government-issued photo ID to vote in Wisconsin in 2012, the requirements for actually getting an ID at the DMV are pretty important. This video showcases the apparently new requirement that a bank account has to show a certain amount of “activity” to be used to prove your residency. I don’t remember seeing that in the Constitution.

    The video also highlights how the DMV automatically charge people a $28 fee unless a certain box is checked – even though clerks make no effort to educate people that the fee would be waived if the ID is for voting. Check our your new “democracy”:

    Becca Ward
    Bio: Duke University, Class of 2012 Majoring in Public Policy, Certificate in Energy and the Environment From Portland, Oregon.  Aquarius
    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com

    100.3% of Ohioans Have Photo ID

    Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

    With the passage of so many new photo ID laws, it would be nice if states could get a handle on just how many citizens don’t have the kind of ID they will need in order to vote.

    Numerous estimates suggest that at least 1 in 10 citizens don’t have the right type of identification and would not be eligible to vote. Among certain populations, the lack of ID is undoubtedly higher, including, for example, in Wisconsin where a comprehensive study found that 78% of African-American males age 18 to 24 and 66% of African-American women age 18 to 24 don’t have government photo ID. (Despite those numbers, representatives of the Department of Transportation in Wisconsin insist that 97% of currently registered voters has a photo ID.)

    Along comes Ohio. The Columbus Dispatch analyzed the DMV and U.S. Census data in Ohio and found that some counties in the state have issued more IDs than they have voting-age people. According to this analysis, the percentage of voting-age residents having photo ID ranges from 71.9% in Athens County to 107.9% in Lawrence County. The average across the state is 100.3%. The paper concluded: “. . . records from the state Bureau of Motor Vehicles show about 8.83 million voting-age residents have an Ohio driver’s license or photo ID – about 28,000 more than there are voting-age residents in the state, according to the 2010 census.”

    Stating the obvious, Professor Dan Tokaji at the Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law said: “It’s just not possible that every citizen in Ohio has a driver’s license. We may not know exactly how many don’t, but we know that it’s not the case.” It is possible that the census population estimates are too low or that people have been issued multiple licenses (one for cars, one for motorcycles) or people who move out of state haven’t been purged from the list or the census counts students at school who may have an ID issued in another county or state. What seems negligent is making policy decisions based on confusing and inaccurate information.

    Those who say it isn’t a burden to the right kind of ID may be speaking for 107% of the population, but what about the rest of us?

    Becca Ward
    Bio: Duke University, Class of 2012 Majoring in Public Policy, Certificate in Energy and the Environment From Portland, Oregon.  Aquarius
    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com