Sen. Whitehouse blazes a path to voting rights passage; will it work?

January 20, 2022

Rhode Island U.S. Sen. Sheldon White House (D). Photo of President Franklin Roosevelt in background. Roll Call photo.

As I suspected, some U.S. Senators have been exploring Senate Rules for ways to shut down filibusters and other delaying tactics, but mainly to find a path around Republican filibustering of voting protection legislation.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) laid it out tonight, after Republicans blocked action on the John R. Lewis Act.

It’s likely Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell knows this path exists. But if Whitehouse is right, knowing the rules and being able to overcome them are two different things.

Every Senate wonk should take a look at Sen. Whitehouse’s plan.

One is my DISCLOSE Act being in the bill. Republicans must vote against it for their dark-money donors, but that kills them with voters. Ditto gerrymandering. Lots of focus on those painful votes for them in the bill will help.

Another is the Senate speak-twice rule. Senators who’ve spoken twice on a question can be ruled out of order if they keep at it. That’s why real filibusters were long, uninterrupted speeches. Not one and done, but two and done. (Yup, that’s 100 speeches by Rs — sorry!)

The motion to table allows the Senate to clear the decks of amendments. Each requires a vote, but is not debatable. Week after week, even through weekends, table the bad amendments.

“Dilatory” motions, amendments and other delaying mischief can be ruled out of order by the presiding officer. It takes a fair amount of nonsense before it becomes clearly dilatory, but it’s then a simple point of order—no vote.

There can be a vote to overrule the call, which is debatable; but when that fails, whatever motion or amendment was ruled dilatory ends.

So it’s painful, and long, and you have to exhaust Republican speakers and table or stop dilatory motions and amendments, but you can get to a simple majority vote — eventually.

One objection is that the Senate cannot afford to concentrate on one issue for so long. I wager that there is a lot of other business that can be conducted anyway, but Republicans would try to monkeywrench that stuff, too.

Taking a longer perspective, can we afford to let a tiny minority of Americans hold off action while they continue to plot to bring down our government?

Make no mistake that is what this is about.

Vote! What really matters to you? Then vote!

November 2, 2018

Your vote counts. Every vote counts, but your vote counts for you.


Advertising from the Independence USA PAC


How do Texas’s voter ID laws hurt Texas voters? This film shows how

April 30, 2015

Abbie Kamin, a Houston lawyer assisting Texas voters keep their right to vote, explains how Texas's voter ID laws hurt Texans, and damage democracy in the U.S.

Abbie Kamin, a Houston lawyer assisting Texas voters keep their right to vote, explains how Texas’s voter ID laws hurt Texans, and damage democracy in the U.S.

Video you won’t see at 11.

From the Texas Voter Identification Assistance Project, at the Campaign Legal Center.

Published on Apr 24, 2015

Under Texas’ new restrictive photo/voter ID law, more than 600,000 Texans now lack sufficient identification to vote in elections, with little to no help from the State of Texas to resolve the problems. The Texas Voter Identification Assistance Project, coordinated by the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan nonprofit, provided assistance to Texas voters who wished to vote but lacked the newly required identification, and thus were disenfranchised.

At the Campaign Legal Center’s site, there’s a press release on the video, released to correspond with arguments on voter identification issues at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

CLC FILM RELEASE: On Day of Fifth Circuit Oral Argument, Meet Victims of Texas Voter Photo ID Law

CLC Staff

Apr 28, 2015

Today, the Campaign Legal Center released a short film focusing on three lifelong voters disenfranchised by Texas’ voter photo ID law (SB 14), the most restrictive and burdensome voter ID law in the nation.  The ten-minute film produced by Firelight Media traces the efforts of the Campaign Legal Center’s Voter ID Project to assist registered voters to overcome the many hurdles erected by the new law in order to obtain the photo IDs required by SB 14.

Today in Veasey v. Abbott, oral arguments will be heard in a challenge to that law, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans.  Attorneys at the Campaign Legal Center serve as co-counsel for plaintiffs Congressman Marc Veasey, LULAC, and a group of Texas voters.

Following a two-week trial last fall, U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos enjoined SB 14, finding that it was as an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote as well as an unconstitutional poll tax, had “an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose.”  The state defendants immediately appealed Judge Ramos’ decision. In mid-October, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed that decision solely to avoid confusion in the November 2014 elections, and the U.S. Supreme Court subsequently refused to vacate the Fifth Circuit’s stay.

The film released today traces the plight of three Texans who were victims of the Texas voter photo ID law and the massive effort required of many voters to exercise their right to vote under the new law.

“These longtime voters were had their voting rights violated because of SB 14 which the District Court found to be unconstitutional and in violation of the Voting Rights Act,” said J. Gerald Hebert, Executive Director of The Campaign Legal Center.  “The plight of these victims, who suffered a violation of their voting rights through no fault of their own, mirrors the evidence that prompted Judge Ramos to strike down Texas’ intentionally discriminatory, modern-day poll tax.”

The first challenge (Veasey v. Perry) to the Texas photo ID law was filed by the Campaign Legal Center and others in the summer of 2013 claiming that SB 14 violates the 1st, 14th, 15th and 24th Amendments to the Constitution, as well as Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.  Several additional challenges were then brought against the Texas law (including one by the United States).  All of the cases were consolidated in the Southern District of Texas in Corpus Christi.

In addition to overseeing the Voter ID Project, the Campaign Legal Center is part of the legal team representing the Veasey-LULAC plaintiffs that includes Chad Dunn and K. Scott Brazil (Brazil & Dunn), Neil G. Baron, David Richards (Richards, Rodriguez & Skeith), Armand Derfner (Derfner & Altman), and Luis Roberto Vera, Jr. (LULAC).

To read the Legal Center’s Fifth Circuit brief, click here.

To read the District Court decision striking down the Voter ID law, click here.

Tip of Millard’s old scrub brush to Michael Li.

Early voting opens in Texas: Polling place shenanigans?

October 20, 2014

If you are confronted with voting irregularities at your polling station in Texas, call 1-844-TXVOTES (1-844-898-6837)

If you are confronted with voting irregularities at your polling station in Texas, call 1-844-TXVOTES (1-844-898-6837)

A friendly reminder from BattleGround Texas:  If you experience voting irregularities at your polling station in Texas, call 1-844-TXVOTES (1-844-898-6837).

Vote early!

Sarah Silverman on vote suppression

September 22, 2012

Absolutely, completely and totally Not Safe For Work.

But spot on.  Sarah Silverman, with humor, eviscerates the GOP’s vote suppression campaign.

Also, take a look at that handsome young man in the mortar board at about 2:06 in the video. You might recognize him as one of our nation’s better young men.

Gee.  I wonder what this will do to the blog’s G rating.


Ben Sargent gets to the truth on voter identification litigation . . .

July 29, 2012


As usual, Ben Sargent can help but blab the truth on voter identification and voter fraud.  From one of America’s great newspapers, the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman:

Ben Sargent on voter identification law litigation, July 16, 2012, Austin American-Statesman (Also Go Comics)

Ben Sargent in the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman, July 16, 2012 (Go Comics syndication)

More, earlier at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:

Other Resources:


Apathy wins again

August 11, 2011

Apathy is a cruel political philosophy.  It supports despots, fools, crooks and partisan hacks — more often than it supports good government, in my humble opinion.

In Wisconsin, had all those who signed the petitions to recall Tea Party Republicans, voted, the results would have been more favorable to Democrats.  Tea Partiers won big in 2010 on the basis of poor voter turnout nationally (could it really have been as low as 18% of all voters?).

In Wisconsin on Tuesday, apathy turned the tide for them again.  Post-Crescent editorial writers in Appleton wrote:

Look at it this way — 26,000 people in the 2nd Senate District signed the petition to recall Sen. Rob Cowles of Allouez in the spring. But only 18,000 people ended up voting for Cowles’ opponent, Nancy Nusbaum on Tuesday.If the 26,000 petition-signers would have voted for Nusbaum, she only would have needed 1,500 more votes to beat Cowles, who had 27,500 votes.

From Appleton, in one contested district, only 35 voters showed up to vote.

It is clear why Republicans work so hard, nationally, to restrict voter turnout by making it difficult, onerous, or just bothersome to vote.  And no doubt, they think that they will make better decisions than those who didn’t vote and thereby handed them the reins of power.  Despots, fools, crooks and partisan hacks rarely confess they are not the purveyors of good, democratic government.


Ladies’ choice: Happy birthday, women’s suffrage!

August 18, 2008

Ouch! Almost missed it: Today is the anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, on August 18, 1920. Tennessee was the 36th state to ratify, pushing the total to three-fourths of the 48 states.  (12 more states ratified later, including North Carolina in 1971, and Mississippi in 1984.)

The Amendment reads:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

One of the better moves our nation ever made, in my opinion. Abigail Adams was right; John should have listened to her.

Abigail Adams who urged the vote for women in 1776, by Benjamin Blythe, 1766 (Wikimedia and Millsaps College)

Abigail Adams who urged the vote for women in the late 18th century; portrait by Benjamin Blythe, 1766 (Wikimedia and Millsaps College)

And “Vox Day” and Ann Coulter are both idiots.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Reed Cartwright at De Rerum Natura.

Need your help: Call Bush, tell him to let veterans vote

August 14, 2008

The thing with the flag? That was sorta funny. It was meant as humor.

This isn’t funny: The Bush administration is actively working to stop injured and ill veterans in Veterans Administration facilities from registering to vote.

These actions are most likely violations of the Voting Rights Act (under Section 2, or Section 11 – not my area of expertise, alas), but don’t expect Bush’s Justice Department to prosecute. These actions violate the VA’s own rules on helping veterans to vote. More pragmatically, there isn’t time for a big fight before the election. Veterans will be stopped from voting unless there is action now.

There is an easier, simpler solution — though we’re late. Bush should just rescind the order, encourage all veterans to vote, and help voter registration drives and attempts to get absentee ballots injured and ill veterans in VA facilities.

Susan Byseiwicz is Connecticut’s Secretary of State, the person charged with making sure the state’s voting system works. Among other things, she tries to get people to register to vote:

WHAT is the secretary of Veterans Affairs thinking? On May 5, the department led by James B. Peake issued a directive that bans nonpartisan voter registration drives at federally financed nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and shelters for homeless veterans. As a result, too many of our most patriotic American citizens — our injured and ill military veterans — may not be able to vote this November.

I have witnessed the enforcement of this policy. On June 30, I visited the Veterans Affairs Hospital in West Haven, Conn., to distribute information on the state’s new voting machines and to register veterans to vote. I was not allowed inside the hospital.

Outside on the sidewalk, I met Martin O’Nieal, a 92-year-old man who lost a leg while fighting the Nazis in the mountains of Northern Italy during the harsh winter of 1944. Mr. O’Nieal has been a resident of the hospital since 2007. He wanted to vote last year, but he told me that there was no information about how to register to vote at the hospital and the nurses could not answer his questions about how or where to cast a ballot.

Just a minor glitch, an information vacuum waiting to be filled? Go back and reread the last sentence in her second paragraph: “I was not allowed inside the hospital,” to register veterans to vote, she said.

Connecticut’s attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, and I wrote to [Veterans Affairs] Secretary [James B.] Peake in July to request that elections officials be let inside the department’s facilities to conduct voter education and registration. Our request was denied.

The department offers two reasons to justify its decision. First, it claims that voter registration drives are disruptive to the care of its patients. This is nonsense. Veterans can fill out a voter registration card in about 90 seconds.

Second, the department claims that its employees cannot help patients register to vote because the Hatch Act forbids federal workers from engaging in partisan political activities. But this interpretation of the Hatch Act is erroneous. Registering people to vote is not partisan activity.

If the department does not want to burden its staff, there are several national organizations with a long history of nonpartisan advocacy for veterans and their right to vote that are eager to help, as are elected officials like me.

The department has placed an illegitimate obstacle in the way of election officials across the country and, more important, in the way of veterans who want to vote.

Read the rest of her plea, which was carried in the New York Times last Monday, August 11.

And then take action. Bills have already been filed in Congress to force the Department of Veterans Affairs to allow veterans in its hospitals to register and vote. Frankly, time is running out. Many of these veterans will have to vote absentee — they need to be registered and have about a month to get the ballots and mail them back. There are 82 days to the election. Time is short.

So: Call George Bush and tell him to let veterans in hospitals register, and vote. George’s phone number for comments is 202-456-1111; if for any reason that does not work for you, try the general switchboard at 202-456-1414. Tell Bush I said to say “Howdy.”

The White House won’t put you through to George, but they will tally your opinion. If they give you a hard time, ask them: Why is George Bush afraid of the votes of wounded and ill veterans?

Ready to do more to support our veterans? Call the Secretary of Veterans Affairs: [::grumble:: Just try to find a general phone number for VA. Still looking. It appears the Secretary of Veterans Affairs doesn’t give a damn about veterans — they can’t call him, you can’t call him either. Still looking.]

Or you may write Sec. Peake at his office:

The Honorable James B. Peake
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20420

I do not recommend on-line messages, since they clog a bureaucracy that should be helping veterans, but VA does not make it easy to contact them. If you wish to write an electronic message to the VA, try here.

“The federal government should be doing everything it can to support our nation’s veterans who have served us so courageously. There can be no justification for any barrier that impedes the ability of veterans to participate in democracy’s most fundamental act, the vote,” Sec. of State Byseiwicz said.


This is no small group. Veterans in hospitals are numerous enough to swing elections in many districts, and nationally. They fought for our nation, and they deserve to have their voices heard, and their votes registered.

In her request, [California Secretary of State Debra] Bowen cited a 1994 executive order by President Bill Clinton requiring federal agencies to undertake the responsibility of registration when asked to do so by state election officials. A spokeswoman for Ms. Bowen said she was considering litigation.

More than 100,000 people reside for a month or longer at the V.A. campuses nationally, a number that has grown in recent years as more soldiers return wounded from the war.

In California, the federal Department of Veterans Affairs runs eight major medical centers and 11 nursing homes that provide care for more than 200,000 veterans.

What would George Washington do?

More resources:

Tip of the old scrub brush to Ed Brayton at Dispatches From the Culture Wars.

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