Americans who care about the right to vote are faced with an ugly reality as the 2012 elections come into view: no matter how many courts rule that voter identification laws will disenfranchise eligible citizens and no matter how many states U.S.
Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita speaks about the state's voter-identification law. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
State Rep. Debbie Riddle, a Republican, camped out in the lobby of Texas' House of Representatives for two days in early November to make sure she was first in line to prefile a bill for the new session.
"I felt it was important to be first to file because I want my bills to have the lowest possible bill numbers," Riddle toldHouston Community Newspapers. "That doesn't necessarily mean that they are going to pass, but it helps them get into and out of committee quickly."
"The low bill number also shows that I have fire in my belly and that I am serious about getting these bills passed," she added.
Americans know the 2000 election was a fiasco. What they don't know is that the 2004 election, in many ways, might have been even worse. The purported margin of victory in November has led many to believe that the process went relatively smoothly. But the appearance of a smooth election obscured troubling developments, from simple human errors to likely felony violations of federal law. In addition to the ineptitude and faulty machinery that led to the problems of 2000 (both of which persisted), 2004 should be remembered as the year that a number of partisan election officials and party leaders usurped the process and manipulated the new federal voting law in ways that disenfranchised voters.
This week, the House is expected to consider Republican-backed legislation that would impose a $250,000 cap on damages for pain and suffering in suits filed against doctors, health maintenance organizations and manufacturers of drugs and medical devices. The bill, which President Bush called for in his State of the Union address, is the latest installment in the Republican Party's ongoing war against lawyers of all kinds. The intended targets in this particular phase of the campaign are personal-injury lawyers, but the fight is much broader than that.
As a consolation prize for losing the majority leader's post, Senate Republicans have given Trent Lott (R-Miss.) the chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration. The announcement has received little attention, but liberals should be elated. That's because the position wields a tremendous amount of power in the area of federal election law. And who better to occupy such a post than the senator who recently pledged to promote an agenda friendly to the interests of African Americans?