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On the News With Thom Hartmann: Supreme Court Curtails Arizona’s Disenfranchising Voting Laws, and More

In today’s On the News segment: TransCanada tells state law enforcement to treat Keystone protesters like terrorists, and more.

In today’s On the News segment: TransCanada tells state law enforcement to treat Keystone protesters like terrorists, and more.

Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. Today, the Supreme Court of the United States made it much more difficult for Arizona to disenfranchise voters. In 2004, Arizona voters approved a law which required election officials to reject any voter registration that was not accompanied with proof of citizenship. The Supreme Court struck down that law, saying that the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 forbids states from demanding additional information beyond what the federal voter registration form requires. According to the Voter Registration Act, states must “accept and use” the federal form for voter registration, which requires the potential voter to affirm they are a United States citizen, and they are over the age of 18. Arizona argued that the “accept and use” wording in the Act, only required a state to “receive” the federal form, not consider it as a valid registration. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the court opinion, which stated “Determining what qualifications a voter must possess is the province of the States. Arizona is correct that it would raise serious constitutional doubts if a federal statute prevented a State from obtaining the information necessary to enforce its voter qualification. But to avoid those doubts it is not necessary to give “accept and use” a meaning that allows Arizona to deny sufficiency of the Federal Form.” Justice Scalia did, however, write that Arizona could pursue a “proof of citizenship” measure, by requesting the Federal Election Assistance Commission include the requirement on the federal form. Scalia essentially said that if the Commission failed to act on Arizona’s request, that state would have the grounds to bring another court challenge. For now, it appears that Arizona won’t be able to disenfranchise voters by requiring additional citizenship documentation. However, it’s doubtful that the Republican-led state will suddenly stop its efforts to keep as many voters as possible away from the polls.

In screwed news… TransCanada wants anti-Keystone protesters treated like terrorists. According to environmental advocacy group Bold Nebraska, TransCanada officials delivered a presentation to state law enforcement agencies, which made the case for prosecuting activists using anti-terrorism statutes. Bold Nebraska obtained a copy of the presentation through a Freedom of Information Act request, and posted it on the organization’s website. The presentation referred to incidents of protesters locking themselves to construction equipment, building tree houses in the path of the pipeline, and vandalizing company equipment. Because of these acts, TransCanada says protesters should be charged with acts of terrorism for “attacking a critical infrastructure.” When questioned by The World-Herald News, TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard said the company was only sharing information with police, not directing them on how to deal with pipeline opponents. Bold Nebraska’s executive director, Jane Kleeb, said, “TransCanada is trying to paint concerned citizens as abusive, aggressive law breakers, when in fact that describes themselves.”

In the best of the rest of the news…

Rhode Island is set to become the tenth state to support a national popular vote. Late last week, state lawmakers voted to effectively abolish the electoral college, and award their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote. The bill now goes to Governor Lincoln Chafee, who has said he supports the effort. However, even if the proposal is signed by the Governor, is will not take effect until more states sign on, and the measure is approved by Congress. The national popular vote movement is fighting to prevent a candidate from winning the White House, despite receiving less votes from the American people – like what happened in 2000, with the election of President George W. Bush. A national popular vote could also limit the Republicans’ ability to rig the next election, by gerrymandering even more congressional districts, and dividing up electoral votes in swing states. Under the National Popular Vote Compact, states will not begin enforcing these proposals until they have a coalition that represents 270 electoral votes. Currently, the compact has about half that amount, with Rhode Island bringing the total to 136. With three years to go until the next presidential election, popular-vote advocates are hoping to succeed in more states, and ensure the American people have the right to pick our next president.

The GOP is sending mixed signals about the future of immigration reform. Republican senators have submitted a flurry of “poison pill” amendments to the bill currently being debated, making it appear they have no desire to see the immigration legislation actually succeed. Even Senator Marco Rubio, an architect of the so-called comprehensive immigration bill, is refusing to support the measure unless stronger border security measures are included, and protections for same-sex couples are off the table. However, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, says the future of the GOP hinges on immigration reform. During an interview on NBC’s “Meet The Press”, Senator Graham said the Republican Party is “in a demographic death spiral,” and the only way to win future elections is to “get back in good graces with the Hispanic community.” When asked who he believes the GOP will nominate for their next presidential candidate, Graham said, “If we don’t pass immigration reform, if we don’t get it off the table in a reasonable, practical way, it doesn’t matter who you run in 2016.” We will have to wait and see whether Rubio and the Tea Party lawmakers will heed Graham’s advice. Stay tuned.

And finally… The Republican Party is known for complaining about so-called government waste. Yet, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife are under FBI scrutiny for billing the tax payers for personal expenses, ranging from sun screen, to nasal spray, to dog vitamins. And, a grand jury is investigating a $15,000 catering bill from McDonnell’s daughter’s wedding, which was paid for by a campaign donor. According to the Washington Post, the FBI is investigating whether Governor McDonnell exchanged business favors with donors in return for the gifts. Perhaps Governor McDonnell could use some of that sunscreen to shield himself from the light of public scrutiny.

And that’s the way it is today – Monday, June 17, 2013. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.

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