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The Supreme Court’s long-awaited decision on the Affordable Care Act arrived yesterday — and sent media and political analysts into a  frenzy.  Now that the decision is done, the political question is whether and how the court’s action will affect partisan fortunes next November.

Not surprisingly, Republican analysts look back to 2010, when initial passage of the law enraged conservatives but also united them with sufficient force to retake the House majority. Just before the decision was delivered, Rick Wilson, a Florida-based GOP consultant, enthused: “If it’s upheld, strap in, because the passion, intensity and direction on the right that destroyed the Democrats in the 2010 elections will be back with a vengeance. I’d invest in any mutual fund based on tar, feathers, pitchforks and torches. You will instantly see the right and center-right voter intensity spike. You will see the Tea Party voters take to the streets.  This would be grim news for the President, and worse news for Congressional Democrats. If it gets even close to the 2010 effects, Nancy Pelosi will be holding her 2013 caucus meetings in a booth at Denny’s and Barack Obama can hit the speaking circuit.”

Accordingly, the Republicans are promoting their “repeal and replace Obamacare” theme with a symbolic vote on July 11 in the House. But Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, sees the decision as favorable to Democrats.  Ornstein explains, “It  takes some of the wind out of the sails of the Republican argument that it was a constitutional overreach…I think that’s where the notion of ‘repeal and replace’ becomes an issue in the campaign—what have you got to replace it if it’s been constitutionally passed?”

Conservatives have already begun to fire away with claims that the Obama administration was trying to manipulate the public by hiding the fact that the mandate was a tax, and in effect, Obama is now breaking a promise by raising taxes on the middle class. As Sarah Palin tweeted: “Obama lied to the American people. Again. He said it wasn’t a tax. Obama lies; freedom dies.” Yet while Republicans seek  new and different way to denounce the healthcare law, Democrats retort that a win is still a win. “No matter how many different ways you try to spin this issue,” says pollster and consultant Stan Greenberg, “this decision is very good for the President, Democrats, and the country.”

Some still speculate, however, that this ruling will turn key swing voters against Obama; a NY Times/CBS News poll found that only 22 percent of independent voters would like to see the entire law upheld. According to CNN commentator and Obama SuperPAC cconsultant Paul Begala, a former adviser to Bill Clinton, health care is unlikely to sway swing voters: “Independents are going to vote on the economy. Healthcare motivates both bases, but at the end of the day it is still [about] the economy.”

Robert Shrum, a consultant for previous Democratic presidential campaigns, also suggested that polls exaggerate voter rejection. “People think that the [healthcare] law does something that it doesn’t really do, because the Republicans have done a good job on their part [of framing the law in a negative light]…The more people that know about it, the less opposition to the law there will be.” Adds Greenberg, “You appreciate the ACA a lot more once you’ve pondered it being overturned by the Supreme Court. I think this will energize Democrats to educate the country.”

And Ornstein agrees: “We know that Americans by very large margins like every part [of ACA] except the mandate, and if the mandate is upheld, then Americans will reconsider it.”

 

 

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Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

Targeting Battleground States

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Former president Donald Trump

By Rami Ayyub and Alexandra Ulmer

(Reuters) -The prosecutor for Georgia's biggest county on Thursday requested a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid her investigation into then-President Donald Trump's efforts to influence the U.S. state's 2020 election results.

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