Voter ID laws are worse than fraudulent

In case anyone needs to be convinced that the rash of Voter ID laws that have sprung up are, as so many have said, “Solutions in search of a problem”, consider this. In several countries, notably Australia and New Zealand, voting is considered a civic duty. This is reinforced by the fact that anyone eligible to vote who fails to do so must pay a fine, the equivalent of a parking or traffic ticket.

Now why can’t that be the attitude in the United States? Never mind; I think we already know the answer to that one.


Another way to defang Citizens United?

No one I know – Republican, Democrat, Independent, etc. – likes the decision in the Citizens United case. Of course, none of us know any multi-billionaires.

The normal reactions we’ve heard to combatting this are either to hope that SCOTUS somehow reverses its decision (perhaps if new justices are appointed) or that  Senator Tom Udall’s proposed constitutional amendment will be ratified. The problem that plagues both of these is that we have to rely on certain chains of events happening and that we are looking at a minimum of eight years, in all likelihood, before either change would take place. That’s a lot of elections to give the so-called Super PACs time to change the United States into an out-and-out oligarchy.

However, I just thought of another way to defang (or, as I prefer to say, “spay”) the Super PACs. Some of you may be aware that political attacks made against candidates for public office are all but immune from libel law because, in the words of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, “restraint on political speech, no matter how [vile] the speech may be, would have a chilling effect on public discourse.” You also may be aware that the most toxic political ads are all coming from the Super PACs, largely so the official campaigns themselves can keep their hands clean.

Ah, but here’s the catch: the Super PACs are by law, limited to issues-based contributions! Now, we all know that they have crossed the line many times without even getting their wrists slapped, but if they present ads that are clearly OR implicitly false, knowingly false (or that any reasonable person could easily tell was false), and have malicious intent (which is the whole motivation for the toxic ads), they would have met the standards of libel.

In conclusion, it seems to me that the Super PACs are really vulnerable to a well-crafted lawsuit. Either the courts would rule that they do not enjoy immunity from libel laws, since they are not parts of the candidates’ campaigns, or that the courts will be forced to slam the door on any of the lies told in Super PAC ads about candidates since they are, by statute, limited ONLY to ads that deal with issues and not with people.