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NOW IN RACIAL JUSTICE

Winnsboro Police Believe Woman’s Burns Were Self-Inflicted

Winnsboro Police Believe Woman's Burns Were Self-Inflicted

Update 10/23/12 5:37PM EST: Authorities now believe Moffitt’s wounds were self-inflicted. Story has been updated.

Sharmeka Moffitt, a 20-year-old black woman, is in critical condition with burns on more than half her body, after she claims she was set on fire Sunday by three men who wrote the initials “KKK” and a racial slur on her car in northeastern Louisiana.

According to the Franklin Parish Sheriff’s Office, law enforcement officers responded to a call around 8 p.m. near the walking trail at Civitan Park to find Moffitt attacked and burned, the Franklin Sun reports.

The Franklin Parish Sheriff’s Office along with Winnsboro police and Louisiana State Police are investigating the attack, but law enforcement officers acknowledged Monday they do not have any suspects in the case. They’re also not calling the incident a crime at this time.


Update 10/23/12 5:37PM EST: According to the Franklin Sun, Winnsboro Police Chief Lester Thomas, evidenced gathered at the scene of the incident shows 20-year-old Sharmeka Moffitt’s initial claims that she was attacked and set on fire turned out to be false claims made up by Moffitt.


Crunk Feminist Collective is reporting authorities have not called the attack a hate crime because “Sharmeka could not definitively identify the race of her attackers.”

Crunk Feminist Collective with more details and context:

The fact that the race of her attackers is being used as a gauge for this hate crime demonstrates the limitations of how we think about race and racism in this country. This Black woman was targeted and subjected to severe and life-threatening bodily injury for sport. Her perpetrators then thought they should punctuate their crime by scrawling hateful racially incendiary messages on her car. What isn’t hateful about that?

And what is with all the shock and bewilderment? Winnsboro, Louisiana is just about 60 miles from Jena, Louisiana, the site of the 2007 Jena 6 incident. I grew up in Ruston, Louisiana, about 75 miles from Winnsboro. As late as the late 1990s, the KKK marched in downtown Ruston, and my classmates bragged during class trips about having relatives who were high ranking officials in the terrorist organization. Racially incendiary acts are commonplace in this part of the world. (Every damn part of the U.S. world) Like critical race theorists tell us, racism is not an aberration. It is part of the everyday, commonplace fabric of our lives. Before folks start decrying this act as an individual aberration of 3 sick individuals, perhaps we would do well to remember that their acts are symptomatic of the continued persistence of racism in this country.

Otis Chisley, the president of the local branch of the NAACP, told the AP that regardless of the investigation’s outcome racism and KKK activity remain a fact of life in the state.

“It’s prevalent throughout Louisiana,” he told the AP. “It’s hidden but it exists.

Vivica A. Fox Schools Stacey Dash on How to Make Presidential Endorsements With Class

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

In an interview published by theGrio yesterday, actress Vivica A. Fox talked about her new TV projects and also weighed in on a recent surprising presidential endorsement: Stacey Dash’s endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

“I don’t know why she [Stacey Dash] had to do a photo shoot in a Baywatch red swimsuit with the boobs and the whole flag behind her,” Fox said. “And she doesn’t have a job or something to promote right now. I just didn’t get it. She’s entitled to her own opinion but it was just surprising that first of all she was a Republican, and that she did it the way that she did. Most politicians when you support them, you try to support them with class, you don’t need to do a swimsuit shoot.”

Is it just me, or did she deliver those words with a touch of shade?

Ohio Students Warn Against Being a Racist Fool This Halloween

Controversy surrounding racially offensive Halloween costumes and theme parties have become a routine part of the holiday on college campuses. But a group of college students in Ohio has taken it upon themselves to school their schoolmates on racist Halloween costumes.

Ohio University’s student group “Students Teaching About Racism in Society” (STARS) new “Were a culture, not a costume” Halloween campaign has a simple message: “You wear the costume for one night. I wear the stigma for life.”

The ads are distributed throughout the Ohio University campus before Halloween and serve as a public service announcement for students in an effort to keep them from imitating another culture or worse, dress up in blackface.

STARS took on this poster campaign in response to the offensive Halloween costumes we see every year on campus and nationwide,” Laura Hyde, a spokesperson for STARS told Colorlines.com. “STARS strives to promote awareness, dialogue and understanding about racism as well as all other forms of oppression and how they manifest themselves in our society today. We believe these posters are one way in which to promote these types of dialogues.”

We hope that these posters are able to give voice to the many who find these posters offensive as well as encourage others to think twice about the nature of the costumes they choose to wear.

Former STARS president Sarah Williams explained to Colorlines.com last year that the idea for the campaign came after she snapped a picture of a fellow student in blackface at a 2010 Halloween party.  This is STARS’ second annual ‘We’re a culture, not a costume’ campaign.

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Why Obama Brought Class Size Into Last Night’s Foreign Policy Debate

Why Obama Brought Class Size Into Last Night's Foreign Policy Debate

On Monday night viewers got an full evening of American posturing on militarism and war in the third and final presidential debate on foreign policy. It was within that context that both GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Obama steered the debate to their best domestic policy ideas for regaining the United States’ position as a global leader in, well, just about everything. It’ll start with education reform, Obama and Romney both said.

“Over the long term, in order for us to compete with China, we’ve also got to make sure, though, that we’re taking — taking care of business here at home,” Obama said on Monday. “If we don’t have the best education system in the world, if we don’t continue to put money into research and technology that will allow us to create great businesses here in the United States, that’s how we lose the competition.”

Obama’s couched his education reform agenda in a global competitiveness frame for years, and he repeated his talking points again last night. And indeed, it became the essence of both Obama and Romney’s education remarks for the night. That is, that the mandate for United States classrooms is to out-educate American students to beat back the specter of China. For Romney’s part, improving the U.S. education system made it to point three of Romney’s famed five-point plan, which he reiterated again last night.

Romney touted Massachusetts’ top school rankings and took credit for those gains while Obama spoke about his commitment to hiring more teachers and his administration’s Race to the Top, a competitive grants program to compel states to adopt Obama’s school reform strategies in exchange for cash.

But the most heated exchange on education came via class sizes, a topic that the Obama campaign has seized on as a way of distancing the president from Romney, who this spring said that “Just getting smaller classrooms didn’t seem to be the key,” arguing, ABC reported, that the issue was something “that’s promoted by the teachers unions to hire more teachers.”

Debate Avoided Immigration Due to Narrow Foreign Policy Focus

Debate Avoided Immigration Due to Narrow Foreign Policy Focus

I watched the debates from a lively Brooklyn bar where a crowd of locals listened intently as Obama and Romney listed countries that they might bomb or already have. They threw jabs at China and Romney said he loves teachers and hates food stamps for good measure, but for the most part, the candidates had a myopic conversation about foreign policy that predictably drew artificial lines around what is foreign and what is domestic.

It should have come as no surprise that war making and security threats made up the bulk of last nights debates. As Ezra Klein wrote yesterday, arguing that the domestic/foreign policy divide fails to recognize that our national problems can’t be solved in isolation:

Washington’s definitions of “domestic policy” and “foreign policy” haven’t kept up with the real world. When you hear the term “domestic policy” in the Beltway, it means economic policy, health-care reform, financial regulation, energy. “Foreign policy” means, broadly speaking, our policy towards the countries we are already at war with, or are considered likely to eventually go to war with. But the actual policies don’t break down so neatly.

Think, for example, of immigration. Nary a word was given on the subject. Properly understood, immigration is a foreign policy issues as much as it is a domestic or social one. Global migration is tied directly to US-supported, global free-trade policies that propel millions to leave Mexico and Central America for the United States. But this went unmentioned, aside from one sentence from Romney, promising to “increase” trade with Latin America.

Nor was there mention of the raging drug war south of the border that’s left tens of thousands dead and continues to drive migration.

Immigration is not a sufficiently important foreign policy issues because the U.S. has declared no wars in Latin America. But because our domestic policy discussions stop at our borders, substantive discussion of migration beyond who we will and will not deport was similarly excluded from earlier debates.

These are not just rhetorical omissions. The failure to recognize that our most fraught domestic issues are tied to global politics and economics, helps make those issues intractable.

The foreign and domestic policy debate structure may be about as antiquated as those bayonets Romney got zinged with last night.

Orlando Cruz, Gay Boxer, Wins First Fight Since Coming Out

Orlando Cruz, Gay Boxer, Wins First Fight Since Coming Out

Earlier this month featherweight Puerto Rican boxer Orlando Cruz made history by identifying himself as a “proud gay man.” With those words, Cruz became the first openly gay man in pro boxing.

This past Sunday Cruz was greeted with cheers as he walked in to the Kissimmee Civic Center outside of Orlando.

Cruz, 31, went on to win his fight against the Mexican boxer Jorge Pazos.

“I was very happy that they respect me. That’s what I want — them to see me as a boxer, as an athlete and as a man in every sense of the word,” Cruz told the AP after his fight.

The AP describes the scene as Cruz walked out on to the Kissimmee Civic Center boxing ring:

But as soon as he walked out to a cheering crowd displaying flags of his native Puerto Rico, boxing’s first openly gay fighter could finally breathe and do what he came to do, slugging his way to a victory by unanimous decision over Jorge Pazos.

Out.com published quotes Cruz made explaining why it was important for him to come out on October 4, 2012:

The No. 4-ranked featherweight by the WBO, said, “I’ve been fighting for more than 24 years and as I continue my ascendant career, I want to be true to myself…I want to try to be the best role model I can be for kids who might look into boxing as a sport and a professional career. I have and will always be a proud Puerto Rican. I have always been and always will be a proud gay man.”

Cruz told the AP he has even bigger dreams after Sunday’s fight.

“This fight’s going to open my door for a world title fight,” Cruz said. “That’s my dream, my mom’s dream, my community’s dream and my team’s.”

Cruz’s mother was by his side throughout the evening on Sunday.

Trayvon Martin’s Parents Launch Fund to Fight Stand Your Ground Laws

Trayvon Martin's Parents Launch Fund to Fight Stand Your Ground Laws

The parents of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin have launched a new fund and political committee to challenge “Stand Your Ground” laws across the country.

Funds donated to the Change For Trayvon CCE will be distributed to candidates , elected officials and efforts which support the mission of the Change For Trayvon (i.e. revising Stand Your Ground laws across the nation to ensure there is judicial or prosecutorial oversight).

Russell Means Voiced the Most Powerful Scene of Disney’s ‘Pocahontas’

Russell Means Voiced the Most Powerful Scene of Disney's 'Pocahontas'

For many of those born in the 1980s and 1990s the first time they heard Russell C. Means’ voice was in Disney’s 1995 animated film “Pocahontas.” Russell, who was Oglala Sioux, was the voice of Powhatan, Pocahontas’ father.

But little did young viewers know that in 1969, Means was part of a group of American Indians that occupied Alcatraz Island to call attention to the nation’s history of injustices against its indigenous peoples. Later that year, Means was one of the leaders that organized the takeover of Mount Rushmore.

Means, the first national director of the American Indian Movement (AIM) rose to national attention in 1970 by directing a band of Indian protesters who seized the Mayflower II ship replica at Plymouth, Mass., on “Thanksgiving Day.”

There is obviously plenty to debate about how accurately the Disney film portrays American Indian history but take a look at one of the opening scenes above that establishes Pocahontas as a strong woman and Disney’s first Princess of color.

“My daughter speaks with the wisdom beyond her years. We have all come here with anger in our hearts, but she comes with courage and understanding,” Russell’s character says about Pocahontas.

“From this day forward, if there is to be more killing it will not start with me.”

Russell C. Means died on Monday at the age of 72. Read his obituary to learn more about his history, including criticism he received for taking on roles in Hollywood.

Russell Means, Oglala Sioux Activist and Actor, Dies at 72

Russell Means, Oglala Sioux Activist and Actor, Dies at 72

Russell C. Means, the Oglala Sioux who used sometimes controversial protests to call attention to the nation’s history of injustices against its indigenous peoples, died on Monday at his ranch in Porcupine, S.D., on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He was 72.

In 1969, Means was part of a group of American Indians that occupied Alcatraz Island for a period of 19 months. Later that year, Russell Means was one of the leaders that organized the takeover of Mount Rushmore.

Means, the first national director of the American Indian Movement (AIM) rose to national attention in 1970 by directing a band of Indian protesters who seized the Mayflower II ship replica at Plymouth, Mass., on “Thanksgiving Day.”

In 1972, he participated in the takeover of the Bureau of Indian Affairs office in Washington, D.C. Later that year came one of the AIM’s most well-known actions, the occupation of the town of Wounded Knee, South Dakota on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

In the 1990s Means appeared in films such as “The Last of the Mohicans,” “Natural Born Killers” and was the voice of Powhatan in Disney’s “Pocahontas.” .

Initially diagnosed with esophageal cancer during the summer of 2011, Means opted to forgo Western medicine methods of chemotherapy and radiation to treat his cancer, Native Sun News reported earlier this month. Means fought his cancer using methods more attuned to his Lakota spirituality, including prayer.

Indian Country Today Media Network published a statement made by Means’ son Scott Means:

“My dad now walks among our ancestors. He began his journey to the spirit world at 4:44 a.m. with the morning star, at his home and ranch in Porcupine[, South Dakota]. There will be four opportunities for the people to honor his life; to be announced at a later date. Thank you for your prayers and continued support. We love you. As our dad and husband would say, ‘May the Great Mystery continue to guide and protect the paths of you and your loved ones.’”

According to the AP obitituary, Means credited his organization the American Indian Movement with bringing Native Americans a sense of pride.

Anonymous Funder Pulls ‘Voter Fraud’ Billboards Rather Than Reveal Itself

Anonymous Funder Pulls 'Voter Fraud' Billboards Rather Than Reveal Itself

The anonymous funder of more than 140 threatening billboards in black and Latino neighborhoods across Ohio and Wisconsin has chosen to take down the ads rather than identify itself, according to Reuters. The billboards played on the myth of “voter fraud,” invoking law and order images like a judge’s gavel over the words “Voter Fraud Is a Felony!” and listing jail time as punishment.

Civil rights groups charged the billboards were meant to frighten lawful and confused voters away from the polls. Color of Change launched a petition demanding Clear Channel remove the ads, as the company has done previously with campaigns it deemed too controversial.

According to Reuters, Clear Channel belatedly invoked its policy against anonymous political advertising. When offered the choice between identifying itself and removing the ads, the “private family foundation” behind them chose to take them down, Clear Channel said.

Romney Family Invests in ‘Faulty’ Voting Machines That Will be Used in Ohio

Mitt Romney, his wife, son and brother are major investors in an investment firm that holds a majority share and three out of five board members in the company that owns the “notoriously faulty” electronic voting machines that will count the ballots in swing state Ohio November 7.

In other words, Mitt along with brother G. Scott Romney and Ann and Tagg Romney,  have a straight-line financial interest in the company Hart Intercivic that will provide voting machines in the state that insiders predict will be this election’s key to the Electoral College final outcome.

No Republican candidate has ever won the White House without winning Ohio.

Free Press report has more details:

Through a closely held equity fund called Solamere, Mitt Romney and his wife, son and brother are major investors in an investment firm called H.I.G. Capital. H.I.G. in turn holds a majority share and three out of five board members in Hart Intercivic, a company that owns the notoriously faulty electronic voting machines that will count the ballots in swing state Ohio November 7. Hart machines will also be used elsewhere in the United States.

i-voted-stickers.pngOn their website, Hart Intercivic touts itself as a national provider of election voting systems, management products and services, “total solutions for state-, county- and city-level elections.” The company sells everything from the voting machines, voting booths and even the “I voted” stickers that voters get after they hand in their ballots. (Image to the right was taken from Hart’s catalog.)  

The Hart Intercivic machines were part of a test conducted in 2007 by the Ohio Secretary of State that found some of the voting systems had failed the test.

As reported in the New York Times, “At polling stations, teams working on the study were able to pick locks to access memory cards and use hand-held devices to plug false vote counts into machines. At boards of election, they were able to introduce malignant software into servers.”

Free Press goes on to offer some historical context of the faulty machines:

In 2004, in the dead of election night, an electronic swing of more than 300,000 votes switched Ohio from the John Kerry column to George W. Bush, giving him a second term. A virtual statistical impossibility, the 6-plus% shift occurred between 12:20 and 2am election night as votes were being tallied by a GOP-controlled information technology firm on servers in a basement in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In defiance of a federal injunction, 56 of Ohio’s 88 counties destroyed all election records, making a recount impossible. Ohio’s governor and secretary of state in 2004 were both Republicans, as are the governors and secretaries of state in nine key swing states this year.

To make matters even more interesting, Forbes is reporting today that two members of the Hart Intercivic board of directors have made direct contributions to the Romney campaign. Forbes reports:

To everyone’s amazement, we learn that two members of the Hart Intercivic board of directors, Neil Tuch and Jeff Bohl, have made direct contributions to the Romney campaign. This, despite the fact that they represent 40 percent of the full board of directors of a company whose independent, disinterested and studiously non-partisan status in any election taking place on their voting machines would seemingly be a ‘no brainer’.

To Mr. Bohl’s credit, after giving a total of $4,000 to “Romney For President”, it must have occurred to him that it might not look so good for a board member of a company whose voting machines are to be a part of the presidential election to be playing favorites—so he gave $250 to Barack Obama to sort of balance the scales.

This latest controversy just adds to the list of questionable tactics GOP groups have made in Ohio to ensure their party’s success come November.

Last week the Supreme Court refused a Republican request to get involved in a dispute about early voting in Ohio. The state’s Republican Secretary of State tried to end early voting before Election Day, which many black churches took advantage of in their “souls to the polls” campaigns that bussed voters to the polls after Sunday service.

President Obama currently holds a five-point lead over Romney in Ohio, according to a new Quinnipiac University/CBS News poll.

According to the 2010 United States Census, Ohio is made up of 81.1% “Non-Hispanic Whites,” 12.2% blacks and 3.1% Latinos.

Colorlines.com’s voting rights reporters Brentin Mock and Aura Bogoda have covered election news in Ohio more closely. Visit Colorlines.com/tag/Ohio to see a list of the most recent coverage from Ohio.

Marco Rubio Breaks With Romney on China: ‘Not Good Policy’ and Will ‘Hurt’ Americans

Marco Rubio Breaks With Romney on China: 'Not Good Policy' and Will 'Hurt' Americans

One day before the final presidential debate, Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., an ardent Mitt Romney supporter, said he disagrees with the GOP presidential candidate’s promise to label China a currency manipulator on his first day in office.

On CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday, Rubio said he feared this could lead to a trade war.

Rubio’s comments from ‘Face the Nation’ on Sunday are below:

RUBIO: I agree with Mitt Romney that China is a currency manipulator. I believe that a trade war is not the best way to approach it and I think that you label them a currency manipulator that’s what it may result. It will hurt American businesses. But I understand his frustration. We may have to do what governor Romney is saying. We may have to label them a currency manipulator but the ideal way to deal with it because we both have a lot to lose here. China has a lot to lose here too in a trade war. It wouldn’t be good for either one of our economies. So hopefully we can avoid that. It may come to that. But I hope we can avoid that. A Center for American Progress Action Fund report published in March 2012 came to a similar conclusion [PDF]: Romney says he will label China a currency manipulator on Day 1 of his administration. But he does not say what he will do on Day 2. Declaring China a manipulator is a symbolically hostile gesture, coming as it would before he will have ever met or spoken to any Chinese leader. And yet what this designation requires is entering into talks with Beijing, made all the more difficult by the declaration itself. […]

Not only is the approach needlessly antagonistic, it is also ineffective. The last thing China’s leaders will do is invite criticism from their own nationalist base by bowing to a hostile, unilateral American demand — even though a more appropriately valued currency will benefit the Chinese economy over the long run.

In July 2012, Rubio also made national headlines when he criticized Romney for supporting arming Syrian rebels.

Rubio also had tough comments for President Obama on Sunday.

“The president has no plans for the next four years,” Rubio said on “Face the Nation” Sunday. “Tomorrow is his last chance to tell us what he’s going to do in the next four years.”

New Poll Shows More Young, Poor People of Color Identify as LGBT

New Poll Shows More Young, Poor People of Color Identify as LGBT

The largest population-based survey of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual and Transgender people ever conducted in the U.S. found LGBT identity is highest among those who are younger, non-white and low income. The Gallup survey released Thursday found 4.6% of blacks, 4.3% of Asians, 4% of Latinos and 3.2% of whites identify themselves as LGBT.

The Gallup poll was released the same day a Pew Hispanic Center study that found “rapidly growing support for same-sex marriage among Latinos, mirroring growing support among the general public.”

The Pew report found more Latinos favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally (52%) than oppose same-sex marriage (34%). Among Latino Catholics that favor allowing gays and lesbians that number is even higher (54%).

The Gallup Survey found nonwhite individuals are more likely to identify as LGBT:

Nonwhites are more likely than white segments of the U.S. population to identify as LGBT. The survey results show that 4.6% of African-Americans identify as LGBT, along with 4.0% of Hispanics and 4.3% of Asians. The disproportionately higher representation of LGBT status among nonwhite population segments corresponds to the slightly below-average 3.2% of white Americans who identified as LGBT.

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Overall, a third of LGBT-identifiers are nonwhite (33%), compared with 27% of non-LGBT individuals.

Gallup Survey: LGBT Americans Tend to Have Lower Income

More than 5% of those with incomes of less than $24,000 a year identify as LGBT, a higher proportion than among those with higher incomes — including 2.8% of those making $60,000 a year or more.

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Among those who report income, about 16% of LGBT-identified individuals have incomes above $90,000 per year, compared with 21% of the overall adult population. Additionally, 35% of those who identify as LGBT report incomes of less than $24,000 a year, significantly higher than the 24% for the population in general. These findings are consistent with research showing that LGBT people are at a higher risk of poverty.

These data also explain why LGBT Americans are less satisfied with their standard of living than non-LGBT Americans. Nearly three-quarters of non-LGBT individuals (73%) say they are satisfied with their standard of living, compared with less than two-thirds (65%) of LGBT individuals.

“It helps to counter what I think are some inappropriate stereotypes of the LGBT community,” the report’s lead author, demographer Gary Gates of the Williams Institute at the University of California-Los Angeles told USA Today. “If you spend a lot of time watching network television, you would think most LGBT people are rich white men who live in big cities. These data suggest the LGBT community reflects more of the diversity in the U.S. population.”

The Gallup and Pew study released this week debunks many stereotypes about blacks and Latinos being overwhelmingly homophobic.

In 2008, after Californians voters passed Prop. 8 and banned same-sex marriage many news outlets including national agencies like CNN blamed blacks and Latinos for banning gay marriage because of their increase turnout. That was quickly debunked.

Most recently, in an apparent outreach to Latino voters, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney regularly reminds them that as president he’ll protect the sanctity of marriage—as if gay marriage trumps immigration, economy, education and healthcare reform for Latinos.

“These findings show that Latinos aren’t going to be as easy to mobilize against gay marriage as the right might wish,” said Rinku Sen, president of the Applied Research Center, Colorlines.com’s publisher.

“There are a numerous examples of Latino organizations like Causa and PCUN in Oregon taking up LGBT rights and emerging organizations representing gay Latinos, while LGBT organizations have spoken out on immigrant rights issues like the DREAM Act and police harassment of day laborers.

Oregon’s Causa, an immigrant rights organization, and PCUN, a farmworker union, are profiled in ARC’s “Better Together” report. The study highlights racial justice groups currently engaging lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQ) constituencies and equity issues to improve opportunities to greater engagement.

Most recently in Los Angeles, home to the nation’s largest enclave of undocumented immigrants, The LA Gay & Lesbian Center; Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund and City of West Hollywood hosted a discussion called “Coming Out of the Shadows - LGBTQ and Undocumented.” The discussion that included LGBTQ undocumented teens was organized to “heighten awareness about the realities faced by many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people living in America without legal citizenship.”

DOJ Monitoring Early Voting in True the Vote’s Homebase

Today the U.S. Department of Justice announced that they will be monitoring early voting in Dallas and Harris County, Texas to make sure Voting Rights Act laws are being followed. Coincidentally, DOJ visited Harris County to monitor voting during congressional elections in 2010 also. And it just so happens that Harris County is the homebase for True the Vote, and the King Street Patriots tea party group they grew from.

It was also during those 2010 elections that DOJ began looking into True the Vote’s activities after waves of complaints came in from Harris County voters — mostly black and Latino — that poll watchers were getting all up in their faces, as reported by Talking Points Memo’s Ryan Reilly and American Prospect’s Abby Rapaport.

DOJ’s announcement today doesn’t say their monitoring is related to True the Vote. Meanwhile, the “election integrity” group referred to by civil rights groups as “ballot bullies” have suffered quite a pummeling in the past month with lawyers and government officials responding to their elections tampering and Rep. Elijah Cummings demanding documents that show their poll watching and voter registration list research operations. Earlier this week, I reported that True the Vote is now trying to cash out by suing states over spurious “injury” claims to collect taxpayer money to fund their operations.

Read more about Voting Rights Watch 2012’s True the Vote coverage here.

How are Obama and Romney Spending Their Campaign Money?

How are Obama and Romney Spending Their Campaign Money?

Over the past four months, President Barack Obama’s campaign travel expenses have totaled a cool $3 million. But GOP challenger Mitt Romney has tripled that and then some: the former governor has poured close to $10 million into travel for himself and his staff, according to FlipKey. Check out the breakdown below.

FlipKey is a vacation rental site majority owned by travel site TripAdvisor. The story was submitted by Colorlines.com reader Daniel W., who happens to work at FlipKey.

(If you’ve got a story idea tweet me @thisisjorge.)

Zimmerman Defense Turns To Trayvon Martin’s Facebook, School Records

Zimmerman Defense Turns To Trayvon Martin's Facebook, School Records

Attorneys for former neighborhood watch leader George Zimmerman are expected to argue for the right to subpoena the social media accounts of Trayvon Martin. The attorneys for the man who shot Trayvon Martin to death will make the request Friday.

Defense attorney Mark O’Mara says Martin’s social media pages have disappeared from the Internet.

“We have not been able to find accounts that we know were there or that we have anecdotal evidence that they existed at one point, which means they were there and now they are not,” said attorney Mark O’Mara, according to WFTV.

O’Mara also said he wants to see school records from two high schools and a middle school, alongside archives of Martin’s activity on Twitter and Facebook.

Martin’s parents released a statement through their attorney saying, “Trayvon’s parents maintain that his school records and Facebook page are completely irrelevant. Is this going to be a new legal standard we are setting for a murderer to review the school records and Facebook page of his teenage victim to determine whether or not he should have killed him?”

Man Wins Lottery After Dropping Out of College to Help Single Mom

Man Wins Lottery After Dropping Out of College to Help Single Mom

Sandeep Singh, 22, from Cape Cod, had been working two jobs to help his single mom pay their mortgage. But now he can quit both jobs because he just won the $30 Mega Millions jackpot.

Singh started working when he was 14 to help his mom pay bills after his father passed away. At a press conference Wednesday he told reporters the prize money will allow him to stop working at Best Buy and Citizens Bank, and will enable him to return to college. His mother, a cook at a local resort, will also have the option of leaving her job now.

When asked if there was a lucky lady in his life with whom to share his winnings, Singh said: “No lucky girlfriend, just broke up with her.”

“Thank god,” he said before clarifying that she in fact dumped him.

A reporter went on to ask Singh if he planned moving out of mom’s house now that he’s a millionaire.

“We’ll probably all move—she’s a single mom, I mean, she doesn’t want to live alone so she can live with me,” Singh answered.

The charming $30.5 million rich Singh mentioned his mother at least a dozen times during the conference. He also repeatedly referred to his win as “our family’s” win.

Singh says he’ll take the lump sum.

DREAMers Call Romney’s Latest Spanish Language Ad Deceptive

Mitt Romney is repeating big promises he made to the immigrant community this week during the presidential debate. And this time, his campaign’s doing it in a new Spanish language ad. But immigrant rights groups say Romney’s misrepresenting his hardline anti-immigrant agenda, and today called on the Romney campaign to take the ad down.

“We need real solutions on immigration, and real talk,” said Erika Andiola, the political director of the Dream Action Coalition. “And we need to stop using empty words for the Latino community.” The empty words Andiola was referring to are from the ad released yesterday, wherein a narrator highlights President Obama’s well-known failure to get comprehensive immigration reform passed in his first term the way he promised to on the 2008 campaign trail. “Now, the Democrats say they never made a promise,” the woman says.

The narrator then says that Romney, meanwhile, has worked on a bipartisan plan to reunite families, establish a system for work permits and offer “permanent solutions” for undocumented young people, against a backdrop of images of a rather pleased looking Romney signing a bill, and Romney standing next tea party darling and Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio. The implication being that Romney would do what President Obama didn’t.

Andiola and other undocumented youth joined by other immigrant rights organizations said that the reality of Romney’s immigration record—in which he vetoed a state version of the DREAM Act when he was governor of Massachusetts, and during which he’s praised Arizona’s SB 1070 and staffed his immigration advisory committee with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the famed architect of SB 1070 and copycat laws like it—tells a very different story.

“I have to say the ad is a fraud,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, the D.C.-based immigration reform advocacy organization. Sharry said that much like other statements on immigration Romney’s made this fall, one day announcing a pro-immigrant stance and the next day having those remarks “clarified,” which is to say recanted, this ad represents more of that kind of tactic.

For instance, just this month, Romney declared that he’d protect the two-year deferred action program for undocumented youth if elected.

“The people who received the special visa that the president has put in place, which is a two-year visa, should expect that the visa would continue to be valid,” Romney told the Denver Post in a surprise announcement. And yet, the very next day his campaign said that actually, Romney would not continue the program once elected.

The real evidence of Romney’s actual leanings lie in who he’s taking his immigration advice from, Sharry said. Kobach and Roy Beck, founder of the immigration restrictionnist organization NumbersUSA, which has attempted to roll back birthright citizenship for children born in the U.S. to immigrant parents, and tried to tie environmental concerns to his anti-immigrant agenda, among just a few of his pet projects.

Despite the warm tone Romney’s projecting toward Latino voters, who prefer President Obama by a wide margin, immigrant rights groups say Romney’s actual stance on immigration policy is far less friendly to the Latino community.

A True Army Responds to True the Vote Threats

Whatever shenanigans True the Vote and their tea party cells had or has in plans for November will run up against a brick wall in the form of civil rights lawyers and government officials who are striking back against threats to corrupt voting rights. News reports from across the nation this week are showing a formidable resistance to True the Vote’s operations, which include recruiting “a million” poll watchers and poll workers, and making voters feel “like driving and seeing the police follow you.”

It’s clear at this point that they won’t come anywhere close to a million, but whoever they recruit will be met at the polls by a much larger squad, an election protection team consisting of thousands of lawyers and poll watchers trained to answer any questions voters may have if approached or challenged by tea partiers who try to kirk out at the polls.

A few examples:

  • A group of Ohio state senators sent a letter to Sec. of State Jon Husted warning him of plans from True the Vote and their state affiliate Ohio Voter Integrity Project to challenge voters illegally. Sec. Husted responded by stating “he will act swiftly to investigate and seek prosecution of any offenders,” of voter intimidation, as reported by the Columbus Dispatch.
  • The Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights (IREHR) released a report about True the Vote’s infiltration and influence throughout the North Carolina electoral landscape, particularly through their local affiliate North Carolina Voter Integrity Project. While True the Vote says that they don’t target communities of color, the IREHR has mapped out predominantly African American communities where it reports True the Vote’s recruits will be focused (see below).

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  • The labor group AFL-CIO held a conference call this morning where it discussed the deployment of its Lawyers Coordinating Committee, part of their My Vote, My Right voter protection program. Lawyers from Florida, Pennsylvania and Nevada described how they have already been fending off challenges and voter suppression efforts from True the Vote and their affiliates, well in advance of Election Day. Florida attorney Alma Gonzalez said their lawyer team is in regular communications with all but one of Florida’s county elections supervisors about True the Vote and have successfully blunted purges demanded by True the Vote’s recruits — the lone standout being Collier County, where purging has commenced. Said Gonzalez, “We have also communicated directly to True the Vote and (their local affiliate) Tampa Vote Fair that we are ready and we are watching them. We will also have poll monitors where we have seen Tampa Fair Vote’s efforts undertaken in order to protect those voters in those areas.”

  • Ari Berman reports in this week’s The Nation about the national Election Protection team, known by most voters by their help line 1-866-OUR-VOTE. Berman zoned in on Virginia where True the Vote’s affiliate Virginia Voters Alliance has been drumming up pipe dreams about “a tsunami of voter fraud” while recruiting and training hundreds of tea partiers for Election Day confrontations. But “The Election Protection coalition has been preparing for months to deal with voter suppression laws and vigilante groups,” writes Berman.

It’s probably especially important to have election protection forces in place in Virginia given that one of True the Vote’s most trusted advisors, Hans von Spakovsky, will be running elections there in Fairfax County. And that’s the thing — many people are focused on the damage True the Vote could do outside the polls, as watchers. But few are looking at their inside game, where they have positioned themselves to be selected as poll workers, the actual front line between you and the poll booth, and the eyes and hands handling provisional ballots. Thanks to a lot of great reporting and coverage, though, election protectors are hip to True the Vote’s game.

Mark Your Calendars: Trial Date Set for George Zimmerman

Mark Your Calendars: Trial Date Set for George Zimmerman

At a hearing on Wednesday, a trial date was announced for the man who killed Trayvon Martin. And it’s far away. George Zimmerman, the self-appointed neighborhood watchman who shot and killed the Florida teen in February will finally face his second-degree murder charges on June 10, 2013.

But, writes Los Angeles Times reporter Michael Muskal, there’s a chance Zimmerman could avoid a trial altogether:

Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson set the date, but the defense said there were still several issues pending, including a self-defense immunity hearing. Zimmerman has argued that he shot Martin in self-defense and acted legally under Florida’s “stand uour ground” law.

In a later tweet, defense attorneys said they would seek a stand-your-ground hearing in April or May. If they are successful, Zimmerman would not face trial in the shooting.

Trial details may be yet be uncertain, but some facts are undisputed. Martin was walking home the night of February 26 from the corner store, armed with those lethal weapons known as a bag of Skittles and an iced tea. And Zimmerman, on his neighborhood watch and armed with a gun, left his car against the directions of a 911 dispatcher he called. In a matter of minutes Martin was dead.

Catch up on the details of the initial incident here.

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