In Albuquerque, NM, Long Beach, CA, and San Jose, CA—all of the places Tuesday where an initiative to raise wages for working people was on the ballot—voters voted with strong (between three-fifths and two-thirds majorities) to raise the wage.
In Albuquerque, voters approved by 66 percent an initiative to raise the minimum wage in the city from $7.50 an hour to $8.50 an hour.
In San Jose, an idea that was started initially in a sociology class at San Jose State University led to students organizing and leading a campaign to raise the city’s minimum wage from the state minimum of $8 per hour to $10 per hour. Voters approved the measure by a 59 percent to 41 percent margin. And in Long Beach, a union-backed campaign to raise the minimum wage at hotels with more than 100 employees to $13 per hour and mandating five paid sick days per year passed easily. Unions mobilized for the measure, hoping that its passage would make it easier to organize the Long Beach hotel and tourism industry.
Nationwide, the minimum wage has languished at $7.25 for workers since 2009.
The victories will likely give momentum to efforts in other states to raise the minimum wage (strong pushes are likely next year in Illinois and New York), and on the federal level, where Tom Harkin has proposed raising the wage to $9.80 per hour by 2014. There are 4.5 million workers in the United States who work at or below the minimum wage.
The crowd at Obama’s now-officially-a-victory-rally went absolutely nuts when MSNBC, the first network to make the call, announced that Obama had won re-election. The pandemonium lasted through CNN’s subsequent call, though alas everyone here was denied the pleasure of seeing Fox News call the race.
A defiant rendition of “How You Like Me Now” blasted from the speaker system, and I’m not sure people have stopped dancing. Cheers erupt as different results continue to flash by overhead—including, I should note, the passage of two marijuana legalization initiatives in Colorado and Washington state.
Now we await the president (re)-elect.
Supporters of President Barack Obama react to favorable media projections at the McCormick Place during an election night watch party in Chicago on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
Georgia has passed its first constitutional amendment, effectively reinstating the Georgia Charter Schools Commission and allowing it to authorize charter schools. The measure was extremely controversial, with critics saying that the commission would undermine local control of public schools.
In Washington, the only other state to have a charter school measure on the ballot this year, an initiative allowing the creation of up to forty charter schools over the next five years appears to have narrowly passed by less than 2.5 percent. Three previous measures on charter schools had been put to the vote in Washington, each of them soundly rejected, in 1996, 2000 and 2004.
Now that Obama has it in the bag, here’s an update of some of tonight’s key ballot initiatives:
Tonight was a strong showing for legalization advocates, with marijuana reform likely to pass in both Colorado and Washington. (With 47 percent reporting, 55 percent in Oregon have opposed legalization initiatives).
Medical marijuana passed by a landslide in Massachusetts, but was struck down in Arkansas and Montana.
Prop 34 in California, which proposes an abolition of the death penalty, is facing 52 percent opposition, with 17 percent reporting. (Some prison reform activists actually oppose the proposition. Find out why here.)
Maryland voters approved a referendum that will allow undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at public colleges.
Florida rejected eight of a historic eleven ballot measures to amend the state’s constitution, including an effort to block Obama’s individual mandate.
A little after 11 pm, media outlets have called Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin and New Hampshire for Obama. If those results hold, a Romney victory is impossible, even though the GOP candidate took North Carolina. Close races remain in Florida, Virginia, Colorado and Nevada—but the results in those states will not impact the outcome of the electoral college race. Obama wins!
It's a big night for Obama, newly-elected (progressive, pro-choice, female) Senate Democrats, and for marriage equality! As of this writing, the pro-marriage equality side is in the lead in all four states voting on ballot initiatives this year. Maine and Maryland have both approved ballot initiatives to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. And it looks like Minnesota will defeat their constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. We'll have to wait a little longer for the results in vote-by-mail-state Washington, where voters are also considering same-sex marriage.
And in other LGBT news, Tammy Baldwin becomes our first openly gay senator, beating Republican Tommy Thompson, who notoriously told Tea Partiers that he would "do away" with Medicare and Medicaid! Baldwin deeply concerned about the social safety net and jobs and fair trade. Read our interview with her here.
They were insane at the Warren party in a gilded ballroom at the Fairmont Copley. I’ve never spent election night with a campaign before, but I don’t think I’ll ever spend election night at home alone again. It’s a rock concert for politics nerds. A tall, lanky investment manager next to me, grinning, said that he wanted Donna Brazile to run for something; he could listen to her recite the phone book. With two huge screens up front cycling among the regional cable news and various TV news stations, the screams got louder every time the numbers flashed on screen. Every color that you can find in Massachusetts was here: ruddy faces descended from the Irish, gray no-product hair and purple fleece vests from the Peoples Republic of Cambridge, young white guys with square glasses and cool sideburns, Harvard law students with perfectly plucked eyebrows, black guys in dreads, a range of brown tones from south Asia to south of the border. Shoulder to shoulder, so jammed it was hard to make it through the room, they were beaming, grinning, screaming like rock fans, delirious with glee. A woman all in blue—blue dress, blue eye shadow, bright blue earrings, jangling with silver jewelry—grinned and bounced on her toes, screaming to me, “I can’t stand the excitement!” She looked like she might levitate like Mary Poppins, bouncing off the ceiling.
Democrat Elizabeth Warren waves to the crowd before giving her victory speech after defeating incumbent GOP Sen. Scott Brown in the Massachusetts Senate race, during an election night rally at the Fairmont Copley Plaza hotel in Boston, Tuesday, November 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
They roared with happiness at all the small victories: the youngest Joe Kennedy taking Barney Frank’s seat. They adore the Kennedys, here in Massachusetts. “I know what his people believe,” one African-American church deacon told me. “I would vote for any Kennedy anywhere.” They cheered as Republican Richard Tisei lost to the besmirched John Tierney, keeping the Massachusetts House delegation all Democrat. “He may be a felon, but he’s our felon,” one political operative grinned. They roared as Linda McMahon went down in flames in our neighboring state Connecticut, saving that state from humiliation. They roared every time Obama won another state: Vermont, New Hampshire, Michigan.
Then it came: CNN called it for Warren, up there on screen. I thought my eardrums would pop as they screamed, fists in the air. “Write down that a young Warren volunteer is elated by the news!” a young lawyer who’d staffed an “election protection” hotline screamed into my ear. “It was the professor versus the jock, and the professor won!” The Asian woman in purple fleece roared, “The people got their seat back!” The sound system played Bruce Springsteen, of course, now mandatory for all Democratic functions: “No retreat, baby, and no surrender.”
It was an incredibly strange meta moment when, ahead of us on the huge screens, one of the fancy-haired TV ladies announced that she was here at the Warren ballroom and that that the room was screaming. On cue, the shoulder-to-shoulder motley room screamed, watching themselves pump their hands in the air. The sound system blasted out the Blackeyed Peas singing that Oprah birthday song, “It’s going to be a good good night!” A couple of young women in front of me did the choreographed dance that goes with that video, with almost no room to do their moves. They were chanting, “Warren! Warren! Warren!”
Dukakis and Kitty got up on stage to cheer the power of the grassroots organizing approach. He looked like a shepherd’s crook, tiny and frail, his face precisely as elfin and smiling as it was when we watched him lose the presidency at that rape question many years ago. The crowd roared. Our governor Deval Patrick got up, and the meta experience now was that a roomful of folks had their phones in the air, the new lighters, filming their governor turn the room into a call and response preaching session, telling us that this election said that “conviction matters (yes!), the grassroots matter (YES!), not just as strategy but as a philosophy: we believe you have to engage everyone, everybody has a palce in making our commonwealth and country strong.” They went crazy: these were the people who knocked on doors, papered every doorstep, made phone calls and were part of an astoundingly well-organized and thorough grassroots effort that in the end called one-fifth of the state, thanks to John Walsh.
John Kerry got up, and got the most screams the man can ever have received. He was the precursor, the predecessor, the one coming to tell us that Elizabeth was nigh. The room still had to wait through Scott Brown’s brave-faced concession speech, in which he appeared to name-check everyone he had ever met. They were polite at first, but as he weny on and on they started chanting. “Wrap it up! Wrap it up!” When Brown said that Warren was the next Massachusetts senator, the screaming was so loud it was a slash.
Elizabeth Warren came out. “You go, girl!” someone yelled, and she laughed so hard she could barely stand. “This victory belongs to you!” she said, beaming like a sun. “Let me be clear: I didn’t build that—YOU built that!” The cheering was off the charts. For a minute, she sounded like she was going to cry. “I won’t just be your Senator. I will always be your champion!”
Washington, DC—With the early returns showing Democrats winning key Senate races in Missouri, Indiana and Massachusetts, and the momentum tilting towards President Obama, the atmosphere at the Republican National Committee party in Washington, DC, started off low-key and spiraled into downtrodden immediately after the election was called for President Obama.
When the polls closed in a number of states at 11 pm, and Fox News on the giant screen behind the stage showed North Carolina going for Mitt Romney, the crowd breathed an audible sigh of relief. “Thank God,” said one middle-aged blond woman. “It’s about time,” added a male friend of hers, ruefully. They broke into broad smiles, but only momentarily. As Obama racked up a series of Western states, the reality slowly dawned on them that Obama had reached 244 Electoral College votes and was only one big state short of victory.
Read the rest of the post on my blog.
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Senator Sherrod Brown’s victory tonight brought some major lessons, with the most important one just spoken by State Senator Nina Turner at the Cuyahoga County Democrats watch party in downtown Cleveland: “Money cannot buy you Ohio!”
While we celebrate the repudiation of outrageous outside-group spending that made Ohio’s Senate race one of the nastiest and most expensive in the country, here are five more lessons from Brown’s victory that speak to its significance beyond Brown’s second term as part of what appears to be a small Democratic Senate majority:
1) Ohio voters have a substantial bullshit detector. They’re not about to elect a senator constantly caught with his pants on fire.
2) Ohio will elect a progressive candidate to represent a moderate state, if they show that they’re on the side of the little guy. Brown’s longstanding relationships with working class voters, of all races, endured despite attempts to paint him as a tax-and-spend Washington insider.
3) A Jewish Marine born and raised in Cleveland should have been a slam dunk for picking off voters in Cuyahoga County. Turns out Jews don’t just vote for their own when his positions are so extreme that they piss off even his own family.
4) This should be obvious, but don’t piss off police and firefighters. After the fight to repeal Senate Bill 5, which would have removed state workers’ right to collective bargaining, police unions were alienated from Governor John Kasich and Republicans by extension. The Friends of Police made its first endorsement of a Democrat since 1988 when they endorsed Sherrod Brown.
5) I really think deep down the Brown victory is all about that gravelly voice. Maybe we should ask the senator’s lovely wife, Connie, who has proved charmingly forthcoming about Sherrod’s most appealing qualities.
People are starting to fill up McCormick Place on Chicago’s waterfront as the election’s end draws near. Supporters are huddled around large overhead screens carrying the major news networks, waiting for states to fall. (Many younger folks are instead looking downward, eyes glues on smartphones.)
At this point, Obama only needs any one of either Florida, Virginia, Ohio or North Carolina to win in effect, and attendees seem to know it. I expect this place to go nuts if, or when, that happens—and then get truly packed.
— Al Gore (@algore) November 7, 2012
With nearly 50 percent in, progressive Elizabeth Warren has defeated incumbent Scott Brown for the high-profile Massachusetts Senate seat. After several fake early calls, NBC, CBS and CNN have called it in favor of Warren.
MSNBC is projecting that Senator Claire McCaskill held off Representative Todd Akin by sixteen points to keep her seat on Capitol Hill. McCaskill’s victory confirms that Todd Akin’s infamous positions on women’s health proved too extreme for Missouri voters. Akin was seen as a lock-in before August, when the congressman’s “legitimate rape” comments grabbed headlines and alienated him from his own party. It turns out a last-minute surge of contributions from donors desperate for a GOP majority wasn’t enough to save Akin’s campaign. This will be McCaskill’s second term in the US Senate.
In another strike against rape deniers, Richard Mourdock lost the Indiana senate seat to Democrat Joe Donnelly. With 77 percent in, Donnelly was up by 4 percent.
With most states closed, Obama has been projected to win in Wisconsin and New Hampshire. These results are not that surprising, but it means that Romney’s chances of winning are considerably diminished. As the New York Times interactive demonstrates, this now means that Obama has 118 ways to win, but Romney only has nine.
This year New Hampshire’s Maggie Hassan was the only prochoice Democratic woman running in a gubernatorial race. The only one! That alone made her New Hampshire race compelling. But the extremism of her opponent was truly breathtaking. Ovide Lamontagne, a Tea Partier who described himself as “Scott Walker on steroids,” distinguished himself with proposals to voucherize public education, allow the teaching of creationism in schools, ban gay marriage, criminalize abortion and outlaw many forms of birth control and fertility treatments. And if you think all that is standard Tea Party/religious right fare, consider this: he actually proposed to pull the state out of Medicare, turning the program into a state-administered block grant system. And he opposed accepting federal funds for Medicaid —a recipe, given states’ straitened circumstances, for fiscal disaster. So it’s pretty astounding that he was even taken seriously for a second. But thankfully voters showed some sanity and gave Maggie Hassan the victory she deserved. In the heat of her campaign—which, in true small town New Hampshire style featured no fewer than twelve debates—she stopped by the Nation offices and won over the editorial staff with her down-to-earth feminist rap, emphasizing her commitment to universal public kindergarten (which Lamontagne wanted to repeal) and to protecting women’s health and rights as critical to their personal freedom as well as their economic security. Okay, we weren’t the toughest crowd. But she was clearly the real deal. This is a win to celebrate tonight.
Washington, DC—The mood at the office of FreedomWorks—a cavern of white walls and working stations across the street from Union Station—is optimistic but nervous rather than ebullient. Preppy young white staffers and their friends mill around sipping expensive beers, switching between chatting about politics and refreshing web pages with the latest update from Florida. Cheers occasionally erupt, but it is misleading: a show for live TV broadcasts from the conference room, not reactions to actual results.
It seems absurd that, with fewer than 10 percent of the vote reported, with only a handful of districts clearly in, with the polls closed only an hour ago, some media outlets have already called Massachusetts for Warren. And yet I do believe that that will be the result. Here in Warren headquarters in the gilded ballroom at the Fairmount Copley, things are precisely as they look when you watch on TV. People are jammed shoulder to shoulder—a full array of Massachusetts types: union guys in jeans and watchcaps, men in business suits, young women in pink suits and the requisite ex-hippie with a gray ponytail. Refugees are here from the Obama party down the block, saying that the Warren room here has much more excitement. All the Massachusetts pols are working the lines, either on stage or on TV row: Dukakis is the elder statesmen, most prized, looking frail and bent over and exactly as you remember from television, sweet and somehow unelectable. Folks are cheering themselves hoarse every time the huge TV projections show Obama ahead in any state.
These people have knocked on doors, called hundreds of people, donated money, and are cheering when they hear a state politician calling out that Warren will be the first female senator from Massachusetts. They’re leaning over the balconies, waiting for our next senator to appear, eager to hear her and call her the victor. I think there will be dancing to Springsteen tonight.
Today, three states are voting on ballot initiatives that would legalize marijuana for the first time in the US, allowing adults over 21 to purchase small amounts of pot that was regulated and taxed by the state. Though seventeen states have legalized medical marijuana (which could climb to 19 depending on votes in Arkansas and Massachusetts today), it would mark the first time any state had allowed the sale of cannabis for recreational purposes.
Legalization advocates are playing defense in Montana, where voters will decide whether to repeal a medical marijuana bill that passed in 2004.
Recent polls from Public Policy Polling show significant leads for legalization initiatives in both Colorado and Washington. PPP polled 53 percent of Washington voters in support, and 52 percent of voters in Colorado. Oregon is looking less likely, with only 42 percent supporting and 49 percent opposed.
Support for legalization has hardly been split across party lines. In Washington, both governor candidates Jay Inslee (D) and Rob McKenna (R) oppose legalization, while Republican senate candidate Michael Baumgartner came out in support of the bill. Libertarian-leaning politicians and other Republicans in Colorado have endorsed regulating marijuana sales, including former congressman Tom Tancredo, while Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock have instead trumpeted “tough on drug crime” policies.
The ballot blurring between blue and red is likely due to the economic incentive to support legalization. “Our nation is spending tens of billions of dollars annually in an attempt to prohibit adults from using a substance objectively less harmful than alcohol,” wrote Tancredo in a September op-ed. Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron estimated that legalization would save $7.7 billion in federal funds used for drug law enforcement.
President Obama, however, has disputed these claims, saying that legalizing marijuana will not grow the economy. With the federal prohibition of marijuana still in place, many wonder what impact state-level initiatives would have, or whether the next president would seek to overturn such laws.
Civil rights advocates are also keeping a close watch on the initiatives, in hopes that if passed, it would mean thousands fewer being locked up for non-violent drug offenses. The ACLU reports that drug offenders make up 500,000 of our nation’s 2 million inmates.
With polls still open in Washington and Oregon, and less than 10 percent reporting from Colorado, the state of marijuana legalization—and the fate of nonviolent drug offenders—is yet to be decided.
With nearly 60 percent reporting, Democrat Bill Nelson is projected to hold on to his seat as Florida senator, against a challenge from Republican Representative Connie Mack. Nelson is ahead by 56 percent.
In Connecticut, the fifth-most-expensive senate race in the country, analysts have called a victory for Democrat Chris Murphy against Republican Linda McMahon. Though only 5 percent are reporting, Murphy is already ahead by 60 percent.
— Annie Shields (@anastasiakeeley) November 7, 2012
— Annie Shields (@anastasiakeeley) November 7, 2012
Ballot measures across the country will show how far the right-wing attacks on labor unions and public education have affected the national political consciousness.
In Alabama, a proposed constitutional amendment, Amendment 7, will eliminate the ability of companies to voluntarily enter in to “card check” agreements, wherein a company agrees to recognize a union if 50 percent + 1 (or a higher threshold) of employees sign union cards.
Amendment 4 is a cleverly disguised plan proposed by legislative Republicans to eliminate the segregation language from Alabama’s notoriously convoluted still-in-place Jim Crow constitution. The 1901 constitution guarantees separate schools for white and “colored” children, the amendment however could remove the constitutional guarantee to public education in general. The amendment is opposed by the Alabama Education Association and leading black political leaders.
In California, teachers and the labor movement as a whole are mobilizing for the passage of Prop 30, which will prevent devastating cutbacks for K12 education, and against Prop 32, which will severely limit the ability of unions to get involved in political campaigns. Prop 30, which will raise sales taxes from 7.25 percent to 7.5 percent and increases taxes on those making $250,000 per year and above, and as a result will raise at least $6 billion annually in revenue for the public sector. Molly Munger, the daughter of conservative billionaire Charles Munger, is sponsoring a competing initiative called Prop 38 that many worry will lead both measures to fail. Polls indicate Prop 30 in a dead heat, and Prop 32 likely leading to defeat.
In Washington, two measures are on the ballot that will affect public education as well as adequate funding for the public sector in general. The first, Initiative 1185, would reproduce terrible, since-eliminated rules in California that would require a two-thirds majority of the legislature to raise taxes. In California, the rules notoriously led to the state of California having to issue IOUs in 2009 and the downgrade of the state’s bond rating, massively increasing costs to taxpayers.
The second, Initiative 1240, would allow the introduction of up to forty charter schools in the state of Washington. Despite the fact that charter schools have been rejected twice by the state’s voters in the past eight years, education “reformers,” including noted Seattle resident Bill Gates, have decided to back it again.
Michigan has four ballot initiatives that the labor movement is organizing around. Proposal 1, supported by Republican Governor Rick Snyder, would approve his ability to appoint contract-busting and austerity-inducing “emergency managers” to autocratically take charge of counties, cities and school districts. Critics of the proposal have noted that the law disproportionately affects black communities. Recent polls have indicated the proposal will fail, in what will likely be a major victory for the black-led Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, which organized opposition to the bill and proposal.
Proposal 2, backed primarily by a coalition of unions led by the United Auto Workers, would enshrine collective bargaining rights in the state constitution, which would then protect union contracts and would likely prevent the passage of so-called “right-to-work” legislation in the state. Some grassroots activists have critiqued the proposal for enshrining the state’s ban on public sector strikes (a violation of conventions established by the International Labor Organization), but the labor movement is solidly behind it. Recent polls have shown the proposal in a dead heat. Proposal 4 would give homecare workers limited collective bargaining rates, and Proposal 5, would, like Washington, require a two-thirds majority of the legislature to raise taxes. Polls for the latter resolution show that it will be heading to defeat.
In Bridgeport, Connecticut, Michael Bloomberg has contributed $20,000 to help Mayor Bill Finch eliminate the directly elected school board and replace it with a panel appointed by his cronies. Voters will decide today if Bloomberg and Finch are right.
In Idaho, Republican state Superintendent Tom Luna is backing three proposals that would partially privatize the entirety of Idaho public education. Education historian Diane Ravitch has written extensively on the dangers the proposals pose to public education. As usual, Michael Bloomberg has contributed $200,000 to their passage. Proposal 1 would eliminate the ability of school boards to give tenure, Proposal 2 would institute merit pay, and Proposal 3 would require the completion of for-profit online coursework for Idaho students to graduate from high school.
In Arizona, pro-education groups are backing the renewal of a 1 percent sales tax for public education, while in Oregon, public-sector unions and teacher’s unions are opposing Measure 84, which would eliminate the state’s inheritance taxes and supporting Measure 85, which eliminates loopholes in the corporate tax structure to fund public education. In Illinois, unions, including the Chicago Teachers Union, are mobilizing against a measure (HJRCA 49) that would require a three-fifths majority of the legislature to increase pension benefits for public employees, and in Oklahoma, teachers are working against state questions 758 and 766, which by capping property tax increases and excluding “intangible” property from taxation would reduce funding for schools by $40 million per year.
Spanish-speaking voters at several polling places in North Philly have been left without interpreters, Ceiba’s Will Gonzalez tells Voting Rights Watch. “It would be akin to opening a polling place without electricity,” he says. In some cases, poll workers have asked Spanish-speaking voters to put their name on a list for follow-up, making many voters uneasy. Adds Gonzalez: “Any delay is denial on this thing.”
As of 7:30 pm (EST), polls have closed in 9 states—Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia. As expected, Romney is projected to win Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina and West Virginia—giving him forty-nine electors. Obama is projected to win Vermont (big surprise!), giving him its three electors. Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio are too close to call.
Arlington, Virginia—Despite reports of long lines at Northern Virginia polling stations and even allegations of delaying tactics by GOP poll watchers intended to make the lines even worse, some polling places are experiencing no problems at all.
At the polling station two blocks from the Clarendon metro station in Arlington, there was no wait at all at 6:30 pm. That sounds like a bad sign for Democrats, who need a big turnout in Arlington.
But it may just be that people were so eager to vote they got it out of the way early. A Democratic party volunteer said that the Arlington Democratic Party found it had already exceeded 2008 turnout by 4 pm today. According to local election officials, 1,622 people voted in the Clarendon location as of 6:24 pm, which is over half the number of registered voters in that precinct and does not include those who already voted by absentee.
Democratic and nonpartisan volunteers at the Clarendon location said some other Arlington polling stations continue to suffer from massive lines and long waits. In Rosslyn, the densest area of Arlington closest to D.C., the line at a firehouse where voting is happening is especially bad.
If you are in line when the polls officially close at 7 pm, you are still allowed to vote. As of 7:10 pm there appeared to be about 100 people still waiting in line. Paul Lundberg, an Obama campaign volunteer said he arrived at 9 am and didn’t finish voting until noon. He estimated that the line at the firehouse would take about another hour to clear out, although Arlington Democratic volunteers guessed closer to twenty minutes. Locations such as this will not actually close and start counting votes until later than normal, so results in Virginia’s close presidential and senate races may come in late.
Every time of the three times voters in Washington state have had the option of allowing charter schools in their state, they’ve soundly rejected the idea. But this year, with recent polling showing support for Initiative 1240, which would allow for the creation of up to forty charter schools in Washington over five years, at 55 percent of voters, might be different.
When the final results of the voting are known will depend on how close the vote is. By 8 pm PST tonight, about 60 percent of Washington’s votes will have been tallied, because Washington state conducts all its voting by mail and ballots must be postmarked, not received, by November 6.
“If it’s a fairly clear split, probably you will see the media and maybe both sides declaring it tonight,” says David Ammon, communications director for Washington’s secretary of state. “If it’s tight, then everybody, including the media, will want to wait.”
The coalition Yes on 1240, which backs the initiative, is “confident and optimistic” that the initiative will pass, asays its spokesperson, Shannon Campion.
Melissa Westbrook, spokesperson for No on 1240, one of the coalitions against the initiative, is not convinced by the polls, citing “tremendous and broad-based support” for the campaign against Initiative 1240.
In Georgia, the issue of charters is even more contentious—a “hot button issue,” says Karen Hallacy, legislative chair for Georgia’s PTA. Georgia already has charter schools; what’s controversial in this election is who can authorize them. In 2011 Georgia’s Supreme Court ruled that the George Charter Schools Commission, which had been authorizing charter schools, was unconstitutional. Today, voters are deciding on a constitutional amendment that would override the Supreme Court’s decision. Georgia’s PTA opposes the amendment but supports charter schools.
“This is going to be a very, very close vote,” says Hallacy. Indeed, a mid-October poll from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution showed that 42 percent of Georgia’s voters opposed the amendment, 45 percent support it, and thirteen percent were either unfamiliar with it or had no answer.
Hallacy expects that results from this vote remain uncertain until quite late, possibly into the “early morning hours,” because the results would be so close.
Opponents of the initiative in Washington and the amendment in Georgia voice similar concerns about the measures proposed in their respective states. Both believe that the way the ballots are worded is misleading and that charters are an especially complex topic that voters do not fully understand.
“People don’t understand this issue at all,” Westbrook says her experiences on the campaign trail have shown. Before voters can comprehend what the initiative is about, they must first understand what a charter school is. The fact that the initiative “has not been properly worded” complicates matters further. In both Washington and Georgia, poorly worded ballots combined with voters who are not fully educated about charters risk the possibility that voters don’t know what they’re voting for, or against.
Hallacy believes that Georgia’s amendment is “misleading” as well, and a lawsuit has even been brought against the governor and others that declares the amendment’s wording “purposely misleading.” Georgia’s PTA, along with other groups, has requested “clearer language,” though to no avail.
“There’s still a lot of confusion out there,” Hallacy says. “I encountered voters today…who, when presented with the language, didn’t really know what it meant.”
— ilyse hogue (@ilyseh) November 6, 2012
Voting Rights Watch just received word from the Miami-Dade County Elections Department that there are about forty-six people in their area whose voting rights have been challenged. The challenges follow the same pattern as those filed in Hillsborough County, where they have all been signed by the same person on the same date, this time by Pamela Evans Rhodenbaugh of Aventura, Florida, on October 25, 2012. Most of the challenges were for discrepancies in voters’ addresses that Rhodenbaugh found by matching names and birth dates from voter registration databases with the state’s Department of Corrections database. Eleven of them were challenges based on her allegation that the voters have felony convictions that disqualify them from voting.
As with the Tampa case, each of these challenged voters will be surprised at the polls when they find out they can not vote regular ballots, only provisional ballots. In 2008, over half of the provisional ballots cast were thrown out, and over a quarter were tossed in Florida’s 2010 elections.
For those who care about getting big money out of our already polluted political-electoral system, there’s a reform-relevant aspect to watch in tonight’s results. Look for a strengthening of money and politics advocacy in the US Senate with New Mexico’s Martin Heinrich, Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin, Hawaii’s Mazie Hirono and Connecticut’s Chris Murphy, all terrific supporters of Fair Elections in the House, looking like they have a good chance to win Senate seats tonight. And they’re likely to be joined by Elizabeth Warren, also a deep believer in pushing back against the power of big money in elections, and Angus King, who has endorsed Maine’s Fair Elections-style system.
Same-sex marriage is on the ballot in four states today—in Maine, Maryland, and Washington, voters will vote on whether to grant marriage rights to same-sex couples, while Minnesota voters will decide whether to approve a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Polling has been tight, and conventional wisdom says Americans aren’t good at protecting marriage rights at the ballot box—remember the constitutional bans on gay marriage (which wasn’t anywhere near legal anyway) that passed in state after state, with huge margins, in the early 2000s?
Has that era passed (if I can be permitted an apples-to-oranges comparison between the blue state of Minnesota and the largely red or purple states that passed the amendments)? Distressingly, maybe not quite. Polling in Minnesota is still very close. A recent poll found that Minnesotans barely favor the amendment, 48 to 47 percent, but the state requires that a majority of voters supports the measure for it to pass. So, the measure could well fail, even if more Minnesotans approve of it than don’t—disappointing, but I’ll take it! (And, frankly, that’s a sensible check on the constitutional amendment process.) Oh, and if you haven’t come out to your aunt and uncle in Minnesota, consider doing so: only 40 percent of people who say they have gay or lesbian friends support the amendment.
Meanwhile, in Washington, Maine and and in my home state of Maryland, voters have the chance to vote up or down on marriage equality laws already passed by their state’s legislature. Pro-equality organizers in Washington have cautioned that because of the state’s vote-by-mail process, the result of the vote is not likely to be known until later in the week. Polling now suggests the measure will pass—54 percent support, 38 percent oppose, and 6 percent are undecided. That may seem like a comfortable lead, but E.J. Graff recently hammered home two time-honored principles of gay marriage-related voter referenda: (1) All undecided vote against us, and (2) Our side loses two to five points at the ballot. So, we’re on tenter hooks there too. But if initial results look bad, take heart; the earliest voters are likely to be the oldest and most conservative.
The Maine initiative is a second chance for the state’s voters, who already once voted down a marriage equality law approved by the state legislature in 2009. Polling there looks brighter—the latest poll prompted ThinkProgress to say the initiative is set to pass. In this case, because they’d lost once, pro-equality organizers waited and tested and organized and did outreach and then, when the timing seemed right, brought voters an opportunity to think again.
And finally, Maryland. Close polls there too. The most recent poll I could find had 52 percent support/43 percent oppose. President Obama threw his support behind Question 6, a move likely to appeal in the heavily Democratic state.
The stakes are high—not just for same-sex couples in these states but all around the country, too. The Supreme Court is poised to take one or more cases addressing the constitutionality of DOMA this term, and while the judiciary in various states have proved more open to gay rights concerns than the wider electorate, as we all know, SCOTUS doesn’t like to get too far ahead of public opinion (and in some cases lags far behind it). It’d make ruling all or part of DOMA unconstitutional a lot easier if voters in Maine, Maryland, or Washington agreed.
Stay tuned for updates on the results tonight!
No two-candidate match-up better represents the stakes in the debate over education “reform” than the race for the Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Democrat Glenda Ritz, a teacher and the president of her union in Washington Township, is challenging one-term Republican Tony Bennett, a member of the Eli Broad-backed “Chiefs for Change” and a major proponent of charter schools, high-stakes testing, and school choice. Bennett is a former high school principal, and his department has stonewalled on releasing communication between his office and Jeb Bush and News Corporation’s Joel Klein.
Much like education races elsewhere, this race has attracted the interest of the Walton family and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Alice Walton contributed $200,000, and Bloomberg contributed $40,000. A major funder of his campaign is the Hoosiers for Economic Growth PAC, which in turn receives a great deal of it’s funding from pro-voucher organizations.
A recent poll (the only one done on the race so far) shows Bennett with a four-point lead with nearly a quarter of voters undecided. Unfortunately, the 13,000 voters purged in LaPorte County could be just the margin Ritz needs to pull of this race.
Virginia: The race between former Virginia governors Tim Kaine (D) and George Allen (R) is this year’s most expensive senate election, with almost $80 million spent between the two candidates. Recent polls by Reuters and Rasmussen put Kaine in the lead by two to three points.
Ohio: Despite the efforts of Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) to paint incumbent Sherrod Brown (D) as “un-American,” polls have consistently placed Brown in the lead. A recent poll by Reuters showed the Democratic senator nine points ahead. An influx of outside money to boost Mandel’s slim chances, like the $6.4 million from Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, makes this the third-most-expensive race for a Senate seat.
Wisconsin: Progressive Representative Tammy Baldwin (D), the first openly gay non-incumbent elected to Congress, was once considered a long shot for the Wisconsin Senate seat. But she’s pulled ahead of former governor Tommy Thompson (R) in recent months, with a November 3 poll by Public Policy Polling putting her three points ahead of her opponent. Thompson came under fire in September, when a video surfaced of him telling Tea Partiers that he would “do away” with Medicare and Medicaid.
Massachusetts: Progressive Elizabeth Warren is leading incumbent Senator Scott Brown by roughly three points, according to a recent aggregate by Talking Points Memo (although a poll by the Boston Herald puts Brown up by one). The high-profile race has been the most expensive in Massachusetts history, and the second most expensive US Senate race this year. While Brown has been trying to paint himself as a bipartisan moderate to likely Obama voters, Warren has appealed to middle-class voters with her strong background in consumer rights.
Montana: Democrat Senator Jon Tester is ahead of Representative Denny Rehberg by a narrow one-to-two-point margin, according to recent polls by Public Policy Polling and Rasmussen. Outside spenders have been pouring money into TV ads in hopes of tipping the election, amounting to roughly $60 dollars for each of Montana’s 675,000 registered voters.
North Dakota: According to Talking Points Memo, former state attorney general Heidi Heitkamp (D) and her opponent Rick Berg (R) are in a dead heat for the vacated Senate seat. Heitkamp has strong support from the state’s Native American population, making her election one of four key senate races where the tribal vote could be the deciding factor.
Connecticut: Polls by Public Policy Polling and Rasmussen have Democrat Chris Murphy comfortably ahead of Republican Linda McMahon by six to nine points. His solid lead in the consistently blue state have pushed McMahon’s team to desperate, last-minute efforts to paint her as a moderate for Obama voters: including mimicking campaign gear from the SEIU union, and distributing literature calling her an independent. Her and her husband’s donation of 150K to pro-Romney Super PAC’s says otherwise.
Nevada: Republican candidate Dean Heller is up by two points in the Nevada senate election, likely due to an ongoing ethics investigation of his opponent, Representative Shelley Berkeley. But in the state with the highest rates of unemployment and foreclosure, Heller’s belief that government social services “create hobos” could cripple his campaign. His staunch opposition to immigration reform efforts could also hurt among Latino voters, who make up 25 percent of Nevada’s population.
Arizona: Despite a surge of last-minute funding, Democratic candidate Richard Carmona is lagging 5 points behind his opponent Jeff Flake. Flake’s campaign is currently battling allegations that robocalls made by their office this weekend gave Democratic voters faulty polling information.
Florida: While Florida is the swing state to watch in the presidential race, incumbent Bill Nelson (D) has a comfortable six-point lead against Representative Connie Mack (R) in the state’s senate election. Despite the recent polls, “we are absolutely confident that Connie Mack will win by 1.4 percent and will be Florida’s next US senator,” said Mack’s campaign manager on their website.
Washington, DC—Virginia Democrats are worried that long lines at polling places in key Virginia counties may discourage voters and cause them to go home without voting. Since this morning, there have been reports of long lines and waits of up to two hours in large Democratic-leaning counties immediately outside D.C., such as Arlington, and key swing counties to Arlington’s south such as Prince William. Virginia election officials say there are long lines throughout the state due to high turnout.
In response, the state Democratic Party sent a letter at 3:30 pm to the Virginia state board of elections requesting that voters be allowed to vote by paper ballot. Those ballots could then be handed out to people on line, rather than requiring everyone to wait to go individually into a polling booth, thus speeding up the process. Democrats worry that voters will give up on voting after waiting for over an hour. And voters who do so—anyone who has to go to work, for example—are more likely to be Democrats. (Retirees vote mostly Republican, whereas low-wage hourly workers vote mostly Democratic.)
In addition to the pure logistical problem, there is the possibility that lines are being deliberately exacerbated by Republican poll watchers.
Terry McAuliffe, former chair of the Democratic National Committee and gubernatorial candidate in the 2009 Democratic gubernatorial primary, says that he is hearing from sources on the ground that the lines are being slowed down by Republican poll watchers who are demanding excessive proof, such as extra forms of identification, for many voters. This can damage turnout in two ways, says McAuliffe: lengthening the wait to vote and by making some voters fear their IDs will not pass muster. “It’s a deliberate attempt to slow the process,” says McAuliffe. “A lot of first time voters don’t want to be intimidated.”
McAuliffe promises that Democrats will be aggressive about combatting voter disenfranchisement today. “I’m still sore over [the election of] 2000, but shame on us for letting it happen,” he says McAuliffe also adds that local election officials should take more measures to prevent long lines in the first place. “Why not put more voting machines out? Why should people have to wait two hours to vote in America, the greatest democracy in the world?”
In Virginia many election procedures are unduly burdensome, according to McAuliffe. For example, a voter must sign an affidavit swearing that he or she will be out of the state on Election Day in order to get an absentee ballot. (Voting rights advocates favor allowing voters to vote by absentee ballot without giving a reason, and more vote by mail options in general.)
The Virginia state Democratic Party, however, is putting a positive spin on the long lines, saying they are a sign of strong turnout, particularly in important Democratic regions. “It’s a sign that people are excited,” says Brian Coy, a spokesman for the party.
Reading Richard’s excellent note about what to expect, I’m struck by how we might see a very wide reporting gap online and on television tonight. The network news outlets and major wire services will, quite appropriately, not declare the election outcome until all the polls are closed so as not to unduly influence voters in Western time zones. (Early, erroneous network television calls may have played a truly damaging role in the 2000 election, as this 2006 piece for The Nation amply demonstrates.) The AP, for example, has a very detailed set of conditions under which it will call election results.
But social media is governed by no such rules. So, look at Richard’s timeline. Virginia and Ohio close at 7 and 7:30 respectively, so it’s entirely possible—if the states aren’t too close to call—that we could know by 8 pm who won them. If President Obama carries those two states, he has of course won the election. There is no remotely feasible path for Romney without Virginia.
In 2008, television news could see the wave building for Obama but couldn’t call it, despite the cascading number of states ending up in the blue column. And, as I recall, the reporters and anchors were forced to very carefully describe the situation without just saying “Look, Obama won” or even suggesting too heavily that it was a foregone conclusion. They will likely do the same tonight—but on Twitter, you can expect absolute declarations in this scenario that Obama has prevailed.
Social media is a much larger source for people’s news than it was in 2008—27.8 percent of people get their news from social media, versus 28.8 percent from newspapers and 59.5 percent from television. So get ready for there to be a wide reporting gap tonight if the early states fall that way. And this is particularly true for breaking news events, as this infographic shows.
Social media may be quick tonight, but don’t always believe what you see. Already, we’ve seen a bogus report from the Cincinnati Enquirer touting an early Romney lead in Ohio that didn’t exist shoot around the Twittersphere this morning—though, as is often the case on Twitter, retractions spread just as quickly.
Real exit polls sure to start flying around Twitter within the next couple hours, when the results become meaningful because enough time has passed since polls opened. But even those should be taken with a huge grain of salt. Obama campaign officials I’ve spoken with here in Chicago caution that the exit polls may look terrible for the president because Romney is likely to win Election Day voters in many swing states, due to the Democrats’ aggressive efforts to bank early voting leads. But that doesn’t mean Romney will ultimately win the state.
The quiet, rural town of Pueblo West, just a two hour drive from Denver, is a mixed neighborhood that’s part of the greater city of Pueblo, which makes up more than 40 percent of the state’s entire Latino population. And canvassers there are eager to encourage all voters to get out to the polls. One canvasser, who declined to have his name for publication, was doing just that last week when he ran in to trouble. He and his canvassing partner, who are both Latino, noticed local Sheriffs were sometimes tailing them, but they continued their work.
They drove to a local convenience store for snacks, but when they got back into their car, they realized they couldn’t back away from the parking spot because it was blocked by two Pueblo County Sheriff’s vehicles. They were both asked to show identification, and deputies ran these for outstanding warrants. The canvassers explained they were simply urging people to get out and vote, but the deputies replied that local residents called in to complain about two suspicious Latinos in the neighborhood. The deputies then told them they should quit immediately, and “call it a day.”
The Election Protection Coalition call center
I attended a briefing in Washington this morning with voting rights advocates hosted by the Election Protection Coalition, which runs the 1-866-Our-Vote hotline. They are being inundated with calls from voters. In 2008, the hotline received 100,000 calls. As of 11 this morning, they’ve already received 35,000 calls.
Here are the three biggest problems the Election Protection Coalition were hearing of this morning. This list is by no means comprehensive, just a snapshot of potential election meltdowns. I’ve linked to the 866-Our-Vote page for each state below.
Problem #1: Problems with voting in states hit by Hurricane Sandy, particularly in New Jersey and New York. In New Jersey, for example, servers set up to handle ballots sent via e-mail have crashed due to volume. People affected by the storm don’t know where to go to vote. Polling places are not open, or not staffed, or the voting machines aren’t working. The highest concentration of calls to the 1-866-Our-Vote hotline is coming from New Jersey.
Problem #2: Poll workers in Pennsylvania wrongly telling voters they need photo ID to cast a ballot. According to the law, poll workers in Pennsylvania can ask voters for ID, but they are not required to show it in order to vote. However, that is not how the law is being enforced. Eric Marshall, co-director of Election Protection, says such problems are occurring across the state, although reports are that minority voters are being targeted in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg. “Poll workers are asking black voters for ID but not white voters,” Marshall reported.
Problem #3: Voting machines are not working in the Ohio cities of Cleveland, Dayton and Toledo. The optical scan electronic voting machines are broken. These are heavily Democratic cities where Obama needs a big turnout to win. UPDATE: I’m told by the Election Protection coalition that this problem has been resolved.
Mother Jones reports that the faulty electronic voting machine in Philadelphia that switched a vote for Obama to a vote for Romney has been “recalibrated” and is back online. There have been no reports of further complaints.
On the other hand, the election could effectively be called just hours after the first set of East Coast swing states report. A short night will mean an Obama victory, as he will have scored clear wins in key states like Florida, Ohio or Virginia. In fact, an Obama win in any one of those three states makes a Romney victory near impossible. A long night—or long week or month!—will mean Romney picked up Florida and scored a string of victories in the other swing states, which would be a surprise, least of all to FiveThirtyEight psephologist Nate Silver, who currently has forecasted a 90.9 percent chance of Obama winning.
Polls close on the following schedule:
6 pm (EST): Most of Indiana, minus a few Western counties. The state, which went for Obama in 2008 (the one pick Silver got wrong), is widely expected to go for Romney this time. Indiana is also where Republican Richard Mourdock (of God’s will-rape-pregnancy infamy) faces off against Democrat Joe Donnelly (whose stance on abortion is as severe as Mitt Romney’s) for a Senate seat.
7 pm: Virginia, with thirteen electoral votes at stake. In 2008, Obama was the first Democrat to win the state since 1964. The latest polling average has Obama up by a slim 1.3 points. Also, former DNC head honcho Tim Kaine has an edge in his race against former Republican Senator George “Macaca” Allen.
7 pm: Most of New Hampshire. Some polls close an hour later, but two—from the tiny towns of Hart’s Location and Dixville Notch—open and closed at midnight, when every resident had cast their ballot in what has become a local tradition. They’ve already reported, and the aggregate has Obama at twenty-eight votes, Romney at fourteen and Gary Johnson at two. So, as of 12:01 am, Obama was leading in a landslide for New Hampshire’s four electors. Expect that margin to change, if not necessarily the result.
7:30 pm: Ohio, Obama’s so-called firewall with eighteen electoral votes. About 1.6 million people have already cast an early ballot there. Early voters tend to lean Democrat, so don’t get too excited if the first batch of returns, which will reflect the early ballots, tip heavily to Obama. Some of the early voting numbers, however, don’t look so great for the Obama campaign. The Romney team picked up turnout in counties that went for McCain in 2008 (up about 2 percent), while the turnout in counties Obama won in 2008 was down slightly (by about 3 percent).
Also, here’s where Senator Sherrod Brown squares off against challenger Josh Mandel.
7:30 pm: North Carolina, which went for Obama in 2008 and where the DNC held its convention. It’s telling, however, that President Obama has not been back to the state since then.
8 pm: Florida (Most polls close at 7 pm; some panhandle counties are open an hour longer. Reporting begins when all polls close). Florida is a must win state for Romney, with twenty-nine electors. The New York Times warns, however, that “the ballot in many counties is unusually long, running more than ten pages in some areas of the state…which means voting could take longer.”
At 8 pm polls also close in Pennsylvania, where Obama is expected to win. Then at 9 pm, we’ll see some numbers back from Colorado and Wisconsin. Iowa and Nevada check in at 10 pm (all EST).
To put these reporting times in context, my pick for the outstanding interactive of election 2012 goes to The New York Times’s 512 Paths to the White House. Play around with it to see just how daunting the electoral college map is for Romney.
In the NYT 9-swing-state scenario, Obama has 431 ways to win, Romney a mere seventy-six. Let’s put Wisconsin and Nevada in Obama’s corner, since he has led in every recent poll in those states. Then Obama has 119 ways to win, Romney just nine. Or in another scenario, if Obama is declared the winner in Florida, Romney would have to win every single other state to emerge victorious. Put New Hampshire in the Obama column—game over, early night.
Anyway, for horse race diehards, it’s a fun interactive. So go ahead and play around, but come back here!
(Democratic, pro-choice, woman gubernatorial candidate) Maggie Hassan ahead in Hart’s Location! bit.ly/VyeXJh
— Emily Douglas (@EmilySDouglas) November 6, 2012
Misinformation encouraging people in Philadelphia to cancel their own votes has been circulating on Tuesday, and Obama field operatives have begun trying to correct the rumor on the ground. The rumor, which has spread in urban and predominantly African-American areas of Philadelphia that tilt towards Barack Obama, wrongly instructed voters to first select an “All Democratic” voting slate—and then cast another vote specifically for Obama. That second vote has the effect of canceling the original vote, according to two Democratic sources in Philadelphia.
“Many voters are being told to vote for the President by both checking the Straight Democrat Box and the Box for the President,” explains an email from an Obama Voter Protection staffer targeting Philadelphia voters. That action cancels the vote, says the staffer, who instructed voters “to do one or the other, but not both.”
The Obama campaign has voter protection staff and attorneys on the ground trying to clarify the situation, and began sending emails as early as 9:16 am today. Concerns about the rumor began bubbling up early this morning, including one 7:46 am tweet warning against the confusing double-vote option.
— Nick Widzowski (@NickFromAstoria) November 6, 2012
NBC News confirms that an electronic voting machine in Pennsylvania has been taken out of service after a voter captured video of it changing a vote for Barack Obama into one for Mitt Romney.
In just a few hours, the first batch of swing states—Virginia, New Hampshire, Florida and Ohio—will begin to report their election results. We’ll keep updating this post as the votes are counted, so check back frequently for results and analysis.
We’ll also have short dispatches from our correspondents in the field throughout the day and night: Ari Berman at Election Protection headquarters in Washington; George Zornick at Obama headquarters in Chicago; Ben Adler with the RNC in DC; EJ Graff reporting from Elizabeth Warren’s headquarters in Boston; Ilyse Hogue in Pennsylvania and the team from Voting Rights Watch 2012, Brentin Mock and Aura Bogado, in Virginia and Colorado respectively. There’ll also be analysis and comments from our writers and editors in New York: Emily Douglas, Leslie Savan, Annie Shields, Bryce Covert, Katrina vanden Heuvel and more.
And join The Nation’s online election chat with Katrina vanden Heuvel and other Nation editors and writers starting at 5 pm.
In the meantime, some helpful information:
If you don’t know your polling station, go to gottavote.com and punch in your address.
To find out if you’ll need ID to vote (and what kind), go to Color of Change’s excellent online app and check the laws for your particular state.
If you are having problems at your polling station, call the Election Protection hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE. As of 11am, they’ve already received 35,000 calls. You can read some of them at Our Vote Live. And follow them on Twitter: @866OURVOTE.