Once the sleepy backwater of electoral politics, judicial elections
have recently become a battleground where right wing and corporate
groups spend large sums to fill the courts with jurists who will
support their interests. This is perhaps the most troubling example of
money corrupting our politics, because instead of pay-to-play politics
it gives us pay-to-win justice. The independence of the judiciary
simply cannot be maintained in an environment where jurists are
competing for votes in high-priced, bare-knuckle political brawls.
While the financial crisis has received more of the headlines, there has been a growing unemployment crisis over the last year.
With unemployment at a five-year high, nearly 10 million Americans were
officially unemployed last month, with nearly 500,000 workers applying
for benefits each week. And the problem doesn't stop there, with
long-term joblessness rising:
Last week, Connecticut's high court struck down the state's
civil union law and ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional
right to marry. Connecticut joins Massachusetts and California as the
only states that recognize gay marriage. As the New York Timesreported,
the Connecticut ruling is notable because it found for the first time
that a state civil union law, while providing all the legal rights of
marriage to gay couples but limiting marriage to heterosexual couples,
violated the state's "constitutional guarantee of equal protection
under the law."
This Dispatch is a roundup of what ballot initiatives will
appear on state ballots across the country this November. Whether it's
workers rights, energy policy, education, transit, abortion or health
care, ballot initiates give voters a chance to directly vote on an
Now that the party nominating conventions have passed and the
presidential race has reached its final leg, voter suppression efforts
are shifting into high gear around the country. As each campaign
assembles an army of lawyers to protect their interests leading to and
on election day, state and local partisans are engaging in a wide
variety of tactics to prevent their opponents' supporters from casting
a ballot. Once again these underhanded tactics, which we've highlighted before,
are predominantly coming from right wing operatives, and the targets
are overwhelmingly groups that tend to vote for progressive candidates.
Since the beginning of this month the following voters suppression
campaigns have been reported:
Common Cause and The Century Foundation have released the new version
of their joint biennial report on election administration in 10 swing
states and the findings are not very encouraging: while voters' desire
to participate is growing, states have only made fitful progress
improving the voting process, and in many instances things have moved
backward since the last federal election in 2006. Examining the most
recent election experiences of Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Colorado, New Mexico, and Virginia
the report details serious problems in every major aspect of the voting
process, along with a handful of bright spots where individual states
are moving important reforms.
The benefits of a post-secondary degree are plentiful. For example, an employee with a four year college degree earns 60 percent more than a worker with only a high school diploma. Paying for college, however, has become a daunting task and strain for many American students and families. The cost of higher education across the country is rapidly increasing, at almost double the rate of inflation, outpacing increases in financial aid and many families ability to pay. The combination of these factors result in too many students being unable to earn or complete their degrees due to financial constraints.