Short hits: voting laws, education research, crime, and Obamacare

1. Voting laws: Particularly since Republicans won many state-level elections in 2010, a number of states passed laws making it harder to vote. In Pennsylvania, the very strict rules will affect 9.2% of voters — over 800,000 people, mostly in urban areas and mostly affecting supporters of Democratic candidates. These citizens are also disproportionately non-white, as the law would affect 21% of racial minorities.

And is here a history of voter fraud? No. In responding to a lawsuit seeking to overturn this law:

The state signed a stipulation agreement with lawyers for the plaintiffs which acknowledges there “have been no investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania; and the parties do not have direct personal knowledge of any such investigations or prosecutions in other states.”

No voter fraud, yet potentially a massive effect on voting and the outcome of the election.  What a terrible law.

Also worth noting on this subject: Former Republican Governor Charlie Crist of Florida on voter id laws as a “mean-spirited and all-too-partisan attempt to restrict access to the rolls and to the polls.”

2. Education research: Last week a study about state rankings in education got a lot of ink in Maine. Governor LePage said:

The same report indicates that Maine is next to last in student achievement compared to 40 other states. This further reiterates why my administration is standing up against the status quo of union bosses, superintendents and Principals’ Association.

Editorials also claimed there are major problems with Maine’s educational system, with the Bangor Daily News saying that Maine, “has fallen further behind even as the United States as a whole has made slow progress compared with other countries.”

There’s one big problem with this: Maine ranks fairly high in student achievement. It doesn’t rank low. What the study found was Maine had little movement in the rankings, not low achievement.

If this sort of approach was used in the Olympics and the second fastest person in the world in 2008 was also the second fastest person in the world in 2012, he would be considered a failure compared to the person who ran 25th in 2012 but ran 29th in 2008.

Maine can always do better, but the rhetoric of failure is misplaced here.

3. Crime: Last week’s mass shooting in Colorado was truly shocking and horrific. UMaine sociologist Steven Barkan, a renowned criminologist, provides some interesting insights on guns and the shooter.

Also, imagine that you or a family member was a victim of this crime and your medical bills added up to $2 million — and you have no insurance. That’s the case for Caleb Medley, whose wife also just had their first child.

4. Obamacare: The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is just out with an updated estimate of the costs of this law.  Once again, it found that the Affordable Care Act reduces the deficit. Repealing it would add to the deficit and leave tens of millions who would get coverage without it.

Those who say that repealing Obamacare would lead to lower deficits are misinformed or are being misleading.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.