The Rachel Maddow Show | September 10, 2012
>>> big picture , the election sometimes now feels like one bear wrestling another bear and they have this country to fight in and fight over, but instead they are just in this one little patch swatting each other around. as of last week, mitt romney 's campaign announced plans to carpet bomb these eight states with ads. colorado, virginia, ohio , new hampshire, nevada, north carolina , florida and iowa . you guys all get ads. eight states . the playing field as defined by where governor romney is choosing to compete. the list notably did not include wisconsin , michigan or pennsylvania. but update. wisconsin , you are now getting added back to the list. in addition to the eight states i named, the romney campaign says it will also carpet bomb wisconsin , home of paul ryan . now we have a playing field of nine states with wisconsin included. nine states we define as the pl playing field . presidential races are always fought this way in a few states . right now this year it appears to be nine states . but in most of these nine states officials have acted to try to make voting harder. passing laws that require you e show documentation you never had to show to vote before. they have also tried to purge voter rules and tried to cut early voting and make it harder to register. in five of the nine states where the election will be decided, in a majority the top elections official is a republican. in those states all those stories we have been covering about republicans changing the rules about who can vote and when, all those stories are not just important in those states , they are clearly of national importance. and they ought to get national attention. for example, ohio . you may remember that republican secretary of state john houston supported a plan for extended voting hours in counties that lean republican, even as he supported culting those hours in counties that lean democratic. and then secretary of state cut on nights and weekends for everyone in the state of ohio . when two democrats tried to offer weekend voting, he fired them. we hosted them as guests on this show. today those two democratic officialed sued him for wrongful termination. they said he fired us and dared other board members to try to stand up for the voters in their community. mr. husted is failing a court decision to make those days available in ohio . since they were available without incident in 2008 and without incident in 2010 , they were available without incident in this year's republican primary , but he wants to get rid of them now that barack obama will be on the ballot. his appeal of that decision means that voters are 57 days out from the election with no clear idea of when exactly they will be allowed to vote. he's getting help from an outside lawyer from washington, d.c. a liberal ohio blog reported out last week that you can find this same lawyer they have flown in, you can find him arguing for a county in alabama and for the state of florida . both in cases where key provisi provisions of the voting rights act , they say, should be declared unconstitutional. you want to curtail voting rights in a way that might raise eyebrows? we have just the lawyer for you. we'll fly him in. making voting harder has become kind of an industry if you know where to look. for republicans it's become a real political priority. in iowa republican secretary of state matt shultz has declared emergency rules in iowa to make voting harder. he says he simply must do this before november. it's an emergency. if the court allows the rules to stand, secretary of state matt shultz will begin a purge of iowa voter rules. the new emergency rules would allow anyone to allege that someone else was committing voter fraud . and you can make that allegation anonymously. a case in iowa has gone unnoticed so far because we are not used to thinking of iowa as a hard-fought swing state . but watch iowa and these new emergency rules in iowa . also swing state florida where we got news today that the november ballot itself is going to be a monster. really that's what they are calling it. one supervisor saying, quote, they have really created a monster. another clerk says voters may need smelling salts once they see the size of the ballot to get through. it contains 11 proposed changes to the constitution and several are printed in full. that means hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of words for each of these constitutional proposed changes. when you add in the local races, the ballot in miami-dade runs to five pages. the florida ballot will be so long in some cities it will cost you $1.50 in postage to mail it in. officials are suggesting to check in ahead of time to see what the wait time is because people have to read all those page pages and feed all the pages through. it's going to take awhile. expect long lines. and what has the republican government done for a year when the ballot is a monster? the longest one some election clerks can remember? florida republicans cut early voting in half. good luck getting through those ten pages and through the line to vote. bring some water. maybe a chair. joining us for the interview is rick hassen. he's the author of "the voting wars." he's one of the nation's most highl highly-cited experts on election law . in the election, florida confronted some voters with a difficult butterfly ballot where you konlt be sure which candidate you were picking. now we're hearing about a ballot that will be ten pages in some of the most populated parts of the state and they have cut early voting . is there any way around the idea that florida has made it difficult to vote this year?
>> it's become more difficult to vote and register to vote . we have seen a decline thanks to rules just thrown out by a court in a settlement last week. but the cut back on early voting will have an impact on election day . we could have long lines. it could cause people to go home and not vote. it would be a real mess on election night in florida .
>> republicans when they are arguing for changes like this never, or almost never say, they have partisan intentions. they describe these things as being good government changes they are trying to keep fraud out of the system. why is it that there is largely a partisan effect to r narrowing the elect rat by making it harder to vote and harder to register to vote ?
>> since 2000 we have seen the voting wars between democrats and republicans with republicans complaining about what they say is a risk of voter fraud and democrats complaining about voter suppression . if you look at the measures that have been taken to prevent fraud, if that was really the concern, we wouldn't see this push for voter i.d. the only kind of fraud that voter i.d. laws prevent is impersonation fraud. i looked in my book to find a single election that was affected by voter fraud with impersonation and couldn't find one. yet we see absentee ballot fraud coming up every year and there hasn't been a single proposal. i don't think there should be. we have to way the costs and benefits. if you were serious about fraud, absentee voting would be at the top of the list.
>> in iowa this year the secretary of state there says he has an emergency. he has to purge the rules right now and make it easier to report voter fraud , right now. he wants to make the changes under the kinds of rules that would allow him to do it without the public comment under a nonemergency situation. has iowa 's secretary of state got an emergency that the world does not know about? is there a particular risk in making these sorts of changes very close to the day of voting?
>> we have good evidence because the same move to purge voters is going on to in other states including florida . florida created a list. colorado also created a list. and almost everyone on that list is an eligible voter is a citizen. florida officials first proclaiming a hundred voters on the list. now we're hearing it's maybe several. these are noncitizens who shouldn't be on the list. we do need to deal with a problem of noncitizen voting, but right before the the election, you run the risk of throwing out many eligible voters. if they have to cast a provisional ballot , we are going to have a lot of legitimate voters who won't get a chance to vote.
>> rick hasen, author of "the voting wars." thank you very much for helping us understand this. there's a few other states that i have more and deeper questions about that i know you have done work on, particularly pennsylvania. could you come back short ly to talk about this?
>> sure. any time.
>>> shining a light on dark money groups that pour millions into one candidate or another has become sort of a full-time job. the good news is that full-time job is actually filled. people are doing that work. that story is