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The University of Virginia’s Fight to Protect Free Speech

According to some observers, college campuses are facing a “free speech crisis.” From author Charles Murray, who faced violent protests at Middlebury College, to Manhattan Institute scholar Heather Mac Donald, who was shouted down by students at Claremont McKenna College, controversial free speech cases arise on college campuses almost weekly.

But amid the chaos, some college and university administrators are working harder than ever to protect the First Amendment. The Daily Signal traveled to the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia, which has faced its own campus protests in recent weeks, to find out how difficult—and costly—it is in today’s political environment to stand up for free speech.

(For more from the author of “The University of Virginia’s Fight to Protect Free Speech” please click HERE)

Follow Joe Miller on Twitter HERE and Facebook HERE.

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Why Virginia’s ‘Reasonable’ Voter ID Law Could Survive the Courts

Virginia Republicans are making the case that this state’s voter identification law is different than versions in other states that came and failed before it.

“We like our facts; we have better facts than some of other cases that have struggled in court,” said Del. Robert B. Bell, a state Republican legislator. “That’s why we believe this result will be different than the outcome in other states.”

With election day less than a month away, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit is still reviewing the merits of Virginia’s law requiring citizens to produce photo identification to vote.

The outcome of the court case will almost certainly not impact voting in 2016, the first year the voter identification law will be in place during a presidential election.

Even if the appeals court were to rule against the law, passed in 2012 by a Republican-controlled legislature, it is too close to Election Day to undo the law’s implementation, elections experts say. Indeed, in-person absentee voting has already begun in Virginia.

Yet even so, with the case being reviewed under the shadow of recent court rulings against voter identification laws, Virginia Republicans and elections experts say the fate of this state’s law—especially if the court lets it stand—will impact how states approach the issue of voting rights in the future.

“Obviously many states are trying to find a way to do voter ID in a way that passes judicial muster,” Bell told The Daily Signal in an interview. “We believe we were careful with ours based on recent precedent at the time we passed it. Hopefully, the court will say we complied with the constitutional requirements, and other states can look to Virginia as a way to prevent voter fraud in a fair, reasonable way.”

‘A Different Posture’

More than two months ago, judges on the same appeals court reviewing Virginia’s case overturned North Carolina’s more sweeping voting restrictions, ruling Republican legislators there had intentionally made it more difficult for minorities to cast ballots.

This summer, other states also saw their voter identification laws weakened or blocked in court, including Texas, Wisconsin, and North Dakota.

While the judges on the appeals panel—all appointed by Republican presidents—are different than the ones who reviewed North Carolina’s law, Virginia’s version is facing similar scrutiny.

In May, U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson upheld Virginia’s voter identification requirement, writing that the state “has provided all of its citizens with an equal opportunity to participate in the electoral process.”

The Democratic Party of Virginia and affected voters—the plaintiffs in the case—appealed to the 4th Circuit.

During Sept. 22 oral arguments before the appeals court, one judge on the panel, Dennis W. Shedd, made a comparison to North Carolina.

“Is what Virginia did just as egregious?” Shedd asked the attorney for the state Democratic Party that is challenging Virginia’s photo identification requirement. “Is the evidence of intentional discrimination as strong?”

But experts, and individuals who devised Virginia’s law, say it is different from North Carolina’s law in a few ways.

For one thing, Virginia’s law passed the Legislature prior to the time considered to be a turning point in election laws, when the Supreme Court in 2013 struck down a section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

That decision eliminated the requirement that states with a history of racial discrimination—Virginia was considered to be one of those states—seeking to change election procedures have to get federal court approval to do so.

In addition, proponents and experts note that Virginia’s law is more flexible than voting restrictions in other states, and that this attempt to limit the burdens on voters shows that legislators did not have a discriminatory intent.

“This case comes at the court with a different posture than the North Carolina case,” said Rebecca Green, the co-director of the Election Law Program at the College of William & Mary in Virginia. “It doesn’t seem there’s as much evidence of intent in the Virginia case,” Green told The Daily Signal in an interview.

‘A Testament to Insanity’

State Sen. Mark D. Obenshain, a Republican who helped write Virginia’s voter identification law, says he’s been motivated to toughen voter identification requirements ever since the 2000 presidential election recount in Florida, when paranoia about the integrity of the U.S. election system had increased.

In 2005, a year after taking office, Obenshain introduced his first version of a voter identification law, which went nowhere. He “tried and tried” again over the years to address the issue, but kept failing to get different iterations of his bill passed, he says, due to resistance from Democrats and others, who argued the measure would challenge the most vulnerable of potential voters, including minorities, the poor, and the elderly.

“It’s a testament to my insanity that I kept coming back and introducing it year, after year, after year,” Obenshain told The Daily Signal in an interview.

To attract enough support, Obenshain said he and other bill supporters created a number of workarounds to help people who don’t have access to a driver’s license, the most common form of photo identification.

Virginia’s law allows for voters to present alternatives to driver’s licenses and passports, including employer identification—both private and government issued—and student identification from institutions in Virginia. Under a provision to the bill approved last year, student identification issued by private schools is also permitted.

Voters who don’t have one of the approved forms of identification on Election Day can fill out a provisional ballot. The state also issues free voter identification to people who present themselves to their local registrar. Those people do not have to provide supporting documentation, like a birth certificate, to prove they are a citizen.

“We benefited from not being at the leading edge of the wave, being able to learn from what states did right, and some states did wrong,” Obenshain says. “And so what we did is this: Nothing we have done has placed a burden on any voter who really wants to vote. The burden to vote is essentially nonexistent in Virginia. The three principles that are really important to preserve in a system of elections is we need it to be free, open, and fair. It has to be all three. To have a free and open, but unfair, system of elections will do us no good.”

‘Clash’ of Values

Democrats and others who oppose the Virginia law acknowledge the workarounds are helpful.

But they contend that any extra restriction a state imposes on voting will have a disenfranchising impact. They cite studies that show the rarity of in-person voter fraud, and say Republicans are intentionally trying to overstate a problem in order to deter Democratic constituencies from voting.

“When I vote for legislation, it is really important to me that the problem we are trying to fix is well defined and accounted for, and that is just not the case with voter fraud,” state Sen. Barbara Favola, a Democrat, said in an interview with The Daily Signal. “Voting should be made as easy as possible, and elections should affect the widest swath of people. I believe that some of the proponents of the bill really wanted to limit participation in voting because they were trying to fix a problem that didn’t exist.”

Favola also described the challenges in reaching poorer voters, who may not understand the nuances of Virginia’s voter identification law, and will be discouraged from trying to meet its requirements.

“When you pass a law, there’s always a public message there,” Favola said. “The public message when you pass this law is you better prove yourself if you want to vote. So people who are always knocked down by the system say to themselves, ‘Why bother? This is another barrier to accessing the system.’ So that’s a real struggle.”

Republicans like Bell and Obenshain counter that even if in-person voting fraud is rare, recent events have threatened the integrity of the election system, and warrant efforts to tighten voting procedures.

Last month, The Washington Post reported that the FBI and local police are investigating how least 19 dead Virginians were recently re-registered to vote in the state. No one actually casted a vote in the names of the dead.

Meanwhile, at the national level, the Obama administration last week accused the Russian government of interfering with the U.S. elections process by hacking emails of the Democratic National Committee, and other institutions and individuals.

Green, the William & Mary elections expert, said this context is important in evaluating the appropriateness of voter identification laws.

“Particularly in a year when there is talk of elections being rigged, and voter confidence in the election system is of such importance, it could be that having people go through extra steps to vote is helpful,” Green said. “But it’s a hard balance. It depends on what you care more about—reducing burdens on voting or taking steps that may or may not shore up the system, and unfortunately, those two values can clash.” (For more from the author of “Why Virginia’s ‘Reasonable’ Voter ID Law Could Survive the Courts” please click HERE)

Follow Joe Miller on Twitter HERE and Facebook HERE.

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West Virginia on Verge of Becoming 26th Right to Work State

Coercive unionism may be coming to an end in West Virginia despite threats from Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to veto right to work legislation.

West Virginia could become the 26th right to work state in the country after the House of Delegates passed legislation on Thursday that would prevent companies from requiring union membership as a condition of employment. Delegate Gary Howell, a chief advocate for the bill, said the legislation fits into the pro-growth agenda that led Republicans to take control of the legislature in the traditionally Democratic state.

“It is good for workers in the state because we will have more jobs. We need jobs really bad here,” Howell told the Washington Free Beacon in a phone interview. “We’re going to start attracting manufacturers. Right to work is key to locating businesses.”

Not everyone in the state is as excited by the prospects of ending forced unionism. Labor groups universally opposed the legislation, as did their ally in the governor’s mansion. Tomblin pledged to veto the legislation in a Thursday release, saying that the state should focus on curbing substance abuse and spurring development key to economic recovery.

“I will veto the legislation passed today, which received bipartisan opposition but only partisan support,” he said in a statement. “I remain committed to growing West Virginia’s economy, but I do not believe right-to-work legislation is the best way to do that.” (Read more from “West Virginia on Verge of Becoming 26th Right to Work State” HERE)

Follow Joe Miller on Twitter HERE and Facebook HERE.

Virginia Killer Wrote Disgusting Notes on This Subject [+video]

bridgewater31n-1-webVester Lee Flanagan lamented shortly before gunning down two journalists on live TV that his glory days as a $2,000-a-night male escort were behind him, stunning new documents reveal.

The typed and handwritten letters, as well as photographs, driver’s licenses and student IDs, were shown to the Daily News by one of Flanagan’s close friends, Robert Avent, who says he spoke to the calm and collected killer moments before he committed suicide as cops closed in on him last Wednesday.

The notes provide a new window into the megalomaniacal madman’s mental state as he made the decision to exact revenge for an unsuccessful career filled with perceived racial slights.

In the stream-of-consciousness-style letters Flanagan, 41, is alternately cheery, reflective, apologetic for any hurt he caused Avent and eager to reveal the “raw truth” that racist gunman Dylann Roof’s massacre of nine black churchgoers inspired his own decision to kill . . .

“I totally CANNOT score right now …,” Flanagan wrote. “And this is from a man who used to be paid hundreds an HOUR to sleep with men…one was a hot YOUNG guy in SF…he once asked, ‘Can I f— you?’ He offered to give me $1,000…I playfully said, ‘No.’ Well, he gave me 2k.” (Read more from “Virginia Killer Wrote Disgusting Notes on This Subject” HERE)

Follow Joe Miller on Twitter HERE and Facebook HERE.

IDENTIFIED: The Exact Comments the Slain TV Reporter Used That Her On-Air Killer Found ‘Racist’

alisonparker-913x512The alleged killer of two WDBJ journalists, Alison Parker and Adam Ward, in Roanoke, Va., contended he was the victim of racism while working at the station. It is now known what he meant by “racism.”

Vester Lee Flanagan, who used the on-air name Bryce Williams, worked at WDBJ from March 2012 through February 2013 before being terminated and escorted out of the station by police. During his tenure, he accused employees of racism. According to The New York Post, the specific phrases used by Flanagan’s colleagues included “swinging” by an address and going out in the “field,” not uncommon terms for reporters to use.

“One was something about ‘swinging’ by some place; the other was out in the ‘field,’” said a Jan. 21 report by WDBJ assistant news director Greg Baldwin, referring to Parker as Alison Bailey (her middle name). No disciplinary action was taken against Parker, but Flanagan was still incensed by the remarks. He filed a discrimination lawsuit against the station in January 2013, one month before he was dismissed from WDBJ.

After allegedly committing the murder, the former journalist tweeted that Ward once reported him to human resources and that Parker reportedly made racist comments:

Adam went to [human resources] on me after working with me one time!!!

Alison made racist comments

(Read more from “IDENTIFIED: The Exact Comments the Slain TV Reporter Used That Her On-Air Killer Found ‘Racist'” HERE)

Follow Joe Miller on Twitter HERE and Facebook HERE.

New California: Mass Immigration Turning Virginia Blue

The birthplace and final resting place of George Washington, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson—and once one of the most reliably-red of red states—is being rapidly turned into a progressive stronghold.

These changes are not the result of an inside agency, or a natural evolution in political thinking, but rather the result of one of the most impactful yet least-discussed policies of the federal government.

Each year the federal government prints millions of visas and distributes these admission tickets to the poorest and least-developed nations in the world.

A middle-aged person living in parts of Virginia today will have witnessed more demographic change in the span of her life than many societies have experienced in millennia.

A census study entitled “Immigrants in Virginia,” released by University of Virginia (UVA) researchers, documented the phenomenon: “Until 1970, only 1 in 100 Virginians was born outside of the United States; by 2012, 1 in every 9 Virginians is foreign-born.” (Read more from “New California: Mass Immigration Turning Virginia Blue” HERE)

Follow Joe Miller on Twitter HERE and Facebook HERE.

Re-Elected Virginia Lawmaker Pressed with Even More Criminal Charges

A Virginia lawmaker who was just re-elected despite being jailed for a sex scandal with a teenager has been indicted on new felony charges, according to a special prosecutor.

The forgery and perjury indictment of Del. Joseph D. Morrissey was returned and sealed the day before the election, and announced Wednesday by Spotsylvania County Commonwealth’s Attorney William Neely.

The lawmaker now stands accused of forging a document he vouched for in court, and persuading the girl’s mother to swear to its authenticity as well. That woman, Deidre Warren, also was indicted on perjury and forgery charges. Morrissey faces up to 10 years on each count if convicted, Neely said.

Morrissey says the charges are false and he will fight them in court.

“This is a very harmful and mean-spirited blow, but I’ll do what I’ve always done. I’ll prevail,” Morrissey told reporters after arriving at the Capitol Wednesday for the legislative session. (Read more about the re-elected Virginia lawmaker HERE)

Follow Joe Miller on Twitter HERE and Facebook HERE.

Scandal-Plagued Democrat Reelected While in Prison

A state lawmaker who resigned his seat following a sex scandal involving a teenage employee won it back during a special election Tuesday.

The majority of voters in Joseph D. Morrissey’s Richmond-area House of Delegates district appeared to be okay with his conviction in the scandal involving his 17-year-old secretary, whose nude photo was found on his cellphone and allegedly shared with a friend. Morrissey has repeatedly denied the allegations, saying his phone was hacked. The young woman, who denies they had sex, is now pregnant.

In unofficial returns, Morrissey defeated Democrat Kevin J. Sullivan and Republican Matt D. Walton by more than 2,800 votes. Morrissey won 42 percent of the vote, compared to 33 percent for Sullivan and 24 percent for Walton.

Morrissey’s victory was not unprecedented: Through four previous elections, most voters overlooked or even embraced the lawmaker’s flamboyant history of fistfights, contempt-of-court citations and disbarment. The 57-year-old bachelor, who fathered three children out of wedlock with three different women, repeatedly won at least 70 percent of the vote as a Democrat.

Morrissey said in a telephone interview that the results show people aren’t interested in the drama that landed him in jail. (Read more about the politician reelected while in prison HERE)

Follow Joe Miller on Twitter HERE and Facebook HERE.

Miller on Tea Party Victory in Virginia: ‘We the People’ Put Establishment in Its Place

Photo Credit: waltarrrrr / Creative Commons U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller congratulated Dave Brat on his victory tonight over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia’s 7th District Republican Primary.

“I want to congratulate Dave Brat on his great victory in Virginia tonight. Those in the Republican Establishment have done all they can this election cycle to announce the demise of the tea party movement with bold predictions of ‘crushing them everywhere.’ Well, maybe they should have checked with the grassroots before making such proclamations,” said Miller. “From Jolly in Florida to Sasse in Nebraska to McDaniel in Mississippi to Brat in Virginia, the tea party is proving that the people and not the party bosses or would-be king-makers in DC have the final say.”

Brat overcame Cantor’s significant monetary advantage and media presence to defeat the GOP Party leader. At the end of the last reporting period in March, Brat had $40,000 on hand to Cantor’s over $2 million. Cantor raised over $5 million for his re-election bid to Brat’s $200,000 in contributions. Cantor’s campaign released a poll last Friday conducted by John McLaughlin of McLaughlin & Associates, reported on by the Washington Post, showing Cantor with a 34-point lead over his tea party challenger (62 to 28 percent). Brat defeated Cantor by approximately 55 to 46 percent.

In 2010, Miller defeated Senator Lisa Murkowski in the Republican primary despite polling by Alaskan firm Dittman Research showing him trailing by 37 points weeks before the election. Murkowski, like Cantor, enjoyed a substantial monetary advantage of $2 million on hand at the end of June to Miller’s $100,000.

Dittman Research recently released a poll (without publishing the supporting data) showing Miller running over twenty points down against his primary opponents. The owner of the research firm is a max contributor to establishment candidate Mead Treadwell. Miller recently defeated Treadwell in a debate in his rival’s hometown of Anchorage, winning the straw poll following the debate. Less than a week before Miller won the Alaska Republican Assembly’s straw poll taking 76 percent of the vote, to Treadwell’s 18 percent, and Dan Sullivan’s 6 percent. Both indicate Miller has strong grassroots support as he did in 2010.

Amnesty and government spending were two of the decisive issues in Virginia’s 7th District primary race. Miller faces two Establishment candidates, Treadwell, who openly advocates for amnesty and Dan Sullivan who is heavily backed by those advocating for it, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and billionaire moderate Republican Paul Singer. Miller was the only candidate to come out publicly against the Murray-Ryan budget deal, when it was being debated last fall.

“The Party elite always play the same game: use unreliable polling and the media to try to convince voters there is no way to defeat their hand-picked candidates. The people are not buying it,” said Miller spokesman Randy DeSoto. “They know Washington is the problem and sending more there who want to play the Establishment game will not restore freedom or revive our economy. Based on what we’ve been seeing here in Alaska, the grassroots have another surprise in store for the Establishment in August.”

West Virginia’s “Pro-Life” Governor Vetoes Bill Banning Abortions After 20 Weeks

Photo Credit: LifeNews

Photo Credit: LifeNews

Democratic Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, who describes himself as pro-life and campaigned as a pro-life candidate, has vetoed a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

West Virginians for Life, the statewide pro-life group, tells LifeNews it is disappointed in Governor Tomblin’s veto of HB 4588, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. Similar bills have been passed in ten other states and Governor Tomblin is the only governor who has vetoed one of these bills.

In his veto message, the Governor claimed that attorneys advised him the bill was unconstitutional. Many cite an Arizona law as proof, however, according to Mary Balch, J,D., National Right to Life Director of State Legislation, “Arizona’s ‘Mother’s Health and Safety Act,’ a law which banned abortion after 20 weeks last menstrual period is not the same as West Virginia’s Pain-Capable Fetus Protection Act.

“West Virginia’s Pain-Capable Fetus Protection Act protects children from abortion beginning at 20 weeks fetal age, based on scientific evidence that by this stage of development the child would experience excruciating pain. Arizona’s law, as its name implies, focused on protecting the health and safety of the mother,” Balch explained.

“The Governor has placed himself in a minority position on this bill,” said West Virginians for Life (WVFL) President Wanda Franz, Ph.D.

Read more from this story HERE.