TPM News

A photo voter ID law signed by Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry is unnecessary, unfair, restrictive and intentionally discriminates against African-American and Latino voters, a coalition of civil rights groups will argue in a letter to the Justice Department on Wednesday.

Groups in the coalition want DOJ's Civil Rights Division to oppose preclearance of Texas's photo voter identification law under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The Advancement Project, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Asian American Justice Center, Southwest Workers Union, a statewide Hispanic organization and Demos say the state failed to prove that the law was enacted for a nondiscriminatory purpose and that it will have no discriminatory effect on minorities.

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We’ll be updating with live results throughout the evening for tonight’s special elections in New York’s 9th and Nevada’s 2nd district. Polls have now closed in New York. They’ll close at 10 PM eastern in Nevada.

TPM’s Benjy Sarlin will be reporting live from Queens. Those updates and more here in our Livewire. And of course you can follow the latest results at our election scoreboard .

The GOP-led House Financical Services Committee has produced a highly-stylized video, posted on YouTube, attacking the Obama administration's approach to regulation. A public interest group says the video comes pretty close to breaking House rules.

"This partisan video walks the line of the franking rules, but unfortunately may not cross it," Public Citizen's Lisa Gilbert told TPM.

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Updated 7:02 p.m., Tuesday Sept. 13 The National Transportation Security Board on Tuesday recommended that all 50 states and D.C. pass legislation banning commercial truck drivers from using mobile phones to talk and text, including hands-free devices, except in emergencies.

"Distracted driving is becoming increasingly prevalent, exacerbating the danger we encounter daily on our roadways,"said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman in a release. "It can be especially lethal when the distracted driver is at the wheel of a vehicle that weighs 40 tons and travels at highway speeds."

The independent government investigative agency, which looks into the nation's worst crashes on land, sea and air, doesn't actually have the power to impose rules of its own and instead issues recommendations to other agencies and state governments.

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Pennsylvania Republicans, who won the governorship and full majority control of the legislature in 2010, are now setting their sites on a major change -- to the state's Electoral College votes, which have been regularly won statewide by Democrats for 20 years, in the winner-take-all system used by nearly all the states.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Gov. Tom Corbett and state Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi are proposing that the state divide up its Electoral College votes according to which candidates carried each Congressional district, plus two votes for the statewide winner. The system is used by Maine -- which, despite the system, has never actually split its four electoral votes -- and by Nebraska, which gave one of its five votes to Barack Obama in 2008.

Pennsylvania, however, will have 20 electoral votes in the 2012 election. What's more, the measure would give even greater meaning to the state's redistricting for the House of Representatives, giving it a powerful effect over the presidency in addition to the House.

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The Obama campaign is launching a new website for 2012 to squash “disinformation” before it takes root.

“Attackwatch.com” s modeled after the 2008 campaign’s “Fight the Smears” which rebutted popular myths about things like Obama’s religion and birth certificate. The new site tackles more general topics, however, rebutting general criticism of Obama on the economy and foreign policy, for example.

During Tuesday's joint Super Committee hearing on the origin and drivers of U.S. debt, Republicans were eager, as they are in many settings, to portray the country as on the brink of a genuine debt crisis -- and to argue that the most effective remedies to a debt crisis are spending cuts, not tax increases.

This sounds like bland political pabulum, and in some ways it is. But it's also a huge reveal. If we're not in a fiscal crisis, and we thus have years of running room ahead of us to make appropriate, and non-drastic policy changes, then there's no immediate imperative to make the dramatic changes to Medicare and other popular government safety net programs Republicans want to see.

Here's how CBO director Doug Elmendorf responded when Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) nudged him about the relative merits of cutting spending (i.e. rolling back government services) as part of a national austerity program.

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Comcast is on a hiring roll.

Starting next Monday, telecom policy veteran Rebecca Arbogast, a managing director of media and telecom equity research at the investment banking firm of Stifel Nicolaus, will be Comcast's new vice president of global public policy.

She'll be joining Kyle McSlarrow, who joined Comcast this April from the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, where he was president and CEO, and Meredith Atwell Baker, who left the Federal Communications Commission when her term as a commissioner expired at the end of June.

McSlarrow's title is President of Comcast/NBCUniversal for Washington, D.C, while Atwell Baker's is senior vice president of government affairs.

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Former White House financial reform adviser Elizabeth Warren will officially launch her campaign for U.S. Senate from Massachusetts on Wednesday, challenging incumbent Republican Sen. Scott Brown, a source close to Warren told TPM on Tuesday.

"The pressures on middle class families are worse than ever, but it is the big corporations that get their way in Washington," Warren said in a statement. "I want to change that. I will work my heart out to earn the trust of the people of Massachusetts."

Warren has been exploring a run in recent weeks, and has been on a listening tour of the state.

Brown was elected to the Senate in a special election in January 2010, following the death of long-time Sen. Ted Kennedy, in a stunning upset against Democratic state Attorney General Martha Coakley. A recent survey showed Brown leading the lesser-known Warren by 44%-35%, but with the incumbent below the crucial 50% mark in a state that is expected to vote Democratic by a wide margin in the presidential race.

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