(MintPress) — Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee will officially secure his party’s nomination Tuesday with a primary victory in Texas. The GOP nomination has been hard fought with Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry all leading at different points throughout the race. As Mitt Romney and Barack Obama plan for the general election in November, large numbers of undecided voters, particularly in key swing states, will become the deciding factor in the 2012 Presidential race.
Electoral votes and swing states
Mitt Romney gave speeches on Tuesday in Nevada and Colorado, two battleground states this election cycle. Both states, according to a joint poll conducted by USA Today and Gallup in early May, are part of 12 swing states that will be highly contested battlegrounds in the upcoming election.
Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, New Mexico and Michigan have a total of 151 electoral votes, a huge determining factor in an election that requires the winning candidate to collect at least 270 electoral votes. While Barack Obama enjoys a slim 2 point advantage over Mitt Romney in national opinion polls, economists argue that given the slow economic recovery, many of these states will swing to the challenger Mitt Romney, making this a more difficult battle than in 2008, when Barack Obama easily defeated John McCain by 192 electoral votes.
The focus on “swing states” in a winner-take-all system begs the age old question, “Why does the United States use the electoral college, a system that nullifies the significance of Democratic voters in overwhelmingly red states, and nullifies the vote of Republican voters in overwhelmingly blue states.”
Sixty two percent of American voters prefer to do away with the electoral college and would prefer to replace it with the popular one-person, one vote system, according to a 2011 Gallup Poll. Despite the general public opposition to the electoral college, overturning the antiquated system would require a constitutional amendment, making its removal unlikely in the coming years.
However, the electoral college is but one factor limiting the influence of the average voter in the 2012 race. A slew of Voter ID laws threaten to disenfranchise millions of Americans.
Voter ID laws and funding cuts
On Wednesday, members of the Congressional Black Caucus will meet with clergy leaders from the Conference of National Black Churches. During the meeting, leaders will discuss strategies for dealing with the wave of discriminatory Voter ID laws that have been adopted or instituted in recent months. In 2011, 37 states instituted some form of voter id law which restricts citizen access to polls.
Lawmakers supporting Voter ID initiatives claim the laws will help reduce the incidences of voter fraud. However, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University school of law found in 2007 that the vast majority of voter fraud allegations, were either false or overstated.
As many as 11 percent of Americans do not have a government issued ID. This number is much higher among vulnerable groups on the periphery of U.S. society. The elderly, people of color, recent immigrants, the disabled and students will be disproportionately affected by this type of legislation as these groups are less likely to have a suitable government issued ID.
Access to the polls is further restricted this election cycle by cost cutting measures that have resulted in the closure of numerous polling places. Last week in Nebraska, 100 polling locations were closed by Douglas County Election Commissioner Dave Phipps. Critics of the decision say that the closures were made without the input of citizens.
Additionally, outspoken groups like the Omaha NAACP and the North Omaha Voter Coalition claim that the the 100 closed polling locations were located mostly in under-served areas of Omaha, particularly in communities with large numbers of working class poor and people of color.
These measures, among others, will have an impact on millions of voters who will have limited access to polling sites or will be disqualified from voting completely on election day. While funding may be diminishing for poll sites in under-served areas, money has been pouring into both the Obama and the Romney campaigns in the run-up to the 2012 election.
Fundraising in full swing: The race for campaign cash
On Tuesday Mitt Romney will hold a fundraiser in Las Vegas, Nevada at the Trump International Hotel. With tickets starting at $2,500, the fundraiser is expected to raise at least $2 million for the GOP nominee. A considerable amount –$675,000 – has already been pledged with larger financiers each contributing upwards of $50,000 for the event. Donald Trump, real estate magnate and television host, has been a major Romney supporter while frequently lambasting Obama for supposed inconsistencies in his birth certificate.
Although unlikely to disqualify Obama from running, Trump has been a proponent of the small “birther” movement, believing that Obama is not a native born U.S. citizen, and thus is ineligible to run for President. Commenting on the issue in a recent interview with the Daily Beast, Donald Trump elaborated, saying,
“Look, it’s very simple…A book publisher came out three days ago and said that in his written synopsis of his book, he said he [Obama] was born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia. His mother never spent a day in the hospital. He didn’t know he was running for president, so he told the truth. Now they’re saying it was a mistake. Just like his Kenyan grandmother said he was born in Kenya, and she pointed down the road to the hospital, and after people started screaming at her she said, ‘Oh, I mean Hawaii.’ Give me a break.”
Last year, the White House released Barack Obama’s long form birth certificate, proof that he was born in Hawaii. The release limited debate some, however, Donald Trump has now shifted his attention to Obama’s academic career, requesting the president release his transcripts. “I heard he was a terrible student, terrible. How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard? Let him show his records.” Trump added in an Associated Press statement at the end of last month.
Trump will host another fundraiser on behalf on Mitt Romney at the end of June. While these events will certainly give a boost to the Romney camp, the incumbent, President Barack Obama, maintains a strong 2-1 cash advantage over his rival.
Since the beginning of 2012, Barack Obama has raised $127 million for his re-election campaign and the Democratic party, according to the Washington Post. Last month alone, the Obama campaign raked in $45 million.
While Mitt Romney lags behind in direct campaign contributions, political action committees (PACs) have successfully raised large sums of money indirectly on behalf of his campaign. Contributions collected by PACs cannot be given directly to a candidate, but they can be spent on “electioneering communications”, such as television and internet ads that promote the candidate.
Super PACs flourished after the 2010 Citizens United ruling which allows for virtually unrestricted campaign donations as a form of free speech. Of the major pro-Romney super PACs, “Restore Our Future” leads the pack with an estimated $51.9 million. Following closely behind has been the “American Crossroads” PAC raising $28 million on behalf of Mitt Romney. While not as well funded, the pro-Obama Priorities USA Action PAC raised $8.9 million through the end of March.
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