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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 10/09/14

Guests: Stacey Abrams

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW": Good evening, Chris. Thanks a lot. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Chuck Todd from "Meet the Press," he`s here in just a moment tonight. He`s going to be here with us live. Also tonight, there`s more news about the Republican congressman who say they have secret knowledge that ISIS fighters have been captured inside the United States and are now in U.S. custody, but only they know about it. Quite a secret there. So there`s lots to come tonight. But we start with sad and sort of adorable confusion. Dan Coats is the senator from Indiana. You see him on the right there. Former Vice President Dan Quayle. And Dan Coats served in the Senate from 1989 to 1999. Then he retired. But then 12 years after he retired, he came back. So Dan Coats has been around for a long time. Is anybody ought to know his way around the United States Senate, you think it would be Dan Coats. But there was one day earlier this year when Dan Coats got lost at work. And at first, he tried to play it off with sort of admirable generic, let me try to see like I know what I`m doing, brave face, right? But then pretty quickly became clear that he didn`t where he was or what he was doing. And then everybody, I have to say, was very nice about it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. DAN COATS (R), INDIANA: I`m not here to get a specific answer from you. But to better understand what is happening and how it -- I think there`s probably a trial plan that`s going to be put in place that rings a bell. What is it you`re trying to accomplish? And what are some of the consequences of that going to be to the current DFAS system locations personnel, et cetera? SEN. TOM UDALL (D), NEW MEXICO: Under Secretary Cohen, I just wanted to -- COATS: I just got a note saying I`m at the wrong hearing. UDALL: Oh, OK. COATS: This is -- I`ve got the right room number, but the wrong hearing. UDALL: Well, that would explain why I didn`t know anything about this letter. (LAUGHTER) COATS: That`s the first time that`s ever happened to me but I hope it`s not a precursor of -- UDALL: You`re always welcome in our committee. COATS: Well, thank you. I saw some familiar faces -- I`ll let you off the hook on this one. UDALL: Thank you, Senator. COATS: All right. I hope that you`re able to respond as quickly as the undersecretary of the Army responded. But I`ll go try to find out where I`m supposed to be. Thank you. UDALL: Thank you, Senator. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I don`t know what the undersecretary of the Army had to do with that. But, you know, you just tried to make it --Senator Dan Coats got lost at work, when he got lost in the Senate, that hearing earlier this year, an honest mistake, right? But I got a little bunch of headlines, as you might expect. Washington Post, Senator Dan Coats, "I`m at the wrong hearing." A noted that Dan Coats not only went to the wrong hearing but he had stuff to say at the hearing. Once he was there, even though we didn`t know where he was. CBS and they`re treatment to the story. They just cut to the chase, the title of their story about his is, "Oops." But CBS and their coverage, also pointed out I think accurately that the one other really famous thing like that that has happened in the United States Senate in terms of a senator getting lost at work involves a guy named Larry Pressler. Larry Pressler and the closet. It was the early 1990s, Larry Pressler was on the Commerce Committee. They`ve having hearing about something. Senator Pressler got up to leave the hearing room in the middle of the hearing. But he apparently picked a door at random through which he wanted to leave. Unfortunately for him, the door picked was not a door that went like into a hallway or into some other room or to any other exit from where he was. The door he chose was the door to a closet. Quote, "Instead of promptly rectifying his mistake though, Larry Pressler remained inside the closet for 15 minutes presumably hoping the prying eyes outside would disperse. When Larry Pressler finally reemerged after standing in the closet in the dark for 15 minutes, he tried to act as if nothing had gone wrong. He looked back in the empty space in the closet, waved as if he was saying goodbye to someone and then closed the door. Then he located the real exit from the committee hearing room and finally did leave as the audience laughed at him." All right. There was, all of a sudden a big flat of attention into the Senate race this year in South Dakota, that it suddenly started to seem like it might be a competitive race. In a year when the Republicans are trying to take control of the United States Senate. And everybody thought they had a pretty good chance to do it. The idea that there might be a real fight on for South Dakota. It sort of seems nuts. But the Democrats and Democratic leaning packs all of the sudden throwing money into this case. They`re starting to believe that they could win it. There`s this intriguing three-way dynamics in the race splitting the vote in all sort of different ways. The Republican former governor who was supposed to just walking to that Senate seat without breaking a sweat, has turned out not to be running a great campaign and is not doing very well in the polls. And in a year when one race anywhere might change who is in control of the United States Senate in Washington, South Dakota of all places had suddenly become a really fascinating place. For all the new national interest in South Dakota though, there has not yet been all that much attention to the fact, or not much focus on the fact. That the intriguing independent in this race, the guy who makes it a three way contest in which nobody is anywhere near a majority of the vote, is Larry Pressler, the same guy who walked into the closet and hid in there for 15 minutes when he was trying to escape the commerce committee and couldn`t figure out how. In addition to the time he walked into the closet and decided to hide in their for a while and then wave at the closet as he left as if it had been a room, Larry Pressler as a senator was also reported to have missed an important committee meeting once because he fell asleep inside a different closet. We don`t know why he was in that one in the first place. Senator Ted Kennedy has also said to have once asked a former colleague of Larry Pressler, quote, "Has he had a lobotomy?" Tom Daschle, the one-time Senate majority leader from South Dakota, home state colleague of Larry Pressler used to say about him, quote, "A Senate seat is a terrible thing to waste." Larry Pressler was a three-term U.S. senator from South Dakota as a Republican. He has since left the Republican Party and become an independent but his reputation when he was in Washington was really out there. I mean, when he lost his Senate seat in 1996, he was the only incumbent Republican who lost his Senate seat that year. It was like he was part of a big wave of incumbent Republican senators being turf out. He was the only one. Larry Pressler stayed in Washington after he got turf out of the Senate. And in 1998, he announced that he was seriously thinking about running for mayor of Washington, D.C. Really? Washington, D.C.? The mostly black and probably the most Democratic polity in the nation. Why would they elect a white former Republican senator from South Dakota to be their mayor? It was never fully explained as part of the rationale for his candidacy, but he did explained publicly at the time that he was pretty sure that he could win the mayoralty of Washington, D.C. because he said, quote, "I have a lot of African-American friends." Despite the strength of that case, Larry Pressler was not elected mayor of Washington, D.C. But, hey, maybe this year he`s about to be elected senator from South Dakota again. The recent poll that exited all this attention about the Senate race is a survey USA poll. I have to tell you they don`t have particularly dazzling methodology. This poll for example, is not up to NBC News polling standards. But this latest survey USA poll which just came out does show the Republican who`s supposed to be a shoe in for this race with a grand total of 35 percent of the vote. Larry Pressler comes in at 32 percent of the vote. And a Democratic candidate for the seat Rich Weiland, key polls at 28 percent of the vote in this recent polls. So, they`re all within spitting this on each other. And unlike Georgia and Louisiana where there will have to be a runoff between the top two candidates if Niger then reaches 50 percent on election night. In South Dakota, there`s no runoff. So, whoever wins this Senate race may very well win with 35 percent of the vote. Do you remember Paul LePage, the Tea Party governor of Maine, everybody was like, how could a crazy Tea Party guy got elected governor of Maine? They didn`t have a runoff. He won for 30-something for Senate vote. The same thing is likely going to happen in South Dakota. Somebody is probably going to become a U.S. senator without cracking 40 percent. The reason the Senate map has been so scrambled by this news, out of South Dakota is because whatever else it means, it means that this seat is not a shoe-in for the Republican Party. I mean, with basically no money, with no organized outside support, with name recognition that, who knows, maybe mostly comes from the walking into the closet thing. Larry Pressler is polling very close to the top. OK? And then there`s the Democrat. Rick Weiland who has not had establishment support from the Democratic Party even though he is a former staffer to Tom Daschle, the former South Dakota senator. Now, Rick Weiland was seen as real progressive. He had early support from the progressive Howard Dean group. Democracy for America. They`ve since upped their support for him as his chances have looked better and better and better. Rick Weiland has also just gotten an infusion of a million dollars for -- sort of anti-Citizens United campaign finance reform pack that`s being run by a Stanford guru Lawrence Lessig, Stanford professor and campaign finance guru Lawrence Lessig. On Tuesday, they pitched in a million dollars to the Rick Weiland campaign. They say, they`re basically going to ignore Larry Pressler and just try to help out Rick Weiland`s but that`s a million bucks. And then there was this huge new yesterday that the Democratic Senate campaign committee. The official Senate campaign arm of the Democratic Party, they, too, are going to pitch in a million dollars into this race. And when my guest that most of their million is going to be used to go after the Republican. Right? The Republican would-be front runner Mike Rounds who`s not doing so hot. And all of that makes for an incredibly complex and sort of volatile mix of dynamics in a state that, at least recently, is not used to tons of national attention, let alone tons of national money. In a race with the guy with the most known name recognition is a former Republican turned independent who endorsed Barack Obama twice and he`s most known for walking into a closet. Right? In a state where a million dollars from one campaign committee, very well could be enough to swap the whole political ad market in a state where it`s really cheap to run ads. And of course, this is all happening in a state that frankly is really small. I mean, it`s geographically big. But population wise, it is small. And one of the consequences of that is the way you run your campaign. Retail politicking. The way you meet people and the way you put yourself out there to make sure you meet people. That can make a really big difference. And so, in South Dakota right now, this is what the campaigns kind of look like so far. Just watch this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICK WEILAND (D), SOUTH DAKOTA SENATE CANDIDATE: OK, I`m kind of ticked that Mike Rous has decided to skip the whole two months of debates. After all, as someone who`s visiting every town in South Dakota, wise, I`m kind of big, I`m showing up. I`m Rick Weiland and I approved this message. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So that`s Rick Weiland, that`s the Democrat who, before 48 hours ago, was being ignored by the National Democratic Party. There`s something, like, I think 311 towns in South Dakota, part of the Rick Weiland campaign is that he has visited every one of the 311 towns in South Dakota at least once, all in his light-blue minivan. But also if you noticed in that ad, the guitar picking that you hear sort of struck there at the end, that guitar picking thing has also become part of the way that he is campaigning. Part of the way Rick Weiland the Democrat has been campaigning, is like doing this like two or three minute long music videos. Well, he`s not lip-sinking, he`s playing guitar and singing cover versions of Johnny Cash songs and this song Wagon Wheel from the Old Crow Medicine Show. And Rick Weiland sings the songs, plays guitar and he changes the lyrics to make him about the campaign. That was just a grass roots guy running against the big-money guys. And he`s all for South Dakota and he`s been there every town. You know, every year in every national election, there are races that get disproportion for national attention because they could have a disproportion and national impact. This year, three-and-a-half weeks out from the election, if that race is going to be South Dakota this year, I`ve got to tell you, at least South Dakota, they`ve earned it. At least this race is actually interesting enough to deserve all of the attention that they just now getting. And that it seems like it is about to give for the next three-and-a-half weeks. Joining us now is NBC News Political Director and moderator of "Meet the Press" Chuck Todd. Chuck, nice to see you. Thanks for being here on this. CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Rachel, that was a very amusing intro. The hit to run -- of Larry Pressler, you left out one big factor. He ran for president in 1980. MADDOW: That`s right. TODD: He ran for president. It is an interesting career that Mr. Pressler has had -- a road scholar, by the way. MADDOW: A road scholar, definitely. And when he ran for president, he was 37-years-old. And he like ran for president, tried to make a big splash, dropped out before the primaries. And then eventually he was running for DC mayor. I mean, I feel like Larry Pressler alone, is worthy of the kind of attention that South Dakota is about to get. What can you tell about what`s actually going to happen in this race? How come Mike Rounds isn`t just running away with it? TODD: Well, look, that`s what this is really about. OK. This is about the former Republican Governor Mike Rounds is not putting this race away. And part of it is, his administration is dogged by a scandal that he`s being -- getting a lot of attention locally in this state. And had to do with the way, something called EB5 visas which are these programs -- these government programs that allow foreigners to essentially buy a green card, if they invest in a local business. Other states have done it. And, it basically got a bit, at least the best that you can spin it for Rounds is, somebody in his administration, basically, profited all of this, used it as a way to make money. The guy, by the way, ended up committing suicide before he was indicted. So, it`s a really sort of a messy scandal that touches Rounds. Whether Rounds knew about it or it has not been the issue, it`s been more, it was about the Rounds administration happened on his watch. And this is what has created this environment that he has not been able to put this away. And so what the Democrats made the decision. Rounds has sort of been just sitting there. And ever it slowly, Pressler and Weiland and the local press have been doing a little bit more and a little bit more on these rounds, on this what`s happened during the Rounds administration. And it`s gotten enough traction to create doubt. So, what the Democrats have done here is decided, well, let`s throw a million dollars in beat up Rounds. And they figure, we have two chances at winning. It`s essentially the Democratic Party`s message. They figured, Pressler wins. He won`t caucus with the Republicans and it denies them, one of their six seats that they need. Or Weiland wins and he does. Now, all this by the way, there`s more soap opera to this, the reason Weiland has not gotten a lot of help is because Tom Daschle wanted Weiland, Harry Reid wanted Stephanie Herseth who was the former Democratic congresswoman from South Dakota. They couldn`t agree and it became a bit of a feud between Daschle and Reid and Reid is essentially dried up resource for Weiland. But now, here we are because at the end of the day, Harry Reid still stays as Senate majority leader. MADDOW: So, but can`t the Democrats -- I mean, I understand the Democrats thinking about this in terms of beating up Rounds. But don`t they have to pick? I mean, granted there`s not going to be a runoff. You know, this is not something where somebody has to get 50 percent of the vote. TODD: Right. MADDOW: But don`t they have to decide whether or not they want the beneficiary of the anti-Rounds up to be Weiland or Pressler in order for either one of them to benefit in a way that`s going to put them over the top? TODD: Look, I think they do. I mean, and I think that I could tell you this, the Pressler folks, think they can pull another contest here. Right? And what is that mean? Somehow get the Democrat to drop out and essentially send the message to Democrats, hey, get behind Pressler. Now, I know a lot of Democratic campaign committees both super Pacs and in the party. They have polled this race every which way you can think off couldn`t figure out a way, in a two way, three ways, either had to get Weiland win the win, Pressler to win or whatever. But we`re in a two way if somehow Weiland dropped out. In this case, his name would stay on the ballot. For folks that are following this closely, they know that in Kansas for instance, the Democrat dropped out in time to keep his name off the ballot which is of course is helping out the independent there. So, that`s one part of this. I think look, I think the Democratic Party is going to wait a week or two, see what this money does. See if it moves the needle. See which way the needle moves. And it moves in Weiland`s direction, they`ll get behind Weiland. If it moves in Pressler`s direction, then you may see pressure on Weiland to get out. So, I think that at this point, it`s sort of these days, a million dollars and a super Pac word is easy to find. They have it. They`re throwing it in there to sort of say, hey, create more hurdles in the way of the Republicans from finding their seats. MADDOW: Even if we don`t know how it`s going to work out. Let`s at least make this messy. TODD: And that`s what it is. I mean, and I had to say, that`s what`s making this election cycle so weird. MADDOW: Yes. TODD: Is that, here we are in October, everybody has been predicting this Republican way, and all of the sudden, races are coming back into play. This is an odd year, a weird year. And I think it`s -- for me, it`s going to be a fun October. MADDOW: That`s exactly right. Certainly different than we thought it was going to be. Old Crow Medicine Show fans are going to be a factor here. TODD: Kansas and South Dakota. MADDOW: Exactly. TODD: Nobody was talking about it nine months ago, MADDOW: I think the Democratic Party should offer Larry Pressler, the mayoralty of Washington, D.C. if he gets out. And that makes everybody happen. It`s amazing. Chuck Todd, NBC News political director and moderator of "Meet the Press." Chuck, thank you my friend. I appreciate it. TODD: You got it Rachel. MADDOW: All right. We`ve got some breaking news from the United States Supreme Court ahead. And we`ve got one of the great rebuttals of all time from Mr. Lewis Black. Stay with us. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LEWIS BLACK, COMEDIAN: Look, people marched and fought and died for the right to vote, and they want to legislate away that sacrifice to stay in power? Not on my watch, baby. (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: In the midterm elections, the President`s party does poorly. It`s an axiom of American politics. I mean, there are few exceptions every once in a while. George W. Bush era, Republicans said OK in the first midterms that were held after 9/11. Clinton era Democrats did OK in the aftermath of Newt Gingrich and his very unpopular anti-Clinton impeachment crusade. That was in the midterms of `98. But, in general, whoever is in the White House, that President`s party loses seats in Congress in the midterm elections. Nobody knows if that`s going to be the case in this year`s midterms which are three-and-a-half weeks from now. But that was definitely the case in President Obama`s first midterms in 2010. Here`s the thing though. The reason that that Republican success in 2010, that otherwise fairly predictable midterm results in 2012, was such a huge deal. Because in 2010, the Republicans used their momentum that year to not only do well in the House and in the Senate. They also that you`re basically swept state government`s across the country. Republicans that year picked up six governorships and they flipped 20 state legislative chambers from blue to red. In six states, they flipped both chambers in the state legislature from blue to red. Republicans picked up more legislative seats in that election than any party had since the 1920s. And that ended up being the most important thing about those first interims of the Obama era. In Washington, yes, they took the house. And that is what the beltway care about the most. Right? But flipping to John Boehner as speaker, from Nancy Pelosi as speaker, honestly, that pales in comparison to the importance of what happened in the states. Because when Republicans tripped those state governments all across the country, they decided they would use that power to not just enact the kind of policies they wanted in those states. So, on you know, economic issues or agriculture and education on other stuff, they decided specifically that they were going to use that power in the state states to tilt the playing field for all of the rest of our elections that have happened in our country since 2010. Most obviously, the gerrymandered Congressional districts, so there`s no chance of the Democratic Party taking back the House of Representatives any time in the foreseeable future. It`s basically structurally impossible for Democrats to pick up House seats at all. Until things can -- again in 2010, 2020. So, that`s one way to tilt the playing field, right? Redraw the maps to get yourself permanent structurally determined control of one House of Congress. It`s nice work if you can get it. But the other thing that Republicans did with their control of state governments is that they embarked on a nationwide binge to change voting rules. We`ve reported a lot on this show. It`s not just a series of unconnected anecdotes and news stories, right? Since the big Republican takeover in the states in 2010, 18 Republican-controlled states have changed the rules in those states to make it harder to vote. Eighteen states. Some of those are still being litigated. The Supreme Court just last night said they would allow North Carolina`s draconian new voting restrictions to be allowed to go into effect for this year`s elections. If you`re in North Carolina and you used to register to vote and vote at the same time, register to vote and vote at the same day, you don`t get to do that anymore. Thanks to the new voting restrictions passed by Republicans in North Carolina and the Supreme Court let go ahead last night. Now, North Carolina, you`ve got just one more day to get yourself registered and then it`s all over for you this year. In Wisconsin, Republicans there passed new laws, making it much harder to vote in that state. We`ve been waiting all week to find out whether or not the Supreme Court was going to allow that law in Wisconsin to be put into effect for the elections this year. Just within the last few minutes, we got breaking news on that front, the United State Supreme Court tonight had just blocked the state of Wisconsin from implementing its new law forcing voters to present ID in order to vote. ID that they never had to show before in order to vote. There`s been a ton of confusion in Wisconsin as to what it would take to vote in that state this year. But, again, the United States Supreme Court has just moments ago weighed in and stopped the Republican Wisconsin voter ID law from going into effect. But while all of this wrangling happens over what voting restrictions Republican control states were going to get away with in time for the election this year. Something else has just happened on this front that has never happened before. The Government Accountability Office, GAO, non-partisan research arm of Congress, once all these Republican states started changing voting loss after 2010. Five U.S. senators wrote to the GAO and asked them to please study what the effect would be of what these states were doing. Specifically, the senators asked the GAO to study what affects these new voter ID laws were having in states that implemented them in the last few years. I mean, you never used to have to show specific forms of ID in order to be allowed to vote. Not every legal voter in the states, in this states, has the kind of ID that`s now being required to vote. And so that raises an interesting empirical studiable question. If you make having new specific forms of ID, a new requirement for voting, what happens to voting in those states? Well, now we have the answer. Turns out if you do that, voter turnout goes down. Surprise. It works just like it`s supposed to. GAO look at these six states to see what happened to voting in those states as Republicans rolled back voting rights so for the last few years. Then look at these six states, from 2008 to 2012. Now, between those two presidential elections, all voter turnout dropped a little bit. Because frankly in 2008 was more fun than 2012. Hi, Mitt. But even taking that into account, comparing those states, voter turned out dropped more in Kansas and Tennessee than it dropped in all of those other states that GAO looked up. Kansas and Tennessee. Kansas and Tennessee also happens to be the state that implemented stricter voter ID during that time period. So, who voted less once these states got this strict voter ID requirements? We can be specific about that. Turns out that voter turnout was specifically down among young voters and among black voters. How the young voters tend to vote? They tend to vote Democratic? How do black voters tend to vote? They tend to vote very Democratic. And now we have the empirical proof that what voter ID laws do in practice is that they take those voters disproportionately out of the mix. And it`s not because the young people and the black people were all committing voter fraud and now they`ve been stopped from doing that by voter ID laws. That drop in voter turnout is specifically among eligible voters and registered voters. People who are legally illegible to vote and people who are legally registered to vote. But who are nevertheless excluded from the election by these new laws. If you`re an eligible voter and a registered voter, you`re not somebody who should be weeded out of voting. In any fair system of voting. But this is obviously not meant to be a fair system of voting. This is meant to be a Republican tilted system of voting. I mean, honestly, not to put to find a point on that, but if we were less polite about these things, we would call it what it is. Which is cheating. It`s using political power to change the rules to make it harder for specific people to vote so Republicans have a better chance of staying in power. We`ve been watching them do it since the last midterm elections when Democrats didn`t turn out in big enough numbers. And this is the consequences. We`ve been watching them do it. It has been four years of fighting and legal wrangling over this stuff but they have done it. Because of all those gains they got in the last midterms when Democrats didn`t care enough to vote. And now we can see the effects. And if you care about small D democracy and the right to vote, and everything that went into securing it, it is enough to make you swear, right? I mean, it is -- it`s enough to make Lewis Black swear. You know Lewis Black? Comedian? Lewis Black just did this video with the ACLU ahead of this year`s election basically to let people know that this is going on. It`s about this new plague of laws to restrict voting rights across the country. It`s a short little video that Lewis Black did with the ACLU. It`s really, really good. And there`s an important thing to know about it but I will tell you right after we show it. But watch. Here it is, the punch line at the very, very end is really good. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now just give me a minute. I`m going to get the camera set up. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks a lot for agreeing to be our celebrity ambassador in voting rights, Lewis. We`ll try to make this photo shoot as painless as possible. LEWIS BLACK, COMEDIAN: Look, no photo shoot is pain less but I`m happy to help. It`s important. I mean, who is denying people -- the right to vote? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`d be surprised. We`re fighting people trying to suppress voting all over the country. Like North Carolina, they slashed a week of early voting. That affects over two million people. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right. If I can just get you guys to look at the lens. BLACK: Why stop people from voting early? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, early voting makes it easier to vote. And that can decide an election. Here, this is a picture that I carry around with me everywhere I go in case I get a chance to talk about early voting. Look at that line. BLACK: What the hell is that? Is it Black Friday? I mean, you`d think that the people of Florida would want their voters to, like, you know, vote. What`s next? A poll tax? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well -- BLACK: No (EXPLETIVE DELETED) way. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can just have you look into the lens? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Voter ID like they try to implement in Wisconsin costs money. It essentially is a poll tax. And look at what they made Wisconsinites do just to get one of these ID cards. This is an actual document from the state of Wisconsin which is supposed to show how easy it is to get an ID. BLACK: This looks like a chart showing how tough it is for a sperm to find a fertilized egg which explains why it`s so tired when it finally gets there. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, guys -- BLACK: Elected officials shouldn`t get to choose who gets to choose elected officials. Look, people marched and fought and died for the right to vote. And they want to legislate away that sacrifice to stay in power? Not on my watch, baby. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I could -- BLACK: Take the picture. (END VIDEO CLIP) (LAUGHTER) MADDOW: Lewis Black, the new ACLU ambassador on voting rights. Take the picture. The Republican Party really has used the power that they got in the states in the last midterm elections to tilt the playing field in their favor for these midterm elections by making voting harder. I mean, I`ve just said that in, like, 11 minutes, right? The way to say that more succinctly is - - (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BLACK: Elected officials shouldn`t get to choose who gets to choose elected officials. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Thank you, Lewis Black. Succinct, to the point and appropriately angry. But here`s the best part. Tonight, on MSNBC, tonight on "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL," which is the show right after this one here on MSNBC. Tonight, Lawrence has on his show live the folks who just did that video. Again, it`s right after the show tonight. The "LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." It`s awesome. I`m super jealous. You must watch. Also, you must vote. (LAUGHTER) I know it`s the midterms, but seriously you must vote. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK, we just reported the breaking news that the Supreme Court has blocked Wisconsin`s new voter ID law from going into effect for this year`s elections. That voter ID law could potentially have disenfranchised anywhere from 150,000 to 350,000 people this year in Wisconsin. The Supreme Court in this order has just blocked the Wisconsin law. Just this hour. And even since we got this hot off the presses, we have learned more breaking news about voting rights. This time in Texas. A federal judge in Texas has just blocked that state`s voter ID law, as well. This has just happened. It`s the super strict Texas voter ID law that was passed by the Republican legislature in 2011 signed by Governor Rick Perry. The judge in this Texas case wrote tonight that lawmakers in Texas intended that law to have a disproportionate effect on minority voters. He said they have been, quote, "motivated, at very least in part because of, and not merely in spite of the voter ID laws` detrimental effects on the African-American and Hispanic electorate." Wow. That federal judge has now ruled that the Texas voter ID law is unconstitutional and he has blocked it. Both of these decisions happening within minutes of each other within the last hour. The Texas attorney general says the state will appeal in that case. Watch this space. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Common wisdom is that when it`s not a presidential election year, Americans don`t care about their elections until it`s basically too late. But particularly for midterm elections, we don`t care until right before. I don`t know whether where we are right now constitutes right before or not. We`re three and a half weeks out from election night. But what if election night isn`t the end this year? In two of the most hotly contested Senate races this year, the Senate race in Louisiana and the one in Georgia, the rules say that if nobody gets a clear majority of the vote, if nobody gets 50 percent plus one vote, then there has to be a run-off after the November elections. Which very well could mean that we don`t know who controls the Senate until more like Christmas this year or actually until January. Great. Are we having fun yet? The Georgia races turning out to be sort of particularly nuts. New polling this week shows Republicans David Perdue leading by a single point. There`s also a libertarian candidate in the race drawing away at this point a significant number of votes, given how close it is. Honestly, though, because this is Georgia Democrats are thrilled to be this close in this race. And the poll watchers say that Democrat Michelle Nunn may be doing even better than she looks on paper because the population of Georgia happens to be one that`s changing really fast. One of the results of that is that polls, at least some experts say, may be undercounting black voters in Georgia who tend to vote Democratic. A liberal group called the New Georgia Project made big waves on the left this year when they estimated that there are 800,000 African-Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans in Georgia who are eligible to vote but are not yet signed up. 800,000. New Georgia set a -- set a goal of registering 120,000 of those people to vote this year. As of Monday, which was the deadline for registering if you want to vote in this election, New Georgia and a dozen smaller groups said that they had met that goal. They were registering so many voters over the course of this year in Georgia that it appears to have made Georgia Republicans a little nervous. Now the Republican Secretary of State in Georgia, Brian Kemp, this year he warned his fellow Republicans that, quote, "Democrats are working hard registering all these minority voters and others that are sitting on the sidelines. If they can do that, they can win these elections in November." After saying that, then, in his capacity as the state`s top elections official, the same guy launched an investigation into the Democrat`s voter registration project. He issued a subpoena to New Georgia ordering them the turn over any and all documents relating to the New Georgia Project or any other effort to register voters, store voter information, contact voters or any other canvassing project relating to voter registration or voter outreach. Hand us over all your work. We called the secretary of state`s office about that investigation today. They said that out of the 85,000 applications submitted by the New Georgia Project specifically, they said 50 of them were founded to be fraudulent. That`s not 50,000. They say 50 out of how many thousand? They say their investigation is ongoing. Meanwhile the New Georgia Project contends that over 40,000 of the applications they collected have not yet been processed. They say people who registered, some of them months ago, still don`t appear on the voter rolls and they don`t know why. So where are those names? Has something happened to those applications? We asked the secretary of state`s office about that, as well. They say they are not aware of any counties currently having a backlog or any trouble going through the applications. We asked whether there had been a backlog of thousands of voter applications this year. They told us, quote, "All applications received by the deadline will be processed by the counties. This is the law and it will be adhered to". Joining us now is Georgia State Representative Stacey Abrams. She`s the founder of the New Georgia Project and House minority leader. Representative Abrams, it`s a real honor to have you here tonight. Thanks for being here. STATE REP. STACEY ABRAMS, NEW GEORGIA PROJECT FOUNDER: Thank you for having me. MADDOW: So from the outside, it seems like there is not just contested ground in terms of registering people but contested ground in terms of whether or not you and other Democratic learning groups are going to be allowed to register people. Do you feel like that`s the fight that you`re in right now? Whether or not you`re allowed to register folks? ABRAMS: That was the fight prior to Monday. It was whether or not we`d be allowed to complete our work. The fight we`re fighting now, though, is making sure that those we did register are actually put on the rolls. The challenge here is not whether or not they`ve registered. These are completed applications that have been duly processed. The problem is they`ve gone into a black hole and we can`t find those voters. And if we don`t find them by election day, they will not be counted and that`s wrong. MADDOW: Do you think that they`re in a black hole at the county level or a black hole at the state level? What do you suspect has happened here? ABRAMS: The point is not where they are but whose responsibility it is to find them. The secretary of state is the state`s top election official. It is his job to make certain that every registered voter makes it to the rolls. So if that means helping the counties, if it means asking the same questions we`re asking, if it means verifying that the systems that are now in place, these new systems to match to prove citizenship, making sure those systems are working properly. Whatever he should do, the secretary of state must do to guarantee these voters make it to the rolls. Pinning the blame on the counties is irrelevant. It`s his job to make it happen. MADDOW: How many voters do you think we`re talking about here in terms of people who you think have been duly registered, who have done all the paperwork properly but then who have disappeared and not turned up on the voter rolls? How many do you think it is overall and what proportion is that of the overall number of voters who you and your project got registered this year? ABRAMS: So we believe that the number is more than 40,000. MADDOW: Wow. ABRAMS: We get updated information. And here`s the reason we`re most concerned. Of that number, at least 44 percent were between the ages of 18 and 25. Another 20 percent were between the ages of 25 and 35. So you`re talking 60 percent of these new registered voters who do not know if they`ll be able to cast their first ballot being under the age of 35. And if we don`t get them engaged, if we have a chilling effect on their very first time to vote, they may never come back to the polls. And that should terrify all of us. MADDOW: What happens next in your effort to find these voters in order to get the -you`re your effort to get the secretary of state to try to essentially take the ball by the horns and figure this out? What are you going to do next? ABRAMS: Well, we invited them to meet with us and our attorneys were working with the lawyer`s committee. We asked them today, actually a couple of days ago to meet with us. They declined today to meet with us saying that they`ll get it taken care of. But they refused to acknowledge that there`s actually a problem so I don`t know exactly what they`re taking care of. So we are considering all our options. There are a range of opportunities from legal action to civil action. But what we will not do is stand idly by. The New Georgia Project is not just about registering voters but really converting these folks into really engaged voters. If you go to our web site,, one thing that we`ve done is actually put information, a great video, both in English and Spanish, that explains how to vote. We want this to be a process that everyone can be a part of. Not just getting registered but turning these folks out to vote so they become active and engaged citizens. MADDOW: Georgia State Representative Stacey Abrams, the minority leader in the Georgia State House, and the leader with the New Georgia Project, thanks for helping us understand this. 40,000 voter registration forms gone missing in Georgia ought to be a -- ought to be a big national story. Good luck. Keep us posted. ABRAMS: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: Thanks. All right. Much more ahead. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: On the 1900 block of Pennsylvania Avenue northwest in Washington, D.C., just a few blocks from the White House, you`ll find this sort of odd- looking structure. It looks like one building is in the process of eating another one, right? The building that`s being eaten is one of the oldest residential buildings in Washington, D.C. It was part of a row of townhouses that used to be home to the president of the United States. It`s where James Madison lived after the British burned down the White House in 1814. The bigger structure here, the one doing the eating in this architectural metaphor, that big building is the Mexican embassy in Washington, D.C. It sort of envelops its really old, really can`t be torn down neighbor. Well, the Mexican embassy, if you go to their Web site, it fills with all sorts of important diplomatic issues between the U.S. and Mexico. The foreign secretary receives dreamers visiting Mexico. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs signs agreement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In the middle of all that sort of weedy diplomatic stuff comes this item. Look, all caps, "Statement by the Embassy of Mexico in the United States on Congressman Duncan Hunter`s comments on FOX News." The Mexican embassy has felt the need to go out of its way to shoot down a thing said by a Republican congressman on FOX News. This is a story that we first brought you last night. It has since turned into a much bigger, much stupider thing than it was even this time last night. But we`ve got more on that next, emphasis on the more on. I`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Part of the reason it`s been frustrating to not have Congress debate about the new U.S. war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria is that in a real debate with real stakes, where people try hard to win the debate and its results are binding, good arguments should win and bad arguments should lose. I believe in competition. In a real debate, people who make things up and people who make ridiculous arguments should lose. They should get made fun of, they should lose credibility, they should lose the debate. That`s one thing that debates are really good for. On the flip side, in the absence of a debate, you`ll find that the nonsense just floats freely. It`s more of an accountability free zone, and so you end up with stuff like this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: I know that at least 10 ISIS fighters have been caught coming across the Mexican border in Texas. There`s nobody talking about it. GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS: How do you know that? HUNTER: There`s -- because I`ve asked -- because I`ve asked the Border Patrol, Greta. VAN SUSTEREN: And the Border Patrol, they just let ISIS members come across the border? HUNTER: No, they caught them at the border. Therefore, we know that ISIS is coming across the border. If they catch five or 10 of them, then you know there`s going to be dozens more that did not get caught. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Oh, my god. At least 10 ISIS fighters are in U.S. custody because they were arrested in the United States. Ten ISIS fighters in custody. It`s like, oh, my god, bin Laden is in the refrigerator. Ten -- no, not 10, more than 10. More than 10 are in custody. This is huge news. If you believe it. As we reported last night, Homeland Security says Congressman Duncan Hunter`s claim is categorically false. But in the absence of any real debate among his peers in Congress, Duncan Hunter is now defending his claim, sort of. He`s insisting that he has a high-level source that told him this. His office says, I think it`s not so much at least 10 ISIS fighters, maybe it`s people who have ISIS affiliations, more like." But now this nonsense is spreading. Now another Republican Congressman Jason Chafetz of Utah says it`s not at least 10 ISIS fighters who have been caught in the United States and taken into custody, he says it`s four. He says there were four of them caught last month. Really? Four ISIS fighters picked up in the U.S. and they`re in custody now. Where are they? You`d think that would be a really big deal. Huge deal. If Congress was debating what to do about ISIS, and the U.S. government captured four, I mean 10, I mean more than 10 ISIS terrorists on U.S. soil and have them in custody that would be a huge deal. But actually instead there`s no debate. And instead the noise around the war and the noise against ISIS is vacationing members of Congress filling their time with nonsense -- nonsense with an exclamation point. That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." Good evening, Lawrence. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END