Independent Voting Videos


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Wisconsin to Defend its Voter ID Law in Federal Court

Wisconsin once again has to defend its voter ID law in federal court, this time responding to a challenge to the law’s exclusion of veterans’ IDs, technical college IDs, and out-of-state drivers’ licenses.

Staff attorney Sean Young with the American Civil Liberties Union argued before the federal district court in Milwaukee on Monday, asking them to allow these alternative IDs to be added to the state’s strict list of acceptable documents.

“Defenders of voter ID laws claim to care about verifying that voters are who they say they are. But these forms of ID do that,” Young said. “They’re all verified by a state or federal government office. Wisconsin hasn’t given a single good reason in litigation for excluding these forms of ID. I think it calls to question the real purpose of these voter ID laws.”

One of the lead plaintiffs in the case is 56-year-old Army veteran Carl Ellis, who has been in and out of homeless shelters in Milwaukee, and whose only photo ID is the veteran card he uses to access medical benefits. After Governor Scott Walker signed the voter ID bill into law in 2011, he spent two years making trip after trip to both the DMV and the Social Security office before successfully obtaining a form of ID the state would accept at the polls. During the process, he had to ask a local nonprofit for the $5 he needed to get a copy of his birth certificate, and beg for bus fare. When he couldn’t afford the bus, Ellis would walk long distances to access these offices, even though he has a physical disability.

Residents who live in the Wisconsin’s more rural counties may have even more difficulty than Ellis had obtaining an ID, as DMVs are only open two days a week and offer no after-work hours in more than half of the state’s counties.

The ACLU is also demanding Wisconsin accept student IDs from technical colleges, whose population is overwhelmingly lower income and more racially diverse than the University of Wisconsin system. Under the current law, technical college IDs are not accepted at the voting booth, but IDs from the state’s four-year colleges and universities are valid.

The ACLU is also demanding the state accept out-of-state drivers licenses, arguing that voters currently have to pay a $28 fee to exchange their license for a Wisconsin one. Young called this a “poll tax.”

Besides asking the court to force Wisconsin to accept these alternate forms of ID, the plaintiffs are also asking the state to allow individuals who have struggled to obtain an ID to sign an affidavit, a process currently allowed in Michigan, Idaho, and Kentucky.

Though the court could deliver its verdict at any time, voting rights advocates are pushing for a decision well in advance of the February primary, to allow time to inform residents about what they need to do in order to cast a ballot.

Wisconsin activists have fears that the voter ID law will sow confusion among voters, exacerbated by the fact that the state has allocated almost no money to educate the population on what is and is not required. The years of court rulings alternately striking down and upholding the law have only added to this confusion.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Monday, October 5, 2015

Fighting for Reform in San Francisco

Represent San Francisco and SF Friends of Ethics teamed up to get the Expenditure Lobbyist Measure on the ballot for the November 3, 2015 election.

If passed, it will expand the definition of lobbying to include astroturfing, and will reinstate the reporting of all spending aimed at city hall

On June 29, 2015, the Ethics Commission voted unanimously to place a measure, Proposition C, regulating “expenditure lobbyists” on the ballot.

CLICK HERE to read the three page (PDF) "Frequently Asked Questions About the Expenditure Lobbyist Measure On the November 3, 2015 San Francisco Ballot (Proposition C)".

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Seattle Honest Elections Initiative

Seattle could be the second major city to pass a law modeled after the American Anti-Corruption Act.

Initiative I-122 (Honest Elections Seattle), on the ballot in November, will hold local politicians accountable, reduce conflicts of interest, increase transparency, encourage a more diverse pool of candidates, and give every voter a voice.

Limit corporate and wealthy interests’ influence elections:

I-122 shines a light on dark money in elections by restricting campaign donations from city contractors, regulated businesses, and their lobbyists, by speeding up disclosure of campaign donations, and by setting strict lower contributions limits. Limits campaign contributions from interests that spend significant funds ($5,000+) lobbying the city and corporations with large ($250,000+) city contracts.

Keep elected officials honest:

Wealthy special interests have too much power in Seattle. When these interests spend huge amounts of money on elections, that’s not free speech; that’s buying our candidates. I-122 makes it illegal for city officials and their top aides to take lobbying jobs immediately after leaving office, and it requires them to fully disclose their assets to help identify possible conflicts of interest. Sets strict contribution limits to no more than $500 in all city races and limits spending by candidates who voluntarily participate in Democracy Voucher program. Tightens campaign reporting deadlines and increases transparency with electronic disclosure requirements. Each paid signature gatherer must show a badge stating “PAID SIGNATURE GATHERER.” Increase fines & penalties on those breaking election rules.

Increase participation in the Democratic process:

I-122 empowers everyday people to participate in the democratic process, encouraging more women, people of color, and young people to run for office without depending on special interest money. It keeps elections in the hands of the voters, who can support candidates of their choice with four $25 democracy vouchers. This program is funded either through the general revenue fund of $3 million/year or a small tax levy of about $8/year for a property worth $400,000.

CLICK HERE and scroll down to read the actual ballot wording.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Election Reforms on the Ballot in Maine Under Question 1

Maine residents will vote on a statewide initiative to curb corruption this November. If approved by voters, Question 1 will require more transparency, empower voters, and increase the fines and penalties for those who break the rules.

Question 1:

- Increase fines & penalties for those who break election rules to keep representatives accountable.

- Increase transparency and shines a light on big money in elections by requiring special interest groups to list their top three funders on any ads they buy.

- Encourage strict campaign finance and contribution limits by strengthening Maine’s landmark Clean Election Act, so that candidates can run for office without being beholden to wealthy special interests.

CLICK HERE to find out more.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Sunday, October 4, 2015

How the Supreme Court Decides a Redistricting Case Could Affect NY

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has joined the fight in Evenwel v Abbott with an amicus brief. The de Blasio administration has joined a Supreme Court fight that could change the way voting districts are carved up to exclude residents like immigrants and felons from the population count.

If successful, Evenwel vs. Abbott would dramatically change the political landscape in immigrant-rich communities like New York, because it would draw districts to include only eligible voters. Immigrants, felons who have lost the right to vote and children would be excluded.

In court papers filed last week, the city’s Law Department said rewriting the rules would punish New York City for its diverse population. It would “effectively wipe millions of individual residents and entire families off the map, rendering those residents and their unique needs invisible to our local democracy,” the brief read. The brief argues that the city’s use of total population in apportioning districts “conforms with fundamental tenets of representational democracy.” It ensures that “all residents are entitled to equal representation, a principle of particular importance given the nation’s historic commitment to diversity, inclusion and robust civic involvement and debate,” the brief adds.

Evenwel vs. Abbott is arguing that the rules should be changed for local and state elections, but most legal experts agree that if successful, it would likely also apply to congressional district lines.

New York Attorney General Eric Schniederman's brief, filed on behalf of New York and 20 other states, argues that "within New York City, one Brooklyn state senate district has a much larger proportion of children, approximately 30% of its total population, than one Manhattan Senate district, approximately 9% of its total population, because the Brooklyn district is more residential and home to religious communities that often have many children."

Even if these appellants win, there are too many permutations of a possible decision to know what the results would be. But in any scenario, it is all but certain that a decision favorable to the appellants would provide a major new advantage to New York’s Republicans.

A decision requiring states to base districts on eligible voters could cost Democrats at least two seats. Numbers for some ineligible voters are not readily accessible, the Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey provides estimated population totals for noncitizens and minors, but not for convicted felons, but an analysis of individuals who fall into at least one of these two tracked categories shows they overwhelmingly reside in parts of the state that are solidly Democratic. If they were removed from the rolls of people who are considered while drawing district lines, the percentage of districts drawn in liberal parts of New York would decrease.

Specifically, 38 percent of New York City residents are ineligible to vote due to age or citizenship status, compared to 33 percent of suburbanites and 25 percent of upstaters. The city already has larger-than-average districts in the Senate, since the lines were drawn by the Republican’s Majority Coalition, which wanted to reduce the number of Democratic strongholds. Districts that fall there currently have populations about 6 percent larger than those based upstate.

Since the changes in the redistricting process that were enacted between 2012 and 2014 require the state to preserve the cores of existing districts, it is fair to assume this ratio would remain fairly constant. If it does, the number of seats in New York City would fall from about 25.7 (some districts fall in both the Bronx and Westchester) to 23.3, a loss of over two seats. Upstate regions would gain the same number of districts; the suburbs would remain mostly unchanged.

Of course, partisan enrollment advantages do not guarantee one side’s victory. But the small number of Republican strongholds in New York City might remain safe. The seat held by Senator Andrew Lanza since 2007 and Republican senator John Marchi for 50 years before him falls on Staten Island, where the percentage of residents who are voting-age citizens is higher than in the state as a whole. The boroughs that would see the largest losses would be Queens and the Bronx.

While the Independent Democratic Conference has a presence in both of these, neither has elected a Republican senator in any of the past three general elections. It is possible Democrats might be competitive in any new upstate districts, but the decreased weight of urban areas would make an increased presence in the region difficult.

If the court decides that lines should be drawn based on enrolled voters, rather than eligible voters, the end result would similarly prove advantageous to Republicans, as New York City would lose nearly three Senate districts. In this scenario, however, the city’s suburbs on Long Island and in the lower Hudson Valley would gain nearly two districts. Since campaigns in these parts of the state are generally more competitive than elsewhere, Democrats could have a chance of offsetting at least some of their losses in New York City.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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North Dakota's Version of Voting

North Dakota is unique in that this is the only state in the entire country that does not require its residents to register in order to cast a ballot on Election Day. Some people say with North Dakota’s voter ID law, there is de-facto voter registration already in place, in that a voter needs to present a valid photo ID to an election worker at the voting site before the person is allowed to vote.

North Dakota did require its voters to register from 1895 until 1951, when the Legislature repealed the statewide voter registration mandate.

According to the North Dakota Secretary of State’s website: “In the majority of the legislative sessions between 1957 and 1975, unsuccessful attempts were made to pass legislation again requiring mandatory statewide voter registration. In 1975 a bill requiring registration passed by a vote of 56 to 41 in the House and 27 to 19 in the Senate.” then-Gov. Art Link vetoed the bill.

North Dakota law currently requires that there be open primary elections. However, without voter registration, there is no way of preventing someone who identifies with the Republican Party from voting in the Democratic Party primary and vice versa.

If North Dakota were to reenact voter registration, political party's say they would get the assurance that only registered party members would be able to vote in their Primary.

With voter registration in place, this would also ensure that the master database of voters, which is maintained by the secretary of state’s office, as well as precinct voter lists that are maintained by the county auditors would be as up to date as these could possibly be. Although, many county auditors across the state might bristle at being given an additional responsibility. However, voter registration would merely be another step in a process that they are already overseeing.

A North Dakota interim legislative committee is currently studying North Dakota’s voting system between sessions. Among the committee’s tasks will be to make a recommendation to the 2017 Legislative Assembly as to whether voter registration should be reinstated in the state.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Saturday, October 3, 2015

New Voter Suppression Tool in North Carolina

North Carolina Republicans have been actively moving polling places around, cutting numbers of polling places in some counties, and increasing numbers in other counties.

In 2014 white voters, 71% of the electorate, had to travel an additional 119,000 miles from their homes to their nearest Early Voting locations.

Black voters, 22% of the electorate, had to travel an additional 370,000 miles, in 2014, to get to their nearest Early Voting place.

Most of the voter suppression actions taken by the new Republican majority legislature have been very transparent, very apparent to the public: redistricting to corral black votes; voter ID; reducing early voting days; eliminating same day registration; and, particularly damaging to the black voter, eliminating voting on the Sunday before the election, the traditional "Souls to the Polls" activity of black churches. All of that was well publicized.

The eliminating and moving of polling places was done very quietly.

Bill Busa, known as DocDawg, gives DailyKos Connects an overview of data covering a systematic effort to shuffle and move polling locations that disproportionately impact minority voters.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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