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Saturday, August 1, 2015

Congressional Republicans Slam Brakes on Voting Rights Bill


In its 5-4 decision in June 2013, the Supreme Court struck down the Voting Rights Act (VRA)'s decades-old coverage formula, which had required certain states to get federal approval before changing election rules. The law had applied on a blanket basis to nine states, most of them in the South, with documented histories of racial discrimination.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said that, while Congress has the authority to monitor elections for fairness, the coverage formula is outdated and therefore unconstitutional. Roberts invited Congress to “draft another formula based on current conditions.”

In February, Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), former chairman of the Judiciary Committee who championed the last VRA update in 2006, and John Conyers (D-Mich.), the ranking member of the panel, introduced legislation designed to do just that. But the issue was never taken up by House GOP leaders.

House Republican leaders are slamming the brakes again on new voting rights legislation, insisting that any movement on the issue go through a key Republican committee chairman who opposes the proposal.

House Democrats are pressing hard on GOP leaders to bring the new voter protections directly to the floor. That would sidestep consideration in the House Judiciary Committee, where Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) has rejected the bipartisan proposal to update the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA) law.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other Republican leaders say the bill must go through Judiciary.

“Speaker Boehner has said that he believes that the Voting Rights Act has been an effective tool in protecting a right that is fundamental to our democracy. That’s why we reauthorized the law for 25 years in 2006,” a Boehner spokesperson said Friday in an email. “He also believes that if members want to change the law, those discussions will have to begin at the Judiciary Committee.”

That position effectively kills the legislation, as Goodlatte, after staging a hearing on the issue in 2013, has maintained that a congressional response is unnecessary because the Court left intact other parts of the VRA ensuring voters are protected, a message his office reiterated on Friday.

Democratic leaders have inserted the VRA debate into the appropriations process, which ground to a screeching halt last month over partisan disagreements surrounding the Confederate flag. The Democrats have offered to divorce the flag issue from the Republicans' spending bills if GOP leaders would move on the VRA update.

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the civil rights icon who has his own VRA bill, has been in talks with Rebublicans about breaking the impasse.

Boehner last month seemed to reject that approach, saying the effort to fund the government and prevent a shutdown will shift in September to a continuing resolution (CR) in lieu of individual appropriations bills. But that's done little to discourage the Pro-VRA Democrats, who want to attach voting rights language to the stop-gap spending measure when the House returns to Washington.

“We can do that as part of a CR,” Clyburn said.

The comments arrive as Democrats are escalating their calls for Republicans to bring the enhanced voter protections to the House floor. In their last public event before leaving town for the long August recess, the Democrats swarmed the Capitol’s east steps Thursday to mark the 50th anniversary of the VRA's enactment, and to highlight the GOP's inaction on the issue.

They didn’t mince words.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) characterized the VRA as “one of the most consequential pieces of legislation in the history of our democracy.” Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the minority whip, said Congress “has a moral obligation to act to prevent states and counties from … diluting the voting power of minority communities.”

Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C), head of the Black Caucus, warned that a failure to act “will be an invitation to states and their subdivisions to pass discriminatory election laws with impunity.” And Lewis, who was beaten nearly to death during a pivotal 1965 march in Selma, Ala., that led directly to the VRA's passage, said nothing short of the country's commitment to democracy is at stake.

A similar debate has occurred in the Senate, where Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who's pushing companion legislation to the Sensenbrenner-Conyers bill, has found no Republican support.

Leahy, senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Thursday that he's had conversations with GOP leaders about his bill, but they've led nowhere.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Judiciary panel, echoed Goodlatte's argument Friday, suggesting a congressional response to the Court's ruling is simply not needed.

Please contact Rep. Goodlatte and Senator Grassley if you agree we need a new formula to bring back the voter protections of the Voting Rights Act, in Section 4(b) - Preclearance Formula.

EMAIL Representative Bob Goodlatte.

WASHINGTON, DC OFFICE

2309 Rayburn HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515
Phone: (202) 225-5431
Fax: (202) 225-9681

EMAIL Senator Charles Grassley.

Washington, D.C. Office

135 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Phone: 202-224-3744
Fax: 202-224-6020











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Donald Trump Super PACs


Donald Trump insists he doesn’t need help from wealthy donors for his White House bid, but that hasn’t stopped equestrians, Los Angeles filmmakers, Hispanics and contractors from setting up PACs to boost his candidacy.

Four PACs have registered with the Federal Election Commission in recent days to raise and spend money on behalf of Trump. Organizers believe the real estate tycoon will eventually need outside funding, despite his tough talk.

Clifford Martin, a documentary filmmaker from Los Angeles and treasurer of MAGAPAC2016 along with a group of other film industry “worker bees” registered the super PAC earlier this week.

MAGAPAC2016 — MAGA stands for the Trump campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” — plans to launch viral video campaigns with its funds. The organization is still in its early stages so its plans are still blurry, but members trust that their “elite, high-end skills” from working in movies and TV will help them along the way. Martin said “As for the look and ‘feel’ — it would be History Channel meets Wes Anderson/Life Aquatic, fresh eyes/new lens on TRUMP!”

CLICK HERE to view MAGAPAC2016's website.

Trump’s emphasis on building U.S. clout also seems to have excited some in the construction industry. Last week, a Florida-based group named “Contractors supporting the GOP candidate whose platform is to Make America Great Again,” filed a single-candidate PAC for Trump. Executive Director Richard Roth sent a statement describing plans to reach out to construction workers, architects and engineers, writing, “We in this Super PAC will strive to inform these potential groups of voters that a fellow builder, Donald Trump, would have the interests of the construction industry as one of his main priorities.” Presumably inspired by Trump’s rabble-rousing immigration stance, Roth argues that cheap labor provided by undocumented immigrants has hurt citizens in the industry.

However, Trump’s comments on Mexican-American relations do not seem to have offended the “Hispanic Citizens for Trump” super PAC, which also appeared on the FEC’s website early this week. Treasurer Frank Ramirez defended Trump’s comments and said the candidate never intended to smear all Mexican immigrants. “We will not be indifferent regarding this hijack of the migrant population’s vote by the left through their classically masterful race baiting, and countless other disingenuous tactics,” he said.

Other media outlets have also reported on two other super PACs. Bloomberg reported that “Make America Great Again PAC,” another super PAC sporting the Trump campaign slogan, filed its papers earlier this month. When asked for a comment, Treasurer Leslie Caldwell declined.

The other super PAC, “Citizens for Restoring USA,” was filed in April, even before Trump announced his candidacy. Robert Kiger, head of the super PAC, has been on several news programs advocating for Trump. Reflecting on his appearances, he claims, “I have a lot of dinners that CNN and Fox News people owe me because every time I’m 100 percent right, and Karl Rove has been 100 percent wrong.”

Kiger, who owns the Elegante Polo clothing retailer in Florida, praises Trump’s clashes with the Republican establishment and mainstream media, noting, “His theme song should be ‘No Air’ by Jordin Sparks because he’s like a halon fire suppression system. When he walks in, he’s sucking in all the air of the lungs of the presidential field.” Thus far, the super PAC has made one online video, “Donald Trump on the Road to the Presidency 2016,” which is a montage of Trump news coverage. Kiger plans to keep raising money to buy pro-Trump ad time on TV and radio and produce higher-quality videos, though he would not divulge how much he’s raised so far.

Kiger explains, “I’m a polo player,” adding, “Because of my equestrian involvement, I originally was going to call the PAC ‘Equestrians for Trump.’” He then decided against it, though, because he didn’t want to limit the scope.











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Friday, July 31, 2015

Evenwel v. Abbott One Person, One Vote Case


This post is from the Symposium: Ideology, partisanship, and the new “one person, one vote” case by Richard L. Hasen, a Chancellor’s Professor of Law at the University of California, Irvine School of Law. He blogs at Election Law Blog.

The Evenwel v. Abbott case is a new “one person, one vote” lawsuit, Ed Blum and his Project on Fair Representation undertook for the Evenwel plaintiffs: it is about taking power away from the states and having the Supreme Court overturn precedent by imposing through judicial fiat a one-size-fits-all version of democratic theory unsupported by the text of the Constitution or historical practice.

He writes:

The plaintiffs in Evenwel are asking the Court to require states to draw their legislative district lines by dividing up only voters, rather than considering the total population in each district. Lyle Denniston has thoroughly explained the background of this case: the Supreme Court first imposed the “one person, one vote” rule in cases in the 1960s, basing the requirement for states on the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause; the Court did not specify in those early cases whether states must use total population, total number of voters, or some other measure in drawing roughly equal districts; and the Court in the 1966 case Burns v. Richardson approved Hawaii’s use of total registered voters rather than total population, saying that the issue of what to use as the denominator in drawing equal districts resided in the states.

For purposes of congressional apportionment (that is, the calculation of how many members of Congress each state receives based upon each state’s population), Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment requires the use of total number of persons, not voters. It seems quite odd to require counting all people for purposes of dividing up representation among the states but not for drawing districts within each state.

If I am correct that Evenwel is not motivated by conservative principles, what’s behind it? It is hard to see it as anything but a Republican power grab. As I explained at Slate, a ruling that states may not draw legislative district lines taking total population into account will benefit rural voters over urban voters, and that by extension will benefit Republicans over Democrats. Urban areas are much more likely to be filled with people who cannot vote: non-citizens (especially Latinos), released felons whose voting rights have not been restored, and children. With districts redrawn using only voters as the denominator, there will be more Republican districts. And although Evenwel involves state legislative districts, the next claim will likely be for the same principle to be applied to congressional districts, affecting the balance of power in Congress.


It is the last paragraph I want to explore.

What will happen as a state's legislature changes after an election?

Under a Republican controlled legislature, they would want to use "One Voter, One Vote". But a Democratic controlled legislature, would want the "One Person, One Vote" method.

In New York, the locations with large prison populations, creates skewed congressional districts.

I do not have an answer. Do You?











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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1st Republican Presidential Debate Format


With the Fox News, in conjunction with Facebook and the Ohio Republican Party, debate only one week away, candidates likely to make it to the main stage are beginning to hear some details.

According to two people familiar with the network's plans, candidates will get one minute to answer each question addressed to them by moderators Megyn Kelly, Chris Wallace and Bret Baier during the program, which begins at 9 p.m. Eastern time on August 6 at the Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena.

Candidates who are called upon will be given only 30 seconds for rebuttals. If a candidate's name is invoked during someone's answer to a question, that candidate will get a chance to respond for a length of time at the moderator's discretion.

The campaign of one leading candidate believes after communications with Fox executives that there will not be a rigorous attempt to make sure all ten candidates get equal time to speak.

On the crowded stage of 10 candidates, the candidate with the highest polling numbers, currently Donald Trump, will stand at the center of the stage, with lower-polling candidates fanned out in alternating order to the left and right.

The debate will include the top 10 Republican candidates in national polls, as determined by Fox News.

Those who do not make the top ten prime-time debate are invited to take part in a 5 p.m. debate moderated by America's Newsroom co-anchors Bill Hemmer and Martha MacCallum.











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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FVAP Releases 2014 Post-Election Report to Congress


The DoD’s Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), released its latest report to Congress about voting Americans around the world under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act.

This report fulfills the requirement for its annual report under section 20308(b) of title 52, U.S.C. It includes findings from FVAP’s post-election surveys and provides an assessment of activities supporting the 2014 General Election. It is important to remember that FVAP is an assistance agency and its mission is to inform voters of their right to vote and provide the tools and resources to help those who want to vote do so successfully, from anywhere in the world.

FVAP completed its statistical analysis of voter registration and participation rates, which included controlling for age and gender in order to normalize the active duty military (ADM) to be demographically similar to the citizen voting age population (CVAP).

• The analysis showed that the ADM rate of registration was higher than that of the CVAP, although lower than the last midterm election in 2010.

• In contrast, the voter participation rate of the ADM was slightly lower than that of the CVAP. Participation rates decreased for both the ADM and CVAP populations since the last midterm election.

• FVAP’s 2014 survey data showed that ADM who are married have higher participation and absentee voting rates. Married ADM also reported higher rates of requesting and returning absentee ballots compared to unmarried ADM in 2014.

Based on its research, FVAP has the following plans for the 2016 cycle and beyond –

Based on the 2014 election, FVAP will undertake the following activities to improve active duty military voter success:

• Develop a direct-to-the-voter training module to improve voters’ comprehension of the absentee voting process and the steps required to register and request absentee ballots and how to vote and return their ballots.

• Improve voters’ comprehension of absentee voting forms through the use of outreach education materials; develop short, attention-grabbing video series to introduce specific topics such as the use of key forms, tips for successful voting experience and how to update contact information with election officials.

• Work directly with State election officials to understand how UOCAVA ballots are handled, reasons for rejection and how FVAP can improve its communications to voters to reduce errors in the absentee voting process.

• Leverage collaborative effort with the Council of State Governments (CSG) to standardize and collect data on the individual UOCAVA voter experience; gain an improved sense of the root causes for ballot rejections.

• Standardize Voting Assistance Guide into plain language to better support [Voting Assistance Officers] in the field and individual voters who visit FVAP.gov.

• Assess the effect of the newly modernized mail systems on the number of undeliverable-as-addressed ballots.

CLICK HERE for the FVAP website. The report is a 80 page PDF and requires you to click a Report link.











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Cyber-Security and Windows 10's Wi-Fi Sense


I was watching a congressional cyber-security meeting when I came across this issue.

Windows 10 includes a new feature called Wi-Fi Sense, which is making some folks uneasy.

Wi-Fi Sense allows you to automatically log your friends onto your Wi-Fi network without ever giving them your password. It's a convenient solution to the awkward "what's your Wi-Fi password?" conversations.

In turn, you can use Wi-Fi Sense to automatically connect your Windows 10 PC to your friends' Wi-Fi networks without knowing their passwords.

Sounds safer than telling them your password, which you probably use for your bank and email accounts, right?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Microsoft enables Wi-Fi Sense by default on Windows 10, but it doesn't share your networks by default. You have to actively choose to share your Wi-Fi network by clicking a box that says "Share network with my contacts" when logging in.

When you share your network, all of your Facebook (FB, Tech30) friends as well as your Skype and Outlook.com contacts will be able to automatically log onto your Wi-Fi network when their Windows 10 PCs are in range. With Wi-Fi Sense, they don't need to enter a password to log on (if they have a Mac, iPhone or Android device, you'll still have to give up your password).

And when your friends connect via Wi-Fi Sense, they won't then, in turn, be able to share your network with their friends.

Wi-Fi Sense stores your Wi-Fi network password on a Microsoft cloud server. It's encrypted, so if a hacker were to break in, your password would appear as garbled text. And Windows 10 does not allow you to share access to corporate Wi-Fi networks that use special security protocols.

But what about that Outlook.com contact turned stalker? Do you want that person to have access to your network? Wi-Fi Sense doesn't allow you to share your network with an individual, it's either all your contacts or none of them.

When people gain access to your network, all kinds of bad things can happen: They can potentially hack into other devices connected to that network, including your computer and smartphone. They can potentially steal data off your devices, including photos, emails and other personal information.

Microsoft claims that if you share your home Wi-Fi network via Wi-Fi Sense, your contacts won't have access to other computers, devices or files stored on your network. That's accomplished by turning off a feature called "network discovery," preventing your friends' computers from seeing the other computers and gadget connected signed into your Wi-Fi network. That makes it more difficult, not impossible, for your hacker friend to steal your stuff.

Should you stop using it?

You're probably safe using Wi-Fi Sense.

All these nightmare scenarios are possible, maybe farfetched. Even the worst-case scenario, a stalker using Wi-Fi Sense to steal your naked photos, would require that person to sit outside your house with a Windows 10 PC while they hack into your network.

But if you do want to protect those naked photos and you shared your network via Wi-Fi Sense you can stop that. Windows 10 lets you do that in settings (it takes a few days to register). You can also opt your network out of Wi-Fi Sense entirely by adding the phrase "_optout" to the end of your Wi-Fi network's name.

I see problems with this feature. It is hard enough for most uses to understand what happens behind the visual screen they view.

What do you think of this new feature?











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Republican Presidential Debate Candidates


The first 2016 Republican Presidential debate is August 6, 2015 on FOX News.

Fox News is making it easier for Republican presidential candidates who don't make the cut for the network's August 6 prime-time debate to get at least some attention in an earlier event.

A network spokeswoman confirmed that it is dropping the mandate that candidates earn at least 1% support in an average of the five most recent national polls in order to qualify for its 5 p.m. debate, before the main event, an evening debate for the top 10 highest polling candidates.

The average poll as of July 28, using ABC/Wash Post, CNN/ORC, FOX News, PPP (D), and Quinnipiac, has the following candidates as the top 10 candidates:

1. Donald Trump - 19.8%
2. Gov. Scott Walker - 13.6%
3. Former Gov. of Florida, Jeb Bush - 12.6%
4. Senator Marco Rubio - 7.2%
5. Dr. Ben Carson - 6.4%
6. Former Gov. of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee - 6.2%
7. Senator Rand Pausl - 6.0%
8. Senator Ted Cruz - 4.8%
9. Gov. John Kasich - 3.2%
10. Gov. Chris Christie - 3.2%

5pm Debate Candidates

1. Former Gov. of Texas, Rick Perry
2. Gov. Bobby Jindal
3. Carly Fiorina
4. Former Rep. Rick Santorum
5. Former Gov. of New York, George Pataki
6. Senator Lindsey Graham
7. Former Gov. of Virginia, Jim Gilmore (Depending on filing date)

Other Declared Presidential Republican Candidates
Skip Andrews
Pastor George Bailey
Michael Bickelmeyer
Kerry Bowers
Eric Cavanagh
Brooks Cullison
John Dummett, Jr.
Mark Everson
Jack Fellure
Jim Hayden
Chris Hill
Michael Kinlaw
Bartholomew James Lower
Pastor K. Ross Newland
Esteban Oliverez
Michael Petyo
Brian Russell
Jefferson Sherman
Shawna Sterling

Potential 2016 Republican Presidential Candidate
Former Gov. of Maryland, Bob Ehrlich

The cutoff for the top 10 candidates is the average polls as of the Aug. 4 cutoff.











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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