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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

No Labels Problem Solver Seal of Approval


No Labels has finalized requirements Presidential candidates must meet to earn the No Labels Problem Solver Seal of Approval in 2016.

The Seal of Approval was highly prized by Congressional candidates last year.

To receive the No Labels Problem Solver Seal of Approval, a Presidential candidate must make and sustain the following commitments to the American people:

Embrace the Agenda – I believe that America needs a National Strategic Agenda.

Act in the First 30 Days – If elected, I will gather House and Senate leaders from both parties within my first 30 days to begin work on at least one of the four goals in the National Strategic Agenda and to commit to a bipartisan process to achieve the agreed-upon goal or goals.

The National Strategic Agenda goals are:

- Create 25 million jobs over the next 10 years.
- Balance the Federal budget by 2030.
- Secure Medicare and Social Security for the next 75 years.
- Make America energy secure by 2024.

What do you think of the No Labels Problem Solver Seal of Approval?











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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The DISCLOSE Act of 2015 and S.J.Res.5


I recently wrote my Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), about campaign donation and spending transparency.

She answered:

Dear Mr. Drucker,

Thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding disclosure of government contractors' political spending. I share your concerns about government transparency, and believe that we must further transparency and accountability through the disclosure of political spending by contractors, corporations, and organizations.


She then explained The DISCLOSE Act of 2015:

The Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act of 2015 (S.229), was introduced by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) on January 21, 2015. If passed, this bill would prescribe disclosure requirements for corporations, labor organizations, and certain other entities, including a political committee with an account established for the purpose of accepting donations or contributions that do not comply with the contribution limits or source prohibitions under the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971. I am a proud cosponsor of this bill along with 41 of my colleagues.

And S.J.Res.5:

In addition to the DISCLOSE Act, I am a cosponsor of S.J.Res.5, a constitutional amendment that would grant Congress and state governments the power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in kind equivalents with respect to federal and state elections. These regulations would be used to limit the amount of contributions to candidates for nomination for federal office as well as the amount of expenditures that may be made by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates. Please know that I will continue to work with my colleagues to provide transparency and accountability in political spending by supporting S.J.Res.5 and the DISCLOSE Act.











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Redistricting Deadline Comes and Goes in Virginia


In June a federal court ruled that Virginia’s third congressional district had been illegally packed with black voters to make surrounding districts safer for Republican incumbents, ordering the lines be redrawn by September 1. “The Virginia General Assembly has not met that deadline for whatever reason and so the courts will probably now step in,” said political analyst Richard Meagher.

During a special session two weeks ago Democrats and the Governor called for all of Virginia’s districts to be redrawn, but Republicans made it clear the third district was the only one they would work on.

Meagher says if it is left up to federal judges, “It doesn’t seem likely that the courts will look towards an entire redrawing of the entire congressional map.” Meagher added that the lines will not only affect the third district but surrounding districts as well, represented by Republicans Scott Rigell, Dave Brat, and Randy Forbes.

The Virginia General Assembly has not met that deadline for whatever reason and so the courts will probably now step in.











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Ohio Could be the Next Voting Chad Disaster


In America’s swing state, aging voting machines and partisan battles are casting doubt over the fairness of the 2016 election. Immediately after the 2004 election, when tens of thousands of Ohioans waited hours to vote, the state enacted a series of reforms that began to address the worst of that year’s nightmares. But now much of that progress is in danger of being undone.

Politicians and advocates are waging similar battles across the country, but the stakes may be highest here, in perhaps the most important of swing states on the national electoral map. With voting laws in flux and funding for better voting technology a constant struggle nationwide, two central questions remain just 14 months before Election Day: who will be able to vote, and will all their votes be counted accurately?

In 2005, Ohio passed a sweeping bill that expanded early and absentee voting, and a series of legal settlements in the following years helped put in place some of the nation’s best electoral practices. But over the past few years, Republicans have been chipping away at many of those changes. GOP leaders say they’re simply trying to guarantee uniformity and prevent voter fraud, but voting rights advocacy groups say the recent changes threaten to bring back problems from the past, and may be driven by an effort to suppress voter turnout.

Meanwhile, Ohio leaders are largely ignoring what a bipartisan federal panel called an “impending crisis:” voting equipment that’s at least a decade old and in need of replacement. Ohio Secretary of State, Jon Husted, sounded the alarm two years ago in testimony before President Obama’s bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration. “The next time we go to the polls to elect a president, these machines will be 12 years old,” he said. “That's a lifetime when it comes to technology.”

Yet his office has failed to forward any plan to replace the equipment, leaving cash-strapped counties to devise their own solutions. In the rolling farmland of Ohio’s Amish Country, for example, the Holmes County Board of Elections is strategically pinching pennies, holding off purchases of printers and other items, in hopes the county can scrounge together a few hundred thousand dollars to replace its aging voting equipment. And Holmes is actually one of the few counties that have any plan.

This crisis has its roots in the solution to a previous problem. The 2002 Help America Vote Act provided more than $3 billion to help states purchase new equipment, and the majority of local jurisdictions bought replacements over the next few years, mostly either touch-screen devices or optical scan machines that record votes from a paper ballot. The result is that, with rare exceptions, the country’s voting machines are all aging out at the same time.

From Cleveland to Cincinnati, Toledo to Dayton, the stories are similar. Most of the state’s 88 counties share these election-related dilemmas. Considering that no presidential candidate has won since 1960 without winning Ohio, these struggles over the fine details of the voting process may go a long way toward determining the outcome of next November’s presidential election.

In the ensuing years, the ills of the nation’s voting system drew increasing scrutiny from the political parties, advocacy groups and academics, with the clearest symptom of those ills being lines at the polls. While most people do not wait long to vote, lines have persisted in some locales, leading to the loss of some 500,000 to 700,000 votes in 2012, according to an analysis by Charles Stewart III, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Stephen Ansolabehere, of Harvard University. Voters in Florida waited an average of about 40 minutes that year, the longest in the nation.

Those lines prompted Barack Obama in 2013 to appoint the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, which held a series of hearings and pulled together relevant research to create a list of best practices. The commission noted that many issues, a dearth of data, uneven resource allocation, poorly maintained registration rolls, were rooted in the system’s decentralization, and it published a lengthy list of recommendations, including allowing people to register to vote online and expanding early voting opportunities. But perhaps nothing the commission said was more unsettling than the “impending crisis” it identified with the nation’s aging voting infrastructure.

In 2014, a review by Virginia’s Department of Elections of that state’s equipment, which includes the AccuVote, found that over time, a coating in the machine’s touch screen degrades a glue that holds the screen’s layers together, causing calibration errors that can prompt voters to select the wrong candidate. Ohio also has this problem and has been forced to send a handful of the devices back to Election Systems & Software, which in 2009 purchased the original manufacturer, a subsidiary of Diebold. AccuVote is the most commonly used machine in Ohio, according to a survey conducted by the Ohio Association of Election Officials, with at least 33 counties deploying them each election.

All but four of Ohio’s 88 counties are using machines bought in 2006 or earlier, and according to the association survey, only 14 counties have a plan to replace them. The stakes are even higher in Franklin County, where 4,700 iVotronic touch-screen machines sit in a hangar-like space in the back of the Board of Elections’ sprawling offices on the north side of Columbus. Those machines, which were first used in 2006, serve some 800,000 voters and are aging fast, but there is no plan to replace them, says William A. Anthony Jr., the county’s elections director. A Center for Public Integrity review of Franklin County records showed that poll workers reported at least 105 incidents with voting equipment on Election Day 2014, though some of those incidents involved multiple machines.

States are responsible for purchasing and maintaining their own equipment, and in many cases they delegate the task to the nation’s 8,000 local jurisdictions. While there’s no good data on machine failures, incidents have been popping up all over the country. On Election Day 2014, for example, voting machines in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, started crashing and became inoperable. The state Department of Elections ordered a review that found the machines were highly vulnerable to attacks that could alter vote tallies without detection. The review determined that a hacker could access the machine, called a WinVote, using a USB port or a wireless device, the Wi-Fi password was “abcde”. The machines’ software, a version of Windows from 2002, was easy to hack, as was its database, which was protected by a password that the reviewers cracked in 10 seconds. The Election Day problems, however, appeared to have originated when a poll worker who used a smartphone to stream music through the Wi-Fi of the library where voting was taking place. The report prompted the state to decertify the machines immediately. Virginia was the only state still using them, forcing 30 localities to scramble to find replacements.

In December, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe had proposed spending $28 million on new voting equipment, but the legislature stripped the funding from the budget this year, two months before the WinVote report was published. Despite the lack of funding, all 30 jurisdictions are replacing their equipment, said Edgardo Cortes, Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Elections, either by purchasing or leasing new systems or, in a couple of cases, receiving used machines from other localities.

Some states have upgraded their machines in recent years, including New Mexico and Maryland. But they are the exception to the rule. This year, the Arkansas legislature passed a bill authorizing $30 million to buy new machines but then failed to actually provide the money. Secretary of State Mark Martin had been pushing to replace the state’s voting equipment, going so far as to choose a vendor. But the legislature’s failure to act forced Martin to scale back the initial plan to a $2.5 million pilot project in four counties.

The Brennan Center for Justice, which works to expand access to voting and has been canvassing state officials for an upcoming report about voting equipment, found that while a “substantial majority” of states plan to replace their equipment within five years, officials in most of those states said they do not know where they’ll get the cash. “These aren’t small amounts of money,” Lawrence Norden, who is leading the Brennan Center’s work, says by email. “Given the numbers of machines that need to be replaced, we’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Ohio had one of the highest rates of provisional votes cast in the last presidential election, when they comprised 3.7 percent of all ballots, and also one of the highest rates of rejected provisional ballots, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. While most were rejected because the voter wasn’t registered, officials tossed more than 9,000 because the voter cast the ballot at the wrong polling location, and nearly 3,000 because the voter failed to sign or print their name on the ballot envelope.

Ohio’s laws may yet change again before the next presidential election. Just weeks after the settlement that established the 28-day early voting compromise in April, groups represented by the general counsel of Hillary Clinton’s campaign filed a federal lawsuit challenging a broad slate of the state’s measures. In August, the Ohio Democratic Party and two groups representing the homeless filed an updated complaint arguing that the 2014 laws on absentee and provisional ballot rules discriminate against minority voters. This is the latest step in a federal suit dating back to 2006 that, in 2010, resulted in a consent decree that has helped determine how the state counts provisional ballots.

Even if the Clinton lawyer’s case in Ohio is dismissed or unsuccessful, the state’s early voting laws may change again soon anyway. The April settlement on early voting expires after 2018.

The same uncertainty hangs over what types of machines voters will use in 2016 and beyond, says Norden, of the Brennan Center. There’s a “stalemate now between different branches and levels of government as to who’s responsible for paying for this,” he says.

In an effort to reduce spending, county election boards eliminated more than 700 voting precincts from 2010 to 2013 in Ohio, a seven percent cut. The state sets a maximum number of voters per precinct, and sometimes the consolidations have few if any negative effects. But in several instances they’ve caused problems.

Summit County cut more than a third of its 475 precincts before the 2012 election. When voters went to the polls in Akron that year, some waited more than two hours when locations didn’t have enough voting booths to accommodate demand, and the county reversed many of the cuts the next year.

Even the state funding for electronic pollbooks, $12.8 million, has been framed as much in terms of cutting costs as anything else. Counties will no longer have to pay to print extensive paper lists for each polling location and will be able to save time and money due to the comparative ease of updating digital records.











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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New York's New Third Parties Boast Wide Local Candidate Interest


Besides the fight for the control of the Women's Equality Party (WEP), three different groups filed paperwork to become the Executive Board members, some 300 to 400 candidates statewide want the line.

Former Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk submitted an alternative set of foundational party rules to the board last week. Another set was put forward by two Republican Niagara County clerks whose recent lawsuit was tossed by a judge, petitions did not meet number of signature requirements, who concluded they lacked standing to contest Cuomo’s control of the party. The other lawsuit claimed Cuomo’s rules were insufficient, lacked a majority signatures, because they arrived with the signatures of only two of the four candidates (Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul) who ran on the WEP line.

The dispute has proven to be embarrassing for Cuomo, a condition that the Republican members of the Election Board didn’t appear to be in any kind of foot-stomping hurry to relieve. That motion failed 2-2, although the GOP members, who asked to be listed as abstaining on the matter, promised to reconsider it soon.

The issue needs to be resolved soon, the candidates will need a party signed Wilson-Pakula to run on the WEB line if they are not members of the party.

The Stop Common Core Party, as the name suggests, was an attempt by the Republican Governor candidate Rob Astorino to capitalize on the groundswell of opposition to those learning standards and high-stakes testing. Recently the party changed their name to the Reform Party, a reflection of the party’s desire to move away from a narrowly focused issue and become the party for those wanting reform of Medicaid, term limits and the like.

"After months of thoughtful consideration and diligence, the Reform Party is proud to nominate roughly 1,800 candidates for local offices across New York State," the party Chair Marie Smith said in a statement. "As we head towards the November elections, we look forward to the Reform Party playing a role in electing high quality candidates across the state to push for the end of Common Core and instituting term limits in New York."

This isn’t to say that thousands of local candidates are appearing only on the third party lines. New York’s fusion voting system allows candidates to hold multiple lines. So it’s often the case that Democratic and Republican candidates will hold down extra lines in an attempt to attract voters who either are registered with a third party, may be turned off by the major party labels, or are independents who are issue oriented.

Thus you have the creation of new, issue-specific parties on an annual basis. In the lead up to last year’s elections, 36 different minor parties, not including the Independence, Green, Working Families and Libertarian parties, have appeared on the ballot in the last five state election cycles.











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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44 U.S. Senators Call for Disclosure of Corporate Political Spending


In a letter released 8/31/2015, 44 senators are calling on U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chair Mary Jo White to act on a rule-making petition (File No. 4-637 Petition to Require Public Companies to Disclose to Shareholders the Use of Corporation Resources for Political Activities) that would require companies to disclose their political spending.

Spearheaded by U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the letter states:

“If implemented, the Petition would require public companies to disclose to their shareholders how they use corporate resources for political activities, bringing much needed accountability to shareholders and transparency to corporate political spending. We believe this is consistent with the SEC’s requirement for public companies to disclose meaningful financial information to the public.”

The rule-making petition has garnered support from five state treasurers, more than 70 major endowed foundations, former SEC Chairs Arthur Levitt (Democrat) and William Donaldson (Republican), and former SEC Commissioner Bevis Longstreth. In addition, the SEC has received more than 1.2 million supportive comments from the public and retail investors.

Only about 2 percent of all public companies in the United States disclose their political spending to shareholders, and they do so voluntarily. Shareholders are the true owners of a corporation, and public companies should be required to disclose to their owners how their money is being spent, the letter says.

I have always wanted public corporations to ask their stockholders If they approve their annual political activities and if a shareholder says no, the corporation should reduce the funding by the value of the stockholder's share.

CLICK HERE to read the 6 page (PDF) letter.











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Now There Are Three NY Woman's Equality Parties


Papers were filed yesterday with the State Board Of Elections creating one more Women’s Equality Party (WEP).

The first two parties were created by Democrats, one by supporters of Governor Andrew Cuomo and a second led by former Senator Cecelia Tkaczyk.

The latest was created by women generally active as Republicans, including the clerks of the Monroe and Niagara County Legislatures.

Now the court case really gets interesting.

CLICK HERE to read the 18 page (PDF) filing.











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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