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Friday, September 12, 2014

Buy Partisan: Voting with your Wallet


Americans are haunted by a fear that they may buy cheese made by someone whose opinions they do not share.  To help people avoid this calamity, a new app called BuyPartisan reveals whether any given product is made by Republicans or Democrats.

BuyPartisan’s maker, Spend Consciously, was founded by a former Capitol Hill staffer, Matthew Colbert.  He is cagey about whether he is a Democrat or a Republican, but hopes that the app will eventually include data on things like how firms treat their employees.  It has caused a stir in Washington, where political junkies have had fun testing whether their favorite snacks are red or blue.  But will it affect American shopping habits?

Using an iPhone’s camera, it scans the barcode and reports back on the ideology (as measured by donations to political parties) of the directors and staff of the company in question.  Obsessive partisans can then demonstrate their commitment to diversity by boycotting firms with which they disagree.  “We vote every day with our wallets,” trills an advert.

A mother with a baby strapped to her chest in a Safeway supermarket in Washington explains, “The idea of scanning every sausage or toilet roll for its political affiliation is just crazy”, she says.  “If I want to eat gummy bears, I will eat gummy bears. I don’t care if they’re Republican.”  For some products, there is no obvious alternative.  Democrats whose cars run out of petrol, for example, will probably fill up at the nearest petrol station, even though oil firms donate mostly to Republicans.

Republicans and Democrats do have different shopping habits, observes Vishal Singh, an academic who studies marketing at NYU Stern.  Republicans tend to drink more American beers; Democrats more foreign and craft brews.  In Republican-voting districts Cracker Barrel, a southern-themed restaurant, is common; upscale Whole Foods shops cluster in Democratic areas.  But this mostly reflects the different lives Democrats and Republicans lead.  Southern food is popular, unsurprisingly, in the South, which is heavily Republican.  Costly groceries are popular with affluent urbanites, who tend to be Democrats.

Will you use this app when you go shopping?










NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote!

Michael H. Drucker
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Ballot Access for Political Parties Under Single Ballot Open Primaries


As part of the evolution to a single ballot open-primary, I was interested in how a political party gets qualified to be considered a major or minor party and the access to the ballot.

Today we have Top-Two, and a possible Top-Three and Top-Four in the future.

This is how the three states using a single ballot qualify political parties:

California Top-Two Primary

ELECTIONS CODE SECTION 5100
A party is qualified to participate in any primary election under any of the following conditions:

(a) If at the last preceding gubernatorial election there was polled for any one of its candidates for any office voted on throughout the state, at least 2 percent of the entire vote of the state.

(b) If on or before the 135th day before any primary election, it appears to the Secretary of State, as a result of examining and totaling the statement of voters and their political affiliations transmitted to him or her by the county elections officials, that voters equal in number to at least 1 percent of the entire vote of the state at the last preceding gubernatorial election have declared their intention to affiliate with that party.

(c) If on or before the 135th day before any primary election, there is filed with the Secretary of State a petition signed by voters, equal in number to at least 10 percent of the entire vote of the state at the last preceding gubernatorial election, declaring that they represent a proposed party, the name of which shall be stated in the petition, which proposed party those voters desire to have participate in that primary election.

Louisiana Nonpartisan Blanket Primary
A new party will be recognized when the following three things occur:

1) At least 1,000 registered voters affiliate with the party on their voter registration form.

2) The party files a notarized registration statement with the Secretary of State's Office.

3) The party pays a $1,000 registration fee to the Secretary of State's Office.

In order to maintain their ballot access, newly recognized parties must continue to put candidates on the ballot.  If no registered member of the party qualifies as a candidate for four consecutive years, the party will cease to be recognized.

However, if a candidate of the newly recognized party for president receives at least five percent of the votes cast in a presidential election, or if a candidate of the party for any statewide office receives at least five percent of the votes cast for that office in a primary or general election, the four-year rule will no longer apply.

That means that if the party's candidate in a presidential or statewide race receives at least five percent of the votes cast, the party will never have to re-qualify with the state.  For example, 1,994,065 votes were cast for president in 2012.  In order for a newly recognized party to maintain its status without fielding candidates every four years, its candidate for president would have had to receive at least 99,703 votes.

Washington Top-Two Primary
The Top-Two primary system allows candidates to list any party as the party that they prefer.  Thus, minor parties and minor party candidates are not required to conduct conventions or collect signatures to qualify for the ballot.

The state law no longer dictates how political parties conduct their nominations, and the parties may decide themselves how to conduct their nominations.  A "major political party" is defined as a political party whose nominees for president and vice president received at least five percent of the total vote cast at the last presidential election. A "minor political party" is a political organization other than a major political party.

Living in New York, another major issue to get a single open primary ballot would be Fusion.

Electoral Fusion is an arrangement where two or more political parties on a ballot list the same candidate, pooling the votes for that candidate.  Distinct from the process of electoral alliances in that the political parties remain separately listed on the ballot, the practice of electoral fusion in jurisdictions where it exists allows minor parties to influence election results and policy by offering to endorse or nominate a major party's candidate.

Electoral fusion is also known as fusion voting, cross-endorsement, multiple party nomination, multi-party nomination, plural nomination, and ballot-freedom

New York made one big change to fusion voting in the Wilson Pakula Act of 1947.  If candidates want to get on the ballot using a minor-party line without changing affiliation, they have to get approval from party leaders, instead of through gathered signatures.

Now, fusion voting is only allowed in seven states: Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Mississippi, New York, Oregon, South Carolina and Vermont.

So among all of the obstacles to a single ballot open primary, how do you get rid of FUSION?










NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote!

Michael H. Drucker
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Wisconsin Seeks to Revive Voter Photo ID Rule for Nov. General Election


Wisconsin is pressing for a court ruling to resurrect its voter photo identification law in time for the Nov. 4 election.

Wisconsin’s law, signed in 2011 by Republican Governor Scott Walker, who is seeking re-election, requires would-be voters to present a government-issued picture ID before they can cast a ballot.

Known as Act 23, the law was blocked by a Milwaukee federal court judge who in April ruled it had a disproportionate effect on poor black and Latino voters who don’t have a qualifying ID and lack the wherewithal to obtain one.

The showdown over the measure is scheduled today before the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago comes as skirmishes over voting restrictions are being fought in Ohio and Texas in the seven weeks before citizens head to the polls.  A trial over Texas’ voter ID law is under way in Corpus Christi.  Ohio is appealing a federal court ruling barring it from shortening its in-person early voting time by a week.

Wisconsin has more than 3.3 million registered voters, according to the state’s Government Accountability Board.  More than 90 percent of them have the required identification, the state said in a court filing.  There are 300,000 who don’t have it, according to an opposing filing by the American Civil Liberties Union, which sued to invalidate the law.

Courts have reviewed dozens of challenges to voter requirements passed by Republican-dominated legislatures since President Barack Obama’s 2008 victory.  Supporters of the laws say they’re needed to prevent voter fraud.  Opponents contend the measures are aimed at suppressing the turnout of poor and elderly voters who may be more inclined to support Democrats.

In his April decision blocking the law, U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman said while the state had a legitimate interest in requiring proof of identity, “virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin and it is exceedingly unlikely that voter impersonation will become a problem in the foreseeable future.”

Wisconsin’s lawyers, in asking the federal appeals court to revive the law in time for the November elections, said the state Supreme Court created a procedure for voters who lack a photo ID to get one from the state’s motor vehicles department without having to pay for underlying documentary proof of identity.

That process, which takes effect Sept. 15, “will eliminate the potential financial burden that many voters who lack a birth certificate might experience with obtaining a free ID card from the DMV,” Wisconsin’s attorneys told the U.S. appeals court panel in an Aug. 4 filing.

Daniel Tokaji, a professor at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law in Columbus said if he were a judge, he would press the state’s lawyers for details on the workings of that program. “Often, these difficult constitutional questions depend on such details,” he said.

The cases are Frank v. Walker, 14-2058, and League of Latin American Citizens of Wisconsin v. Deininger, 14-2059, U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit (Chicago).

UPDATE
A three panel federal appeals court reinstated the Voter ID law for the 2014 General Election.  The court did not issue a full opinion, saying it would do so "in due course".










NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote!

Michael H. Drucker
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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Save the Voting Rights Act




The midterm elections are just around the corner.  Congress has a limited amount of time to protect voting rights for millions of citizens and stop Republicans from disenfranchising critical votes.

Because of this looming crisis, we are working with a huge coalition to deliver a mega-petition to Congress before September 17: Save the Voting Rights Act by passing a new preclearance formula.

Almost immediately after the Supreme Court's ruling on the Voting Rights Act, officials in several states moved ahead with voter suppression laws that would have been illegal before the ruling:

In Texas, Attorney General Greg Abbott implemented a law requiring photo ID before voting and a new gerrymandered map of state legislative districts.

In Wisconsin, the state legislature reduced the early vote period and limited early vote hours.

In North Carolina, a restrictive voter ID bill that was held up out of worries it would have been blocked under the Voting Rights Act was implemented.

In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich signed a bill reducing the early vote period.

This is just for starters.  But Congress can stop this wave of voter suppression and restore strength to the Voting Rights Act by amending the law to include a new preclearance formula.

Sign the petition urging Congress to save the Voting Rights Act.  If you sign before September 17, we will deliver your message to Congress.










NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote!

Michael H. Drucker
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GA Republicans Try to Stop Expanding Voting Access


As November approaches, Georgia finds itself home to a toss-up Senate race between Democrat Michelle Nunn and Republican David Perdue.  With such a competitive race, voters are registering at a higher rate than usual and county election boards are taking steps to expand access to the polls.  America has one of the worst turnout rates of any developed country in the world, so you’d like to think that everybody would be cheering this news.  But some Republican officials are worried that these measures are resulting in the increased participation of minority voters, and that that fact could spell trouble for their own candidates.

Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp is one of these officials. Progressive voting rights organization, Better Georgia, has a audio that captures Kemp sharing his frustration over it’s grassroots effort to register minority voters for the election.  Here’s an excerpt from the tape:

Democrats are working hard, and all these stories about them, you know, registering all these minority voters that are out there and others that are sitting on the sidelines, if they can do that, they can win these elections in November.

Using the power of his position, Kemp plans to fight back.  On Tuesday, Kemp launched a “voter fraud” investigation into the voter registration effort, which he says he suspects may have forged voter registration applications, forged signatures on releases, and applications with false or inaccurate information.

As a reminder, the problem of voter fraud is essentially non-existent.

BOTTOM LINE: Expanding voting access by increasing opportunities to vote and increasing voter registration is something that deserves to be celebrated in our democracy.

Instead, some officials in Georgia, feeling threatened by what might happen if more people exercise their constitutional right, resort to name calling and launching specious investigations that are more likely intended for voter suppression than anything else.










NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote!

Michael H. Drucker
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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

MS Tied Election Down to One Voter's ID or Drawing Straws


Unless a lone affidavit voter shows up with a valid photo ID before next Tuesday, Glenn Bolin and Stephanie Bounds will draw straws to see who becomes Poplarville alderman.

In a special election runoff Tuesday, Bolin and Bounds each received 177 votes.  But one voter showed up at the polls without a photo ID, as now required by law in Mississippi, and voted affidavit.  That voter has five business days to bring in a valid ID, and could determine the election.

"My thinking is that person is not going to come in, because they don't want all the attention of being the one vote.  We were told last night that after five days, we'll draw straws.", Bolin said.

Bounds said, "It just proves to me that every vote counts ... That's what we've heard, we may be drawing straws.  It's strange, but I will support the outcome, whatever it is.  I'm all for history being made.  I will support Mr. Bolin, if he's determined to be the winner."

Mississippi law, like most other states, says a runoff tie "shall be determined by lot."  The Secretary of State's Office said the method of drawing of lots is determined by the local government or election boards.

Some past Mississippi elections have been determined by a coin toss, or by drawing straws.

Bolin and Bounds were among four candidates in a special election to fill a seat vacated by former Alderman Randy Brown, who resigned after the State Auditor determined he had a conflict of interest with his job with the Biloxi Police Department.

Bounds led the first round of voting on Aug. 26 with 137 votes, with Bolin receiving 106, but no candidate garnered more than 50 percent to prevent a runoff.

Bolin said the runoff turnout was paltry, considering there are more than 1,600 registered voters.

"People do not care any more, don't care enough to get out and vote," Bolin said.  "We had 177 votes to 177 votes, with one out there in limbo.  It looks like we'll be drawing straws.  This is crazy."










NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote!

Michael H. Drucker
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H.J. Res. 44 Right to Vote Amendment


Voting is an American principle and a basic democratic right that should be protected, promoted and practiced, which is why many people are surprised to learn that the U.S. Constitution provides no explicit right to vote, leaving voting rights vulnerable to the whims of politicians, and some citizens with fewer rights than others.

John Nichols speaks at "Is it Time for a Right to Vote in the Constitution?" panel

Even as the rising American electorate gains momentum, new regressive laws, rulings, and maneuvers are threatening voting rights without facing the strict scrutiny that would come with a constitutional right to vote.  Too often we run elections on the cheap, opening the door to fraud and abuse, while the existence of 10,000-plus jurisdictions that make their own decisions about how to run elections lead to inequities in voting rules from one place to another.

U.S. House Members Mark Pocan and Keith Ellison have introduced House Joint Resolution 44 (H.J. Res. 44), a bill that would establish an explicit right to vote in the Constitution:

SECTION 1. Every citizen of the United States, who is of legal voting age, shall have the fundamental right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides.

SECTION 2. Congress shall have the power to enforce and implement this article by appropriate legislation.

Keith Ellison on the Right to Vote Amendment

FairVote rallies support for a constitutional right to vote through its Promote Our Vote Project, a pilot program most active in Maryland and Florida.  Its unique change platform works in partnerships to advance resolutions at the organizational, campus, and local level in support of an explicit right to vote in the U.S. Constitution, and concrete changes in practices and policy to ensure fair and equitable voting rights.

CLICK HERE for more information and to take part in this project.










NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote!

Michael H. Drucker
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