On the first anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration and the first Women’s March that was the largest single day of protest in history, women came out in force again in New York City and more than 250 locations around the country.
They marched for womens rights, reproductive freedom, for health care; for #MeToo and #TimesUp to take a stand against sexual assault, harassment, rape and extortion. They marched for gun control and against domestic violence. They marched for families, for immigrants, for Dreamers, for the LGBTQ+ community. They marched for Mother Earth and the environment, for science and facts. They marched for voting rights, for a free press and for truth. They marched to assert basic American values- its better angels – of tolerance, diversity, and for economic, environmental, political and social justice.
200,000 was the official count in New York City – marchers were lined up from 63rd Street to 86th Street, but all along the side streets as well, where it took as much as 2 hours just to get onto the Central Park West march route.
And unlike last year’s march which brought out millions, reflecting the despair of the aftermath of the 2016 election and was supposed to send a message to Trump and the Republicans who controlled Congress and the Courts (they didn’t get it), this day of marches – some 250 around the country bringing out some 2 million – was about action: it kicked off a voter registration drive to add 1 million to the rolls, the candidacies of a record number of women running for office (16,000 women have reached out to Emily’s List for support in 2017), and a Get out the Vote drive for the 2018 midterms.
“My vote is my Super Power,” several announced in their signs. “My Button is Bigger than Yours,” echoed another.
The vulgarity, misogyny, bigotry and racism that Donald Trump brought to the Oval Office came down to the streets, with bursts of profanity in words (“shithole” was a popular one that Trump just introduced to the vernacular only a week ago) and gestures, with marchers giving the finger as they passed Trump International Hotel, the closest incarnation they would ever have. The tone was decidedly more angry, more outraged than a year ago.
“Over the past year, basic rights for women, immigrants, LGBTQ+, the religious and nonreligious, people of color and even Mother Earth have struggled to survive under the weight of the current administration. America’s First Amendment has been challenged and healthcare for millions has been threatened. We must stand together to demand and defend our rights. We will not be silent. We must remind everyone that red, white, and blue are the colors of tolerance,” stated Womens March Alliance.
And they marched with a purpose: to get people to register to vote, to run for office, and to cast their ballot.
“My vote is my Super Power,” several announced in their signs. “My Button is Bigger than Yours,” echoed others.
Hillary Clinton tweeted, “In 2017, the Women’s March was a beacon of hope and defiance. In 2018, it is a testament to the power and resilience of women everywhere. Let’s show that same power in the voting booth this year. #PowerToThePolls”
(New York, NY) – Nearly one year after 750,000 people marched through Manhattan in support of women’s rights and civil equality, Women’s March Alliance is gearing up for a second Women’s March on January 20, 2018 in New York City. Dubbed a “March to Action,” and organized by Women’s March Alliance, the demonstration will join a coalition of sister marches from coast to coast in support of the shared vision that all humans are equal and deserve equal treatment.
The “March to Action” kicks off a year-long partnership between Women’s March Alliance, Vote.org, Rock the Vote, HeadCount, League of Women Voters, VotoLatino, and various local groups like Activists Against Apathy seeking to bring women’s voices to the ballot box by registering one million women to vote by the 2018 National Voter Registration Day. (Information regarding the voting initiative can be found here.)
“Over the past year, basic rights for women, immigrants, LGBTQ+, the religious and nonreligious, people of color and even Mother Earth have struggled to survive under the weight of the current administration,” Women’s March Alliance stated. “America’s First Amendment has been challenged and healthcare for millions has been threatened. We must stand together to demand and defend our rights. We will not be silent. We must remind everyone that red, white, and blue are the colors of tolerance.”
“The goal of January’s march is to defend and maintain the basic rights of women, immigrants, LGBTQ+, the religious and nonreligious, people of color, and the environment,” said Katherine Siemionko, founder and President of Women’s March Alliance. “Over the last year, we’ve heard an overwhelming call for a second demonstration. With each successive degradation of basic human rights, the outpouring of support for this form of social activism grows exponentially.”
The 2017 New York City march was one of hundreds held domestically and internationally, each organized and produced by local teams of activists who had never met nor spoken to one another. These individual, local efforts resulted in the public assembly of millions of people across the world.
“The 750,000 who marched in Manhattan last year, the 250,000 who walked in the ‘Women’s March on Chicago,’ and the millions around the world who participated at the local level, proved that our voices would not be muted or silenced,” Siemionko continued. “We’re proud to be part of a sustained global movement that defends human rights in the face of adversity.”
The march is slated to begin near Columbus Circle and continue south and west through midtown, culminating in an activism fair whose aim is to connect people with the causes they care most about. These logistical plans are currently under review by the NYPD.
MARCH AND RALLY LOCATION
Rally: 11:30-1:00 EST on 61st Street and Central Park West (speakers and musical performances occur in this 90-minute block; the stage is on 61st facing north)
Entry point for marchers: Main entrance on 71st & Columbus, overflow entrances on 64th/Broadway, 68th/Columbus and 75th/Columbus.
Entrance for disabilities and ASL: 61st and Broadway.
End Point: Exits on 6th Avenue and 45th, 44th, and 43rd Street (there are post-march events planned)
Route: The March will begin on Central Park West and 61st and move south; marchers will turn east on 59th Street and then South onto Sixth Avenue; exit long 6th avenue at 45th, 44th or 43rd Streets.
Rising out of the local Women’s March on NYC, Women’s March Alliance is a nonprofit whose focus is on building strategic alliances with grassroots organizations in order to provide our community with a wide range of opportunities that empower them to demand and defend their rights. WMA aims to unify the voices and resources of grassroots organizations to collectively foster an informed and engaged community that both understands the current state of human rights across the globe and has the tools necessary to defend and advance those rights. Our mission is to amplify the collective voice and resources of human rights organizations to foster an informed and engaged community.
WMA, which stands in solidarity with the mission of sister marches across the country, has no official affiliation with the Women’s March National Team or its team of organizers.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo unveiled the 2018 Women’s Agenda for New York: Equal Rights, Equal Opportunity and released the Report on the Status of New York Women and Girls: 2018 Outlook. The Agenda consists of 30 proposals addressing health, safety, workplace, girls and family to advance equality and promote opportunity.
Health: pass comprehensive contraceptive coverage; codify Roe v Wade into state law and Constitution; improve access to IVF and fertility preservation services; launch a multi-agency effort to combat maternal depression; establish the Maternal Mortality Review Board to develop policies that will save lives; add experts in women’s health and health disparities to the State board of Medicine
Safety: Pass the Equal Rights Amendment to the state’s constitution to protect against discrimination on the basis of sex; remove firearms from domestic abusers; end sextortion and revenge porn; extend the storage timeline for forensic rape kits a hospitals from 30 days to at least five years or when the victim turns 19; extend human rights law protections to all public school students.
Workplace: combat sexual harassment in the workplace, including a uniform code binding on state government; prevent taxpayer funds from being used for settlements; cal on the NYS common Retirement Fund to invest in companies with women and minority leadership; reauthorize the Minority Women Owned Business Enterprise Program; create a new Women Lead Fellowship; close the gender wage gap; support women returning to or advancing in the workforce with training and job placement services; close the financing gap for women-owned businesses; make NYS as a model employer for working parents.
Girls: Close the gender gap by giving youngest learners access to computer science and engineering ; launch a new program to enable young girls to shadow women leaders in “non-traditional” fields; continue the NYS mentoring program; create a new a K-12 learning module on healthy relationships; ensure access to menstrual products in public schools;
Family: invest $25 million to expand pre-K and after school programs; increase state funding for child care subsidies; continue the enhanced child care tax credit; establish a Child Care Availability Task Force; ensure equal access to diaper changing stations in public restrooms.
The full Report on the Status of New York Women and Girls: 2018 Outlook reflects the feedback, voices and opinions of women all over the state and is available here.
“From the birth of the women’s rights movement at Seneca Falls to the most comprehensive Paid Family Leave policy in the nation, New York leads the nation in championing women’s rights and breaking down barriers to equality,” Governor Cuomo said. “In 2018, we will build on this progress and continue to advance equality across all areas of life. While the federal government seeks to roll back women’s rights, New York State looks toward the future, with this bold set of proposals to create opportunity for women to succeed in every area: work, health, safety, education and family life.”
Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor and Chair of the New York State Council on Women and Girls, said, “I know how demoralizing the 2016 election was for many of us. But in many ways it was also the empowering wake-up call we needed. It helped us find our voice, and our backbone. And for our mothers and grandmothers who came before us and our daughters and my nieces who come after, I promise you this: we will not let this moment pass us by. We have an obligation to ourselves and to them. We will be the change required by this moment: in policy, in practice, in the workplace and all across society. With words and with action. If last year was a reckoning, this year is a battle. And in that fight, New York will lead the way.”
“New York State is serious about changing a culture that enables sexism and violence against women,” Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Chair of the New York Women’s Suffrage Commission, said. “As the birthplace of the women’s rights movement, New York just marked the centennial of women’s suffrage and we are using this moment to bring about our vision of a world where women’s and men’s lives and potential are equally valued.”
Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, Legislative Ambassador to the New York State Council on Women and Girls said, “Everyone deserves a fair shot at the American Dream, and Governor Cuomo has shown his dedication to achieving that promise for all of New York’s hard-working women and girls. By implementing this all-encompassing agenda to ensure every woman has the opportunity to earn an education, attain a decent job and lead a quality life – New York is setting an example for the rest of the nation and the world on the true worth and value of every citizen of this state.”
Many of the policies and laws that Governor Cuomo has already set in motion to advance women’s equality and opportunity will go into effect in 2018, including Paid Family Leave, raised minimum wage and regulations to protect access to contraception no matter what happens at the federal level.
Here are more details about the specific proposals:
Pass the Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act: Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to codify access to contraception, including emergency contraception, into New York State law, by passing the Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act.
Codify Roe V. Wade into State Law and Constitution: This year, the Governor will again call for the passage of legislation to ensure the right of women to make personal health care decisions to protect their health in addition to their life and ensure that health care professionals can provide these crucial services without fear of criminal penalty. The Governor will also continue to champion a constitutional amendment to codify these protections into the state constitution.
Improve Access to IVF and Fertility Preservation Services: Governor Cuomo will direct the Superintendent of Financial Services to evaluate the best approach for incorporating coverage for in vitro fertilization into New York’s infertility mandate and update New York Law to ensure individuals have access to fertility preservation services when appropriate.
Launch Multi-Agency Effort to Combat Maternal Depression:To strengthen and support the ability of New York’s health care providers to deliver care to mothers experiencing maternal depression, Governor Cuomo will advance an aggressive strategy to ensure that all new mothers have access to screening and treatment.
Establish the Maternal Mortality Review Board to Save Lives:The Governor will launch a Board that will implement an enhanced multidisciplinary analysis to review each and every maternal death in the New York State and to develop actionable recommendations to improve care and management.
Add Experts in Women’s Health and Health Disparities to the State Board of Medicine:The Governor will propose legislation to require that one of the doctors on the State Board of Medicine be an expert on women’s health and one of the doctors be an expert in health disparities.
Pass the Equal Rights Amendment: Nearly a century after it was first proposed, New York State has still not passed the Equal Rights Amendment to protect against discrimination on the basis of sex in our State constitution. To right this decades-old wrong, Governor Cuomo will push to pass the Equal Rights Amendment to add sex as a protected class.
Remove Firearms from Domestic Abusers:To ensure that no domestic abuser continues to possess a firearm, Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to update the list of prohibited offenses to include those domestic violence misdemeanors which are shockingly absent from current law.
End Sextortion and Revenge Porn:Governor Cuomo proposes a two-pronged approach that will criminalize disclosing or threatening to disclose sexually compromising images or videos with the intent to cause material harm to the victim’s mental or emotional health or to compel the victim to undertake some sexual act; and compelling a person to expose him or herself or engage in sexual conduct by threatening to harm the victim’s health, safety, business, career, financial condition, reputation or personal relationships.
Extend the Storage Timeline for Forensic Rape Kits at Hospitals: Governor Cuomo will advance new legislation to extend the length of time sexual offense evidence collection kits are preserved from 30 days to at least five years, or when the victim turns 19.
Extend Human Rights Law Protections to All Public School Students Statewide:New York has the proud distinction of being the first state in the nation to enact a Human Rights Law, affording every citizen “an equal opportunity to enjoy a full and productive life.” However, the law does not currently protect public school students due to a court ruling. Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to amend the Human Rights Law to protect all public school students from discrimination. All students in the State of New York must have the right to pursue an education free from discrimination.
Combat Sexual Harassment in the Workplace:The Governor proposes a multi-pronged plan that targets sexual harassment in the workplace. Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to prevent taxpayer funds from being used for settlements against individuals relating to sexual assault or harassment and to ensure that individual harassers are held accountable; propose a uniform code of sexual harassment policies binding on all State branches of government, agencies and authorities; and propose legislation to prohibit confidentiality agreements relating to sexual assault or harassment for all public entities and branches of government—State and local—unless it is the express preference of the victim.
Call on the New York State Common Retirement Fund to Invest in Companies with Women and Minority Leadership:Governor Cuomo will call for the New York Common Retirement Fund to invest in companies with adequate female and minority representation in their management and on their boards of directors. The Governor will work with Comptroller DiNapoli to put in place processes and standards to systematically invest in companies that invest in women and minority leadership.
Reauthorize MWBE Program Legislation and Expand the MWBE Program to All State-Funded Contracts:The Governor will advance legislation that will seek the reauthorization of the State’s Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise Program, which is due to expire this year, and increase the participation of minority and women-owned businesses in all levels of State contracting—both prime contractors and subcontractors, and propose legislation during the 2017 session that will expand the MWBE Program to more contracts entirely funded by the State.
Establish the Women Lead Fellowship for Women in Government: To recruit more talented women to work in the highest levels of New York State government, the Governor proposes creating the new Women Lead Fellowship. Ten new fellows will be placed alongside some of the most senior female officials within the Executive Branch.
Close the Gender Wage Gap:In 2017, Governor Cuomo directed the Department of Labor to launch a gender wage gap study to identify the root causes of the gender wage gap—as well as strategies to close it. To review the causes, scope and economic impact of the gender pay gap in New York State, DOL held hearings and stakeholder discussions across the State and solicited testimony from a diverse array of academic experts, women’s groups, workers, business owners and the public. In 2018, DOL will unveil the results of their analysis, as well as a comprehensive suite of policy recommendations to help close the gap.
Support Women Returning to or Advancing in the Workforce:As part of a new Fund for the Future, Governor Cuomo will pursue a new Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative, supporting female-headed households and providing training and job placement services accompanied by the critical wrap-around services women need to move toward economic self-sufficiency.
Power Women-Owned Businesses by Taking Steps to Close the Financing Gap:At the Governor’s direction, New York State’s Innovation Venture Capital Fund will set a goal of investing $20 million to support women as they grow and scale their businesses.
Establish New York State as a Model Employer for Working Parents:Recognizing that a 21st century workforce requires a 21st century workplace, Governor Cuomo will take new actions to establish New York State as the best employer for working parents, including issuing a memo about increasing the use of flexible work schedules and establishing permanent, private, nursing mothers’ rooms and designate priority parking spots for pregnant people at all OGS buildings with dedicated parking lots.
Close the Gender Gap by Giving the Youngest Learners Access to Computer Science and Engineering: This year, Governor Cuomo will launch the Smart Start Computer Science Program, New York’s largest state investment to expand high-quality computer science education and create model computer science standards.
Launch “If You Can See It You Can Be It,” A Day for Girls to See What is Possible: As part of Take Our Daughters to Work Day, born over 25 years ago in New York, New York State will enhance internal programming and partner with top New York companies to give more young girls the opportunity to shadow women leaders in “non-traditional” fields. The State will also be working to connect homeless youth, youth in foster care and young people from low-income areas to programming where they live.
Continue the Successful New York State Mentoring Program: Recognizing the importance of the role of a supportive adult in a child’s life, Governor Cuomo relaunched the New York State Mentoring program in 2015. In 1984, at the request of her husband, Governor Mario Cuomo, Mrs. Matilda Raffa Cuomo created and implemented The New York State Mentoring Program, the nation’s first statewide unique school based one-to-one mentoring program to prevent school dropout. Today, the New York State Mentoring program serves 1,766 students in 97 school-based sites across New York State.
Create the “Be Aware-Be Informed” Learning Module to Empower Young People to Forge Healthy Relationships:Governor Cuomo proposes that State Education Department and the Department of Health coordinate to create a K-12 learning module on healthy relationships. Such curriculum will include the same definition of consent used in the successful Enough is Enough law to foment a common understanding for all students.
Ensure Access to Menstrual Products in Public Schools: Governor Cuomo will propose legislation requiring school districts to provide free menstrual products, in restrooms, for girls in grades 6 through 12. This important step will make New York State a leader in addressing this issue of inequality and stigma, ensuring that no girl’s learning is hindered by lack of access to the products her biology demands.
Invest $25 Million to Expand Vital Pre-K and After-School Programs:In order to fulfill the promise of universal pre-kindergarten, and alleviate the child care burden on working families, Governor Cuomo will invest $15 million to continue to expand universal pre-kindergarten for high-need students around the state, creating 3,000 new slots. To ensure that as many students as possible have a safe and supportive place to go after-school, the State will launch an additional $10 million round of Empire State After-School Grants to create 6,250 new slots in high-need areas—especially communities with high rates of homelessness.
Increase State Funding to Provide Working Families with Affordable Child Care: Child care subsidies help parents and caretakers pay for some or all of the cost of child care. Families are eligible for financial assistance if they meet the State’s low income guidelines and need child care to work, look for work or attend employment training. This year, Governor Cuomo will increase State support for child care subsidies by $7 million above FY 2018 Budget funding levels, restoring recent cuts and sustaining a record level of funding.
Continue the Enhanced Child Care Tax Credit for Middle Class Families:In 2017, Governor Cuomo created the Enhanced Middle Class Child Care Tax Credit to reduce child care costs for working families. This expansion more than doubled the benefit for 200,000 families. This year, Governor Cuomo will continue the Enhanced Child Care Tax Credit for working families to continue to alleviate costs for families and support the needs of working parents.
Establish the Child Care Availability Task Force:To build on his investments in child care and the development of safe, accessible, and affordable child care, the Governor is establishing a new Child Care Availability Task Force. This task force, which will include representatives from the child care provider community, the advocacy community, representatives of the business community, unions that represent child care providers, representatives from several state agencies and local departments of social services, will be responsible for examining access to affordable child care; availability of child care for those with nontraditional work hours; statutory and regulatory changes that could promote or enhance access to child care; business incentives to increase child care access; and the impact on tax credits and deductions relating to child care.
Ensure Equal Access to Diaper Changing Stations in Public Restrooms:Governor Cuomo proposes to change New York’s Uniform Building Code to require all new or substantially renovated buildings with publicly accessible restrooms to provide safe and compliant changing tables. Changing tables will be available to both men and women, and there must be at least one changing table accessible to both genders per publicly-accessible floor.
Senator Catharine M. Young, Legislative Ambassador to the New York State Council on Women and Girls said, “I am honored to work with the strong, principled and extraordinarily dedicated women of the Council to address the everyday challenges faced by women in communities across this state. We bring to our discussions, varying viewpoints and ideas on how best to advance the equality and opportunities that we all want for women and girls across New York. The Governor’s 2018 Women’s Opportunity Agenda unveiled today reflects a shared commitment to these ideals and new ideas for building on New York’s historic record of fighting for the rights of women in this state and nation.”
While everyone was obsessing over the latest Trump twitter outrage, his administration was moving forward with the latest assault on democracy and American rights. His Orwellian-named “Presidential Advisory Committee on Election Integrity“ (which is anything but), otherwise known as the Voter Fraud Commission, sent out a letter signed by Kris Kobach to every state’s election official “requesting” (since the commission has no real authority or power) their entire voter database, including party registration, a decade’s worth of voter history, address, partial social security number, birthdate, military service and felony convictions, and whether the voter is registered in more than one state.
Indeed, Secretaries of State, be they red, blue, purple or green, are horrified at the notion of transmitting this information, which, contrary to Kobach’s claim, is not “public.” Moreover, there are “protected classes” such as victims of domestic violence, whose private information is shielded. Louisiana told the commission to “jump in the Gulf”; Kentucky’s said “there isn’t enough bourbon” that would make her deliver this information.
But Kobach’s “request” sounds less like an effort to find out whether our elections are honest and fair, versus a data mining operation for Trump and the Republicans so that they can expand upon their tactics of the 2016 campaign – focusing on fake news, social media trolling in pinpointed districts where just a small nudge could tilt the balance in their favor- which is why a mere 70,000 votes across three states trumped a loss of 3 million popular votes for Hillary Clinton nationally.
That is what is at the heart of the Russia collusion investigation – and what Kobach and his commission, if he is really interested in “election integrity” should be examining, but clearly they are not, because Trump was the beneficiary and because it contradicts his claim of a “mandate” to unleash his ultra-rightwing agenda.
And what if they find that there are 5 million or even 10 million people who have registered in more than one place – like Ivanka Trump and Steve Bannon – or that there are 1 million “dead people” still on the rolls? Unless they voted twice or if a dead person sent in an absentee ballot, they did not alter the result.
What is more, Kobach is demanding this data be sent over unsecured email servers, an engraved invitation from this inept administration for malevolence, when even government agencies as secure and cyber-sophisticated as the NSA, Pentagon, Office of Personnel Management, the Secretary of State’s office, indeed the election rolls of 39 states, have been hacked.
The cyberattacks are getting more and more dangerous, moving closer and closer to infrastructure – like shutting down utility plants, the power grid, air traffic control, rail switching stations, and yes, voting databases and machinery. Putin’s goal was to foster suspicion in the democratic process – and he succeeded beyond his wildest imagination, helped by candidate Trump’s constant claims of a “rigged election” and urging his minions to strongarm their way into polling places to make sure that “those people” don’t vote (which had the strategic effect of preventing Democrats to scream “foul” afterward, since they had already made pronouncements that the elections were fair).
The states’ election machinery – made worse after the “Help America Vote Act” that followed the 2000 pregnant chads controversy – is woefully inadequate, and was even in 2004 when Walden “Wally” O’Dell, CEO of Diebold, the black box manufacturer promised to deliver Ohio to George W. Bush, and he did (see story)– and if the NSA, Pentagon, banks, utilities could all be hacked, why would elections not be?
There is something wrong in America with voter turnout rates of 60% in the presidential election (higher than 2012, as it turns out, but less than the 62.2% that turned out in 2008) as controversial and consequential as 2016. (And how much of that was voter suppression or outdated voting lists?)
States that made it easier to register to vote had higher turnout – such as Oregon, Connecticut, Alaska, Vermont and West Virginia, where eligible citizens who interact with the Department of Motor Vehicles are automatically registered to vote. Similar laws are taking effect in California and Colorado. No wonder Republicans will use the commission to find an excuse to roll back the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, known as the motor-voter law, which has registered millions of voters, as Richard Hasen writes in Slate, Trump’s Voter Fraud Endgame.
In Oregon, automatic voter registration added an extra 225,000 people to the rolls; in Wisconsin, which Trump “won” by a mere 25,000, voter suppression tactics reduced turnout by 200,000.
Kobach’s “election integrity” commission is about voter intimidation, on top of the voter suppression tactics that Republicans have put through in the states they control, because Republicans realized long ago that low turnout favors their candidates. The problem isn’t over voting, it is under-voting – and this is exactly how the data that Kobach is mining could be weaponized. There are already enumerable examples of Republicans committing election fraud.
Instead of the non-existent voter fraud issue – 44 instances out of more than 1 billion votes cast between 2000-2012, a rate of 0.0000044% – there needs to be reforms made to voting, which though a function the constitution leaves to the states, should still include federal minimal standards for access to voter registration and polling places (to satisfy the 14th Amendment providing for Equal Protection as well as the 15thAmendment, the right to vote shall not be denied or abridged) – where located, people served, hours of opening, minimal number of voting machines per voters, provisions for early voting and absentee voting; requirements for security for electronic, black-box voting devices, back-up paper ballots and auditing after each election, as well as requirements for mandatory hand recounts if the margin is 1% or less; a requirement that when a person is “purged” from voting rolls, a letter be sent informing them, with a remedy for correcting the record; making tampering with voter registration, rolls or elections, including giving fraudulent information about voting places, hours, accessibility a felony crime; and yes, a provision for nullifying an election which has been demonstrated to have been substantively tampered with.
Also, a reason why young people do not vote in the numbers they should: they are too fearful of breaking a law if they vote absentee in their home districts after having moved to a new place for a job. And moved. And moved again. There needs to be clarification of rules allowing people to vote where they were last registered, or regularly vote, and provisions that require people who have not voted in a district for, say, 10 consecutive years, to reregister or be removed.
On this July 4th, even Trump supporters should be standing up for the basic principle of a government established for and by its people. Which means promoting voting, not suppressing it.
There is no question that the will of the majority was thwarted in the presidential Election of 2016 – but if ever there was a time when the Electoral College should have proved its purpose, it was this election.
Instead, the Electoral College demonstrated the worst of all anti-democratic worlds: denying the popular will while also enabling the exact sort of candidate that Alexander Hamilton described in justifying the Electoral College: so “that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications,” and to prevent a “desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils”. Trump fails on all accounts.
And here, you have not only Hillary Clinton receiving nearly 3 million more votes than Donald Trump – the most in history for any candidate who did not go on to win the presidency – but you have clear evidence of foreign manipulation (the Russian hacking, very possibly with collusion by the Trump campaign), fake news, not to mention voter suppression (interesting that every battleground state where Clinton lost was also where Republican legislators had imposed measures designed to suppress the vote of groups inclined to vote Democratic; in Wisconsin, 300,000 registered voters lacked the photo ID necessary to cast their ballots. Indeed, two weeks after the election, a federal court struck down Wisconsin’s legislative map as illegally partisan. And, “on Election Day, there were 868 fewer polling places in states with a long history of voting discrimination, like Arizona, Texas, and North Carolina,” (www.thenation.com/…)
The result was that Democratic-leaning voters had hours-long waits which many could not afford. And then there was the call-out by Donald Trump for vigilantes to police “you know which” neighborhoods. Turnout was affected. Indeed, despite historic levels of engagement in Election 2016, the number of votes cast in Ohio was down 1.1% and down 4.0% in Wisconsin – more than the margin of victory for Trump. That’s the art and the science of voter suppression, which was the primary strategy for the Trump campaign.
But instead of serving properly as a check-and-balance, everything that is undemocratic and archaic about the Electoral College (devised to give disproportionate power to slave-holding states and small rural states) was in play. As a result, a single voter in Wyoming is worth 200 times a voter in California, rendering this country’s notion of “one person, one vote” and “equal justice” a fraud.
(Why is it that only rural, white Middle Americans are considered “Real Americans,” but coastal, urbanites, professionals, college-educated people are considered “elites” not deserving of a say in their governance?)
Its malfeasance justifies the rising calls to abolish the Electoral College altogether – which would require amending the Constitution which is unlikely. Instead, there are calls to dramatically reform it to more properly address 21st century America, through changes that the states can make to the regulations that bind their Electoral Voters, now termed “faithless” if they vote against their state’s popular vote.
The predominant reform is for states to join the National Popular Vote (NPV) compact would require participating states to award all their electoral votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the national popular vote. It wouldn’t take effect until enough states joined in to add up to the 270 electoral votes required to elect the president– ten states and the District of Columbia have already signed on, totaling 165 electoral votes.
If the compact were in place, Hillary Clinton, who received nearly 3 million more popular votes than Donald Trump, who only won the Electoral College by winning the slimmest of margins (less than 1%) in a few battleground states (amounting to about 70,000 votes altogether, the result of concerted voter suppression actions by Republicans), would have been President.
But this election also demonstrated how easily even a 21st century populace can be manipulated by fake news, social media and a populist snake-oil salesman, not to mention the possibility of hacking the election architecture. Indeed, it would seem that the Electoral College does have a purpose as envisioned by the founders of the Republic, as a check on populism.
Still, there are ways to make the Electoral College more democratically representative, while still functioning as a “check and balance.”
First, there needs to be an end to “winner take all” which basically erases the votes of millions of voters. Instead, states should apportion their electoral votes based on the popular vote in the state. That would be a much more representative method and more efficiently make each state and each person’s vote count.
During this election, we kept hearing how discouraged and disaffected those who would vote for third-party candidates, and their complaint that the two-party system is what is so detrimental to a true democracy. But multiple candidates virtually guarantee that the winner does not represent the majority, as is clear in 2016, where the scant votes for Jill Stein in Michigan gave the state to Trump, putting him over the Electoral top despite winning only 46% of the national popular vote.
So the second element is to allow the lowest vote-getting candidates to give their Electoral Votes to one of the top two candidates.
Another idea which would be very possible in the age of sophisticated electronic voting, is for “second choice” weighting, and if no candidate gets 50.1%, then a run off of the two top vote getters (as is the case in some primaries).
The end to “winner-takes-all” and allocation by popular vote in a state could not happen until virtually all the states (and not just Blue states or Red states which have voted for a Democratic president) have approved the policy.
Federal Government Needs to Guarantee Minimum Standards for Voting
It may surprise people to realize the federal government has no authority over elections, which are controlled by states – even within states, counties may have different rules (so much for Equal Protection). Indeed, the Constitution does not actually provide a right to vote at all, and the Roberts right wing Majority on the Supreme Court did its damage to remove what oversight the federal government had when it eviscerated the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
There needs to be a new Voting Rights Act that protects the essential principle of one-person, one vote and the federal government, under the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution, should have the ability to establish minimum standards for access to the ballot box. It should protect more than racial discrimination, but should acknowledge partisan discrimination as a threat to the spirit and essence of democracy.
What else is needed to reform a weakened election system in these days of technological sophistication, a sprawling and diverse voter population, and the huge stakes to controlling the political reins of power? Here are more ideas:
An end to partisan-control of drawing district lines; standards that affirm – as the Voting Rights Act did – that districts have to be contiguous and make sense
And end to partisan control of state elections (like Katherine Harris, Secretary of State in Florida 2000 and also the chair of George W Bush’s campaign who purged voting rolls of 20,000 people and did all she could to insure Gore never got a fair count)
Requiring notification to every voter before an election confirming their registration, voting place and hours, and if a voter has been removed or purged or changed for any reason, timely notification with a process to challenge
A standard to allow voters to vote where they were last registered
To address the very real possibility of hacked black-boxes, require a paper trail and mandatory audits of a certain number of voting places to confirm the veracity
Minimum national standards for where polling places can be designated, how many voting machines per voting-age population, minimal number of hours open, early voting days, including spreading voting to the weekend before Election Day, and making Election Day a national holiday
A requirement that if a voter moves and re-registers, that notice be sent back to the prior voting place to be removed
Clearer, more uniform regulations about where people can vote if they are in college or have moved (for example, allowing people to vote by absentee at the last previous registered place)
Automatic sending of voter registration materials upon 18th birthday
Establish criminal penalties for interfering with voting, whether fraudulently telling people the wrong date, time or place to vote, ripping up voter registrations or interfering with voter registration; penalties for states that impede voter registration such as failing to process registrations in a timely way
Restore reasonable controls on spending – by wealthy donors and corporations – eliminate SuperPacs, pass the DISCLOSE Act, overturn Citizens United
A new Voting Rights Act that goes beyond racial discrimination but includes any type of systematic discrimination to dilute “one-person, one-vote”
Constitutional amendment that affirms the right to vote (the Constitution doesn’t actually provide it now)
None of this will happen because the Republicans have realized they can keep power without ever having to worry about the demographic shifts and pesky things like needing a majority. Putting a gate at the ballot box has worked very well.