Tag Archives: voting rights

Biden on Bloody Sunday Signs Executive Order to East Voter Registration, Access to Voting

President-Elect Joe Biden and Jill Biden pay respects to civil rights icon, Congressman John Lewis, lying in state in the Capitol rotunda, July 27, 2020. Just before he died, Biden related at the Bloody Sunday commemoration, “he asked us to stay focused on the work left undone to heal and to unite this nation around what it means to be an American.” Biden took steps to fulfill that pledge by signing an Executive Order easing voter registration and access to voting. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

On a day marking the anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, an event that so outraged Americans it led ultimately to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, President Joe Biden addressed the unity breakfast named after Dr. and Mrs. King and announced that he had signed an Executive Order “to make it easier for eligible voters to register to vote and improve access to voting.”

President Biden declared, “Every eligible voter should be able to vote and have that vote counted. If you have the best ideas, you have nothing to hide. Let the people vote.” Here is the text of his remarks and the details of his Executive Order:


I know this is the first commemoration of Bloody Sunday without Reverend C.T. Vivian, Reverend Joseph Lowery, and Congressman John Lewis. Preachers of the social gospel. Architects of the ‘Beloved Community,’ they built not only with words but with action. And reminders that in our lifetime, for Black Americans, the fundamental right to vote has been denied by white supremacy hiding both behind white hoods and in plain sight in state houses and courtrooms.
 
Yet those torches and burning crosses, the batons, tear gas, fire hoses, attack dogs, and unfair laws and trials could not stop progress. The blood of John Lewis and hundreds of other brave and righteous souls that was spilled in Selma, on this Sunday in 1965 sanctified a noble struggle.
 
And when the country saw those images that night, America was forced to confront the denial of democracy — the fierce urgency of justice.
 
Congress passed the Voting Rights Act a few months later, and President Johnson signed it into law.
 
The legacy of the march in Selma is that while nothing can stop a free people from exercising their most sacred power as a citizen, there are those who will do everything they can to take that power away.
 
The Voting Rights Act began to dismantle barriers to voting and to make our elections more fair, free, and representative.
 
I was always proud to lead the efforts to reauthorize it over the years as a U.S. Senator in the Judiciary Committee. But at the same time, Republicans at every level have chipped away at it.
 
Then in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, holding that times have changed and blatant voter discrimination was rare, contrary to the assault that was taking place on the ground. The late Justice Ginsburg wrote that the decision was like “throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm.” Today, we have a hail storm, not a rain storm.
 
And in 2020, our very democracy on the line, even in the midst of a pandemic, more Americans voted than ever before. Multiple recounts in states and decisions in more than 60 courts  from judges appointed by my predecessor, including at the Supreme Court – upheld the integrity of this historic election.
 
Yet instead of celebrating this powerful demonstration of voting – we have seen an unprecedented insurrection in our Capitol and a brutal attack on our democracy on January 6th. A never before seen effort to ignore, undermine, and undo the will of the people.
 
And to think that it’s been followed by an all-out assault on the right to vote in state legislatures all across the country happening right now. During the current legislative session, elected officials in 43 states have already introduced more than 250 bills to make it harder for Americans to vote. We cannot let them succeed.
 
Last week, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1, the For the People Act of 2021. This is a landmark piece of legislation that is urgently needed to protect the right to vote, the integrity of our elections, and to repair and strengthen our democracy. I hope the Senate does its work so that I can sign it into law.
 
I also urge Congress to fully restore the Voting Rights Act, named in John Lewis’ honor.
 
Today, on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, I am signing an executive order to make it easier for eligible voters to register to vote and improve access to voting. Every eligible voter should be able to vote and have that vote counted. If you have the best ideas, you have nothing to hide. Let the people vote.
 
I’ll close with this – a few days before he passed, Jill and I spoke with John, Congressman Lewis.
 
But instead of answering our concerns about him, “how are you doing, John,” he asked us to stay focused on the work left undone to heal and to unite this nation around what it means to be an American.
 
That’s the God’s truth. John wouldn’t talk about his pending death or his concerns. He said we just got to get this done.
 
That we are all created equal. That we all deserve to be treated equally.
 
On this day of reflection, please, let’s stay focused on the work ahead.
 
Let’s remember all those who came before us as a bridge to our history so we do not forget its pain, and as a bridge to our future so we never lose our hope.
 
May God bless their memory. May God bless you all.


FACT SHEET:
President Biden to Sign Executive Order to Promote Voting Access


On this day in 1965, state troopers beat and tear-gassed hundreds of peaceful protestors crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. The protestors were seeking justice and to ensure their right to vote would not be denied. At the head of the march were former Congressman John Lewis and Rev. Hosea Williams. As the troopers advanced with clubs raised, the group knelt in prayer. The images of protestors, bloody and bruised, flashing on television screens across the nation spurred Congress to pass, and President Johnson to sign into law, the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Congressman Lewis’ fight to protect and expand the vote did not end that day in Selma. He carried the mission to our nation’s Capital and remained a vigilant protector of our right to vote, knowing all too well the burdens borne to guarantee it.

Today, to mark the 56th anniversary of Selma with actions and not just words, President Biden will sign an Executive Order to promote voting access and allow all eligible Americans to participate in our democracy. This Executive Order will leverage the resources of the federal government to increase access to voter registration services and information about voting. 
 
As the President has said, democracy doesn’t happen by accident. We have to defend, strengthen, and renew it. Free and fair elections that reflect the will of the American people must be protected and defended.  Too many Americans face significant obstacles to exercising their fundamental right to vote. For generations, Black voters and other voters of color have faced discriminatory policies that suppress their vote. Voters of color are more likely to face long lines at the polls and are disproportionately burdened by voter identification laws and limited opportunities to vote by mail. Native Americans likewise face limited opportunities to vote by mail and frequently lack sufficient polling places and voter registration opportunities near their homes. Limited access to language assistance is an obstacle for many voters.  People with disabilities face longstanding barriers in exercising their right to vote, especially when it comes to legally required accommodations to vote privately and independently. Members of our military serving overseas, as well as other American citizens living abroad, also face unnecessary challenges to exercising their right to vote.

Today’s Executive Order is an initial step in this Administration’s efforts to protect the right to vote and ensure all eligible citizens can freely participate in the electoral process. The President is committed to working with Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act and pass H.R. 1, the For the People Act, which includes bold reforms to make it more equitable and accessible for all Americans to exercise their fundamental right to vote.

Today’s Executive Order will:

Direct federal agencies to expand access to voter registration and election information. The executive order will direct the head of each federal agency to submit to the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy a strategic plan outlining ways their agency can promote voter registration and participation within 200 days. These strategic plans could include actions such as:

  • Leveraging agencies’ existing websites and social media to provide information about how to register to vote
  • Distributing voter registration and vote-by-mail ballot applications in the course of regular services
  • Considering whether any identity documents issued by the agency can be issued in a form that satisfies state voter identification laws

And, the Federal Chief Information Officer of the United States will coordinate across federal agencies to improve or modernize federal websites and digital services that provide election and voting information to the American people, including ensuring that federal websites are accessible to individuals with disabilities and people with limited English proficiency.
 
Direct federal agencies to assist states under the National Voter Registration Act. Today’s Executive Order reaffirms the intent of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993 to have federal agencies assist with voter registration efforts. Since the NVRA was enacted, state government agencies, like a department of motor vehicles, have helped register hundreds of millions of voters. Unlike state agencies, however, federal agencies can only become voter registration agencies under the NVRA at a state’s request. Federal agencies providing direct services to underserved communities represent a unique opportunity to provide access to voter registration services. Under today’s action, the head of each federal agency will evaluate where and how the federal agency provides services that directly engage with the public, and to the greatest extent possible, formally notify states in which it provides services that it would agree to designation as a voter registration agency. If requested by a state to be designated as a voter registration agency, the federal agency shall to the greatest extent possible agree to such designation.
 
Improve and modernize Vote.gov. The Executive Order will direct the General Services Administration (GSA) to submit to the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy a strategic plan outlining steps to modernize and improve the user experience of the federal government’s premier source of voting-related information, Vote.gov, including the accessibility of the website within 200 days. The order requires GSA to seek the input of affected stakeholders, including election administrators, civil rights and disability rights activists, Tribal Nations, and nonprofit groups that study best practices for using technology to promote civic engagement.
 
Increase federal employees’ access to voting. The Executive Order will direct the Director of the Office of Personnel Management to work with the head of federal agencies to provide recommendations to the President regarding leave for federal employees to vote or to volunteer as nonpartisan poll workers, ensuring that the federal government serves as a model to other employers.
 
Analyze barriers to voting for people with disabilities.  The Executive Order will direct the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) within the Department of Commerce to evaluate and publish recommendations on the steps needed to ensure that the online Federal Voter Registration Form is accessible to people with disabilities within 200 days.  The order directs NIST—in consultation with the Department of Justice, the Election Assistance Commission, and other agencies—to analyze barriers to private and independent voting for people with disabilities, including access to voter registration, voting technology, voting by mail, polling locations, and poll worker training.
 
Increase voting access for active duty military and other overseas voters.  The executive order will direct the Secretary of Defense within 200 days to establish procedures to annually offer each member of the Armed Forces on active duty the opportunity to register to vote in federal elections, update voter registration, or request an absentee ballot. Additionally, the Secretary of Defense—in coordination with the Department of State, the Military Postal Service Agency and United States Postal Service—is required to submit a strategic plan for an end-to-end ballot tracking system for overseas ballots. And, the head of each federal agency with overseas employees is directed to designate a point of contact to coordinate with the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) and promote voter registration and voting services available to these employees.
 
Provide voting access and education to citizens in federal custody. The order will direct the Attorney General to establish procedures to provide educational materials related to voter registration and voting, and to the extent practicable, to facilitate voter registration, for all eligible individuals in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.  It also directs the Attorney General to coordinate with the Probation and Pretrial Services Office to develop similar procedures for eligible individuals under its supervision. The Executive Order also directs the Attorney General to establish procedures to ensure the U.S. Marshals Service includes language in jail contracts to provide eligible individuals educational materials related to voter registration and voting, and to facilitate voting by mail, to the extent practicable and appropriate. And, it directs the Attorney General to take steps to support formerly incarcerated individuals in obtaining a means of identification that satisfies state voter identification laws.
 
Establish a Native American voting rights steering group. The order will establish an interagency steering group on Native American voting rights to be coordinated by the Domestic Policy Council. The steering group will include, at a minimum, the Attorney General, the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs or their designees. The steering group will study best practices, in consultation with Tribal Nations, for protecting voting rights of Native Americans and will produce a report within one year of the date of the order outlining recommendations for increasing voter outreach, education, registration, and turnout in Native American communities.

NYS Takes Dramatic Steps to Expand Absentee and Early Voting; Launches Public Awareness Campaign

Voting will have a very different look in 2020. New York State is taking dramatic steps to expand absentee and early voting to address concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. “To say this election is the most critical in recent history is understating its importance. We want to make sure every vote in New York is counted and every voice is heard,” Governor Cuomo said. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Voters Can Learn More About Absentee Voting And Early Voting In New York By Visiting ny.gov/earlyvote

New York State had  long been criticized for having some of the most restrictive rules for voting, resulting in some of the lowest turnout rates in the country. But that has changed with a series of reforms aimed at making it easier to vote, including making absentee voting (vote-by-mail) an option available to all, new early voting, to meet the coronavirus crisis so that casting a vote does not have to be a life-and-death choice between exercising a citizen’s most cherished right, and their health.

In addition, Cuomo issued executive orders allowing registered voters to drop off their completed absentee ballot at a Board of Elections office, early voting location or Election Day voting location without requiring them to wait in line with in-person voters. Boards of elections are required to develop and submit a plan to the State Board of Elections by September 21 and make it publicly available.

Meanwhile, the state is launching a public awareness campaign to ensure New Yorkers know all the ways they can vote in November’s election, including voting early, voting absentee, or voting in person on Election Day. 

“Because of COVID, this year New Yorkers have several options when it comes to casting their ballot. You can vote early, vote absentee, or vote in person on Election Day, and I am issuing an executive order to ensure boards of elections have plans in place to safely receive the anticipated additional volume of absentee ballots through in person return,” Governor Cuomo said.”To say this election is the most critical in recent history is understating its importance. We want to make sure every vote in New York is counted and every voice is heard.”

Absentee ballots can be dropped to county boards of elections offices as soon as voters receive their ballot; any early voting location between October 24th and November 1st; and at polling locations on Election Day. By dropping off an absentee ballot at a county board of elections office, early voting site or polling location, New Yorkers can avoid Post Office delays and the need for a stamp.

Most New Yorkers can now request an absentee ballot for the first time under a new law the Governor signed expanding eligibility to all voters who have concerns regarding COVID-19. They should check the “temporary illness” box on their absentee ballot application. To learn more about absentee voting and early voting in New York, visit ny.gov/earlyvote.

The state has launched an absentee ballot portal where voters can directly request an absentee ballot for the upcoming November 3rd election.

Given an expected unprecedented increase in the use of absentee ballots and concerns about the reliability of the United States Postal Service, today’s executive order ensures an expedited, dedicated line for returning absentee ballots in-person, or a contactless drop box in every county.

The state made several sweeping election reform steps in advance of the November 3rd election. 

On August 20, Governor Cuomo signed into law a three-part election reform package to make it easier for New Yorkers to vote and be counted in November, including: allowing absentee ballot applications to be submitted to a board of elections immediately; expanding the necessary protections to allow a voter to get an absentee ballot due to risk or fear of illness including COVID-19 and; ensuring all absentee ballots postmarked on or before Election Day or received by a board of elections without a postmark on the day after the election will be counted. Ballots with a postmark demonstrating that they were mailed on or before Election Day will be counted if received by November 10. 

On August 24, Governor Cuomo issued an Executive Order to further bolster and support New Yorker’s right to vote by requiring county boards of elections to take the following actions:

  1. Send a mailing outlining all deadlines for voters by Tuesday, September 8.
  2. Send staffing plans and needs to the New York State Board of Elections by September 20 so BOE can assist in ensuring adequate coverage.
  3. Adopt a uniform clarified envelope for absentee ballots and require counties to use it.
  4. Count votes faster: require all objections to be made by the county board in real time, make sure that boards are ready to count votes and reconcile affidavit and absentee ballots by 48 hours after elections. 
  5. Provide an option for New Yorkers to vote absentee in village, town and special district elections.

“All board of elections make sure they have everything in place, the staff in place, to count the ballots as soon as possible,” Cuomo said. “And the board of elections have to report staffing plans and any needs for additional staff. If they don’t have the staff. Tell us tell us before. So you can get the staff because you have to be able to count the ballots. You have to be able to tabulate the vote. We want it done and we want it done right, but we want it done timely. We don’t want to hear after-the-fact excuses for why you couldn’t do it. Tell us how you’re going to do it before-the-fact, and your staffing plan from the board of elections that will actually do that.

“This election is going to be one of the most critical in modern history. It will be controversial. You already hear the statements questioning the vote, and the accuracy of the vote, and mail-in ballots. We want to make sure that every vote is counted; every voice is heard and that it’s fair and right and accurate.”

“The federal administration has ordered an unprecedented attack on the U.S. Postal Service and with COVID-19 threatening our ability to have safe, in-person voting, these measures are critical to ensuring a successful and fair election at one of the most important moments in our nation’s history,” Governor Cuomo said. “These actions will further break down barriers to democracy and will make it easier for all New Yorkers to exercise their right to vote this November.” 

New Laws Will Make It Easier for New Yorkers to Vote and Be Counted in November

S.8015-D/A.10833 Authorizes Voters to Request an Absentee Ballot Due to Risk of Illness, Including COVID

S.8783A/A.10807 Authorizes Voters to Request Absentee Ballots Starting Today

S.8799A/A.10808-A Allows Ballots to Be Postmarked On the Day of the Election, November 3

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, “Voting access is one of the core foundations of our democracy. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we must ensure that no New Yorkers feel pressured to put their health and well-being at risk to exercise their Constitutional right to vote. I thank the bill sponsors for advancing this legislation, and my Senate Democratic Majority colleagues for their ongoing

commitment to empower New York voters and Governor Cuomo for signing these bills.”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said, “The Assembly Majority knows that democracy is best served when it is easier, not harder for Americans to vote. But the administration in Washington is once again proving that they do not value these critical democratic institutions, going as far as attacking the U.S. Postal Service to limit access to voting by mail. Here in New York, we will not stand for that. Earlier this year, we passed legislation to expand voters access to mail in voting, and we will continue to fight to make it easier and safer for New Yorkers to exercise their constitutional right to vote, and protect the integrity of our elections.”

Relating to Absentee Ballot Requests Due to Risk of Illness (S.8015-D/A.10833)

This legislation gives voters the right to request an absentee ballot due to risk of illness to themselves or others.

Senator Alessandra Biaggi said, “COVID has upended every aspect of our lives — but we cannot allow it to undermine our democracy and New Yorkers’ sacred right to vote. I introduced S8015D to ensure that no New Yorker will have to choose between their health and fulfilling their civic responsibility. Unfortunately, during the June election too many New Yorkers had to make that very choice because they did not receive their ballots on time. I want to thank Governor Cuomo for signing my bill to provide every New Yorker with the assurance that they can vote via absentee ballot come November and to give the Board of Elections the time they need to prepare. I also want to extend my gratitude to Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and my colleagues in the Legislature for their partnership and commitment to protecting our democracy.”

Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz said, “Today is a great day for our democracy in New York State. As we continue to work on ways to increase voter efficacy in the absentee ballot process, I thank Governor Cuomo for signing this bill into law so that New Yorkers do not have to choose between risking public health and fulfilling our civic duty to vote. I am proud that New York State can stand in contrast to our White House administration by taking steps to make it easier and safer to vote, instead of casting political dispersions that erode our core democratic institutions.”

Relating to Absentee Ballot Requests (S.8783A/A.10807)

This legislation authorizes voters to request absentee ballots immediately, 30 days before Election Day, adding almost 7 weeks to the amount of time a voter has to vote by absentee ballot. This legislation eliminates an outdated statutory provision that prevents voters from requesting absentee ballots until 30 days before Election Day. The legislation gives voters reassurance that they will receive and can cast their vote in a timely manner.

Senator Zellnor Myrie said, “With an increasing number of voters planning to vote by absentee ballot this year, it is important to give local boards of election sufficient time to process applications and send out ballots, and maximize the time voters have to complete and return them. This legislation is part of our continued effort to expand access to voting, during the pandemic and beyond. Voters should have full confidence that, whether they use a mailbox or a ballot box, they can exercise their rights safely, securely and without obstacles.”

Assemblymember Al Taylor said, “The COVID-19 health crisis has transformed life as we know it, including how we vote. This year we saw a tenfold increase in absentee ballot requests, with more people than ever choosing to vote by mail to protect the health of their families and community. With this new reality, we must ensure voters can exercise their rights in future elections both safely and efficiently, and that includes receiving absentee ballots in a timely fashion. I am honored to continue the fight to expand and protect voting rights in New York alongside my colleagues as we build upon the progress that’s already been made while helping our neighbors stay safe.  Thank you Governor Cuomo for signing this bill into law.”

Relating to Ballots Postmarked on Day of Election (S.8799A/A.10808-A)

This legislation allows ballots to be postmarked on the day of the election, November 3. The legislation also amends election law to allow the Board of Elections to count all absentee ballots that have a time stamp showing it was delivered to the Board of Elections the day after the election but does not have a dated postmark. The Board of Elections shall deem those ballots mailed in a timely fashion.

Senator Michael Gianaris said, “It’s critical we learn the lessons of the primary election and ensure every valid vote counts in November. The bill being signed today will help insulate voters from problems caused by difficulties with the US Postal Service. I’m grateful the Governor is enacting it.”

Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte said, “The legislation the governor is signing today will ensure that New Yorkers’ right to participate in the electoral process is protected. We saw unprecedented absentee voter turnout during the primary, but because of financial challenges at the United States Postal Service, many ballots did not receive timely postmarks. We must rise to the occasion and make sure that voters across the state can safely and effectively cast their votes. This legislation will help to address problems with the Post Office, by ensuring that absentee ballots that do not receive a postmark are considered timely if they are received by the Board of Elections the day after an election. This protects the integrity of votes and enfranchises the voter. I thank Gov. Cuomo for signing this bill and my colleagues in the Legislature for supporting New Yorkers by ensuring that their constitutional right to vote is protected.”

Stacy Abrams Leads United Call to Action From Rising Stars in Democratic Party at 2020 DNC

Stacy Abrams, former Georgia State House Minority Leader, Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate, voting rights activist (Atlanta, GA) led 17 Democratic Party rising stars in calling for unity, saying, “In a time of voter suppression at home and authoritarians abroad, Joe Biden will be a champion for free and fair elections, for a public health system that keeps us safe, for an economy that we build back better than before, and for accountability and integrity in our system of justice. We stand with Joe Biden because this isn’t just about defeating Donald Trump. We are in this to win for America. So let’s get it done.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

MILWAUKEE—Reimagined for a convention that will look and feel different than anything ever before, the Keynote Address for the second night of the 2020 Democratic National Convention, themed “Leadership Matters,” wove together powerful and diverse voices from the next generation of party leaders into a unified pledge to step up and lead in this critical moment for the nation.

The address featured not one, but 17 of the Democratic Party’s rising stars from all across the country—ranging from state representatives, to mayors, to a Navajo Nation President, to members of Congress. These young electeds offered a diversity of different ideas and perspectives on how to move America forward, but they also spoke to the future our party is building together—a future with Joe Biden at the helm, but Stacy Abrams, former Georgia State House Minority Leader, Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate, voting rights activist (Atlanta, GA), brought home the unique challenges and urgency of voting this year.

Here are Abrams’ remarks:

This nation belongs to all of us. And in every election, we choose how we will create a more perfect union, not by taking sides but by taking stock of where we are and what we need.

This year’s choice could not be more clear. America faces a triple threat: a public health catastrophe, an economic collapse, and a reckoning with racial justice and inequality. So our choice is clear: a steady, experienced public servant who can lead us out of this crisis just like he’s done before, or a man who only knows how to deny and distract; a leader who cares about our families or a president who only cares about himself.

We know Joe Biden. America, we need Joe Biden. To make your voice heard text Vote to 30330.

In a democracy, we do not elect saviors. We cast our ballots for those who see our struggles and pledge to serve; who hear our dreams and work to make them real; who defend our way of life by protecting our right to vote. Faced with a president of cowardice, Joe Biden is a man of proven courage. He will restore our moral compass by confronting our challenges, not by hiding from them or undermining our elections to keep his job.

In a time of voter suppression at home and authoritarians abroad, Joe Biden will be a champion for free and fair elections, for a public health system that keeps us safe, for an economy that we build back better than before, and for accountability and integrity in our system of justice. We stand with Joe Biden because this isn’t just about defeating Donald Trump. We are in this to win for America. So let’s get it done.

Other participants included:

  • State Senator Raumesh Akbari; Tennessee (Memphis, TN) 
  • Congressman Colin Allred; TX-32 (Washington D.C.)
  • Congressman Brendan Boyle; PA-2 (Pittsburgh, PA)
  • State Senator Yvanna Cancela; Nevada (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Former State Rep. Kathleen Clyde; County Commissioner, Portage County, OH (Kent, OH)
  • Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried; Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services (Tallahassee, FL)
  • Mayor Robert Garcia; (Long Beach, CA) 
  • State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta; Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
  • State Senator Marlon Kimpson; South Carolina (Charleston, SC)
  • Congressman Conor Lamb; PA-17 (Pittsburgh, PA)
  • State Rep. Mari Manoogian; Michigan (Birmingham, MI)
  • State Rep. Victoria Neave; Texas (Dallas, TX)
  • President Jonathan Nez; Navajo Nation President (Widow Rock, AZ)
  • State Rep. Sam Park; Georgia (Lawrenceville, GA)
  • State Rep. Denny Ruprecht; New Hampshire (Landaff, NH) 
  • Mayor Randall Woodfin; (Birmingham, AL)

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Senator Klobuchar Pledges ‘For the People’ Act to Protect the Right to Vote

Senator Amy Klobuchar has pledged that the For the People Act — legislation that contains 13 of Senator Klobuchar’s legislative provisions to improve access to the ballot box — will be the first bill she sends to Congress as President. (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Amy Klobuchar has pledged that the For the People Act — legislation that contains 13 of Senator Klobuchar’s legislative provisions to improve access to the ballot box — will be the first bill she sends to Congress as President. This is from the Klobuchar campaign:

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – The right to vote has been hard-fought and hard-won. Right now, insidious forces are working to take that right away. There are those who suppress the vote with intimidation, repress our voices with dark money, and refuse to address foreign attacks on our elections.

Not Senator Klobuchar.

Senator Klobuchar believes it’s time to take back our democracy. She’s leading the effort in Congress to automatically register every American to vote when they turn 18, and she has fought for the passage of legislation that would restore the Voting Rights Act to take on discrimination at the polls. She’s also worked to get dark money out of politics and in her first month as a Senator, she helped lead the successful push for meaningful ethics reform in Congress.

At the same time, Senator Klobuchar is working to make it harder for foreign adversaries to interfere in our elections. In 2018, she secured $380 million in election security funds so states could improve their election infrastructure and protect their elections from attacks by foreign adversaries. And she’s leading legislation in the Senate to protect our elections with backup paper ballots, election audits, and accountability for political ads on the internet.

Senator Klobuchar has pledged that the For the People Act — legislation that has thirteen of Senator Klobuchar’s legislative provisions — will be the first bill she sends to Congress as President.

She will also champion a voting rights and democracy reform package that:

Eliminates obstacles to voting and makes it easier to vote by

Spearheading automatic voter registration for all eligible citizens on their eighteenth birthday by passing and signing into law Senator Klobuchar’s Register America to Vote Act 

Restoring the Voting Rights Act protections for voters in states with a recent history of discrimination

Breaking down institutional barriers to voting, promoting early voting, and prohibiting states from purging voters from rolls for not voting in recent elections by passing and signing into law Senator Klobuchar’s SAVE VOTERS Act

Establishing minimum notification requirements for voters affected by polling place changes

Designating election day as a federal holiday 

Working with states to assist voters with disabilities

Passing Same Day Registration to require states to allow people to register to vote on the same day as the election by passing and signing into law Senator Klobuchar’s Same Day Registration Act 

Ensures elections are free and fair by

Restoring citizens’ right to vote after being released from incarceration.

Ending partisan gerrymandering

Requiring backup paper ballots and providing election security grants to states for cyber improvements and audits as part of the Election Security Act — an effort Senator Klobuchar has led and continues to lead in the Senate 

Ensuring accountability for political ads on the internet by passing and signing into law Senator Klobuchar’s bipartisan Honest Ads Act

Ensuring ballots are counted from Americans serving in the military and their family members

Combating foreign interference campaigns by improving media literacy education that teaches students skills to identify misinformation online

Overhauls our campaign finance system by

Supporting a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United 

Establishing a campaign finance system to increase the power of small donors through a multiple matching system for small donations

In addition, Senator Klobuchar has laid out a plan for her first 100 days that includes executive action she can take to strengthen our democracy immediately: 

Revive the aggressive protection of voting rights. Senator Klobuchar will restore the federal government’s longstanding position of challenging intentionally racially discriminatory voting laws. And while Congress works to restore the Voting Rights Act (VRA), Senator Klobuchar will direct the Department of Justice to use Section 3 of the VRA to “bail-in” jurisdictions to its preclearance requirements, allowing federal courts to place jurisdictions under the oversight requirement of the VRA.

Prioritize cybersecurity and protect our elections and other American infrastructure from cyber attack. As President, Senator Klobuchar will make cybersecurity an immediate priority. She will issue an Executive Order launching government-wide cybersecurity initiatives, fast-tracking and streamlining procurement of modern information technology across agencies. She will also launch a cabinet-level taskforce on election cybersecurity to coordinate across agencies, including the intelligence community, on how the federal government can work with state and local governments to address cyber threats to our democracy and infrastructure. She will also introduce legislation that provides election security funding, requires backup paper ballots, and requires campaigns to report contacts from foreign nationals seeking to interfere in an election to federal authorities.

Impose full sanctions on Russia for hostile act against the United States and its allies. In 2017, Congress passed legislation providing additional authorities for the President to impose sanctions on Russia in response to its election interference and other aggressive actions. The Trump Administration has resisted full implementation of these sanctions. Senator Klobuchar will use these authorities to the fullest extent possible to impose serious costs on the Putin regime and its enablers for hostile acts against the United States and our allies.

Shine a light on the corporate dark money spending. Senator Klobuchar will shine a light on the dark money by requiring publicly traded companies to disclose all political spending over $10,000 to their shareholders.

Bring transparency to dark money issue advocacy. Senator Klobuchar will direct the IRS to institute the requirement that tax-exempt organizations that engage in issue advocacy disclose to the IRS the names of individual donors who contribute more than $5,000 per year.

Restore protections for journalists and protect the First Amendment. Senator Klobuchar will restore former Attorney General Eric Holder’s guidance on protections for journalists so that they are not jailed for doing their jobs.

Overhaul ethics rules for White House employees and other senior officials. Senator Klobuchar will make clear that the President and Vice President must follow our conflict of interest laws, do more to investigate foreign agents who lobby in the United States, give the Office of Government Ethics more enforcement power, and provide additional protections for all Special Counsels.

Ensure that the President is not above the law. Senator Klobuchar will instruct the Justice Department to withdraw the Office of Legal Counsel’s opinions prohibiting the indictment of a sitting president.

Fill judicial vacancies by nominating well-qualified judges on day one. Senator Klobuchar will waste no time in working with the Senate and the American Bar Association to nominate a full slate of well-qualified judges who will follow the law to fill judicial vacancies on federal courts on day one of her presidency.

Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren Announces Plan to Protect Vote, Election Security, Strengthen our Democracy

Democratic Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren, US Senator from Massachusetts, proposes a sweeping, comprehensive plan to protect access to the ballot box and the security of elections © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Charlestown, MA – Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, Democratic US Senator from Massachusetts, released her plan to make voting easy and convenient and secure our elections from threats both foreign and domestic:

Elections are the foundation of our democracy, but in the United States – the greatest democracy in the world – our government treats voting like it’s one of the least important things we do. We have around 8,000 election jurisdictions all doing their own thing. They are overstretched, under-resourced, and their technology is often laughably out of date.

Voting should be easy. But instead, many states make it hard for people to vote. We have all heard stories about polling places running out of ballots, computer problems causing delays, ballot designs confusing voters, and extremely long lines preventing working people from voting. And on top of these administrative issues, racist and partisan officials often deliberately seek to stop citizens from exercising the right to vote. States have purged names from the voter rolls, limited same-day registration, closed polling places in communities of color, used voter ID laws to try to disenfranchise Native Americans, and even placed restrictions and criminal penalties on efforts to register new voters.

Our elections should be as secure as Fort Knox. But instead, they’re less secure than your Amazon account. State and local officials take their jobs seriously, but they often don’t have the resources to secure their elections. Even then, it’s hard for local officials to defend against attacks from foreign governments. In the 2016 election, the Russian government tried to infiltrate at least 39 state election systems and at least one election equipment company. They tried to spear-phish more than 100 local election officials’ email accounts. They even successfully broke into several voter registration databases. 

The harsh truth is that our elections are extremely vulnerable to attack: Forty-two states use voter registration databases that are more than a decade old. Laughably, in 2019, some still use Windows 2000 and Windows XPTwelve states still use paperless machines, meaning there’s no paper trail to verify vote counts. Some states don’t require post-election audits. And ten states don’t train election officials to deal with cybersecurity threats. This is a national security threat, and three years after a hostile foreign power literally attacked our democracy, we’ve done far too little to address it. 

We need a constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to vote. But the moral necessity of this amendment shouldn’t stop us from acting now. The federal government already has the power to regulate federal elections, secure our democracy, and put a stop to racist voter suppression. 

Under our Constitution, Congress can regulate the “Times, Places, and Manner,” of federal elections. This power is so broad that even Justice Scalia believed this provision gives Congress “authority to provide a complete code for congressional elections.” Congress also has the power to enforce the 14th and 15th Amendments to prevent voting discrimination, and the power of the purse to grant money to the states to meet federal standards. It’s time to draw on these constitutional powers to strengthen our democracy. 

Enough is enough. It is time to make high-quality voting in the greatest democracy in the world easy, convenient, and professional. It’s time to secure our elections from all threats, foreign and domestic. It’s time to address election security, administration problems, and voter suppression. 

Here’s how my plan will work:

  • Federal elections get state-of-the-art federal machines, federal ballots, and federal security. Right now some jurisdictions use dated machines that are easily hackable with no paper trail. Ballot design is all over the place. No more. The federal government will replace every voting machine in the country with state-of-the-art equipment and require adoption of a uniform federal ballot. And we will lock all federal voting technology systems behind a security firewall like it’s Fort Knox.
  • Federal standards for federal elections. We have 8,000 election jurisdictions running elections. Problems with resources, malfeasance, and errors are rampant. No more. We will have federal standards to ensure everyone can vote, including mandating automatic and same-day registration, early voting, and vote by mail. My plan will mean no more arbitrary voter purges. No more registration issues. And no more gerrymandering. We will also make Election Day a holiday to make it easier for people to get to the polls.
  • Enforce the law and expand access – through incentives where possible, and with federal authority where necessary. My plan will give states cutting-edge voting equipment and election security protocols, all paid for by the federal government, and states will be required to follow all federal standards for federal elections. States who also choose to meet these requirements in their state elections can work through federal-state partnership agreements to have those elections fully funded by the federal government, too – and we’ll give them a bonus for achieving high voter turnout rates. And where racist or corrupt politicians refuse to follow the law, the federal government will temporarily take over the administration of their federal elections to guarantee the fundamental right to vote.
     

Securing Our Elections

Under my plan, federal elections will get state-of-the-art federal machines, federal ballots, and federal security.  The federal government will replace insecure and outdated systems with hand-marked, voter-verified paper ballot machines. To prevent hanging-chads and other confusing ballot designs, we’ll have uniform federal ballots all across the country that are based on easy-to-use design principles. The federal government will also provide every polling location with accessible ballot machines for people with disabilities and conduct research into how to improve voting security and accessibility for all people, including those with disabilities and people for whom English isn’t their primary language. 

Through a new independent Secure Democracy Administration, which will replace the Election Assistance Commission and be staffed by civil servants, the federal government will manage the cybersecurity aspects of elections and develop additional security procedures for election administration and the end-to-end handling of ballots. States will implement these additional security measures, and will receive technical assistance and training from the Secure Democracy Administration. In addition, states will be required to conduct risk-limiting audits prior to certifying elections – and we’ll have independent oversight of those audits.
 

Establishing Binding Federal Standards for Federal Elections

Our elections are never going to be secure, fair, or workable with so many jurisdictions each making their own rules — especially when some officials deliberately manipulate those rules to stop people from voting. Under my plan, we’ll have a uniform set of federal election standards that achieve four goals:

No more registration problems. My plan will mandate automatic voter registration and same-day registration for federal elections. State and federal government agencies will automatically register voters and transfer that information to state elections officials, and voters can opt-out, if they choose. Every state will also be required to offer same-day registration, which acts as a fail-safe for anyone who is mistakenly left off the rolls. 

No more voter purges. Under my plan, states will be banned from removing voters from the election rolls unless the voter affirmatively requests to be removed or there is objective evidence of a legitimate reason to remove them, like death, change of address, or loss of eligibility to vote. We will also re-enfranchise those who have served their time and left prison.  

No more difficulties voting. We will make Election Day a national holiday, and all federal elections will have a minimum of 15 days of early voting, expanded voting hours, the option to vote with a sworn statement of identity instead of an ID, convenient polling locations, and voting by mail. And we will pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Native American Voting Rights Act to shut down a host of festering discriminatory practices.  

No more gerrymandering. Under my plan, states will be required to use independent redistricting commissions to draw federal congressional districts to prevent gerrymandering. Both parties should compete on a level playing field; not in a rigged game designed to suppress the will of the people.  
 

Enforcing the law and expanding access – through incentives where possible, and with federal authority where necessary

Our democracy shouldn’t be about keeping people out – it should strive to bring everyone to the polls. Under my plan, states will receive new state-of-the-art machines and federal election security, all paid for by the federal government, and they will also be obligated to comply with the federal standards for federal elections. But we should make voting easier in all elections – federal, state, and local. I’m proposing a federal-state partnership so that states will have a strong financial incentive to follow these rules in their state and local elections as well — and to maximize voter turnout.

Here’s how it will work: the federal government will pay the entirety of a state’s election administration costs, as long as the state meets federal standards in its state and local elections and works to make voting more convenient. States will create state implementation plans, describing how they will adhere to federal law and increase access to voting (e.g. location of polling places). The Secure Democracy Administration will review state implementation plans for compliance with federal law, election security protocols, potentially racially discriminatory impacts, and efforts to make voting more convenient. States that achieve high percentage voter turnout, including across racial, gender, and age groups, will be awarded additional bonus payments. All plans will be finalized well in advance of Election Day, and states will provide data on their election activities. If a state does not participate in the federal-state partnership, but a local jurisdiction within the state wishes to do so, the local jurisdiction can work with the federal government to create a local implementation plan and it will get access to federal funds to cover its election administration costs.  

States can choose to follow their own rules for their state and local elections. But if they do, they won’t receive new funding for administering state elections beyond election security measures, and they will still have to administer federal elections in accordance with federal law – including preclearance for any changes that might have a discriminatory impact under the Voting Rights Advancement Act. 

If state or local election officials choose to ignore these federal rules and instead move to violate them, my plan will give the Secure Democracy Administration the authority to seek a court order to step in and guarantee that every voter has access to the polls unless or until the state shows its intent to fully comply with federal law. The right to vote is a fundamental right, and we will not let racist and corrupt politicians undermine it or our democracy. 

Our democracy is too important for it to be under-resourced and insecure. We need to do everything we can to make sure our elections are convenient, professional, and secure — and we should be willing to pay for it. Based on estimates of national election administration expenses, recent state efforts to upgrade their election systems, and assessments of the costs of new machines and audits, to cover these costs, we would allocate around $20 billion over ten years, which includes around $15 billion for election administration and around $5 billion for election security. This investment can be fully paid for with revenue generated from the Ultra-Millionaire Tax.

Democracy hangs on the idea that whoever gets the most votes wins. Politicians are supposed to compete over how many voters they can persuade, not how many they can disqualify or demoralize. And we have a solemn obligation to secure our elections from those who would try to undermine them. That’s why the Constitution gives Congress the tools to regulate the administration of federal elections. It’s time to pick up those tools and use them.

Read more about Warren’s plan here 

Womens March NYC 2018 Draws 200,000 – Here are Highlights

The line-up for the Womens March NYC extended along Central Park West to 86th Street for an official total of 200,000 © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

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.

MILCK with Yoko Ono on stage at the rally launching the march © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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.

MILCK on the March in NYC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Voting is my Super Power © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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.

Marching for a Blue Wave © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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.

Our Button is Bigger than Yours 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“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.

Welcome to the Resistance © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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 

Here are highlights from the Womens March NYC:

Girl Power: A Woman’s Place is in the Resistance © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Let Our Dreamers Dream; My Vote is My Super Power © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Not My Shithole President © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Revolution is Coming © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Pride Not Prejudice © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Never too young to respect women © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Ladies Liberty © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Pussy Hats 2018 with attitude © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Trump salute © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Follow the Money © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Dope. Grope. Nope. Hope. © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 

Our Rights are Not Up for Grabs © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Rise and Resist © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Dream Act Now © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Human Wall © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

No Glass Ceilings. Future President © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

See also:

Women’s March Redux Jan. 20 Kicks Off Get-Out-The-Vote Campaign to ReMake Government

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

‘Election Integrity’ Commission Eliminates Middleman in Giving Trump, Republicans Tools to Steal Elections

Trump’s “Election Integrity” commission should be less focused on whether there were 3 to 5 million fraudulent votes cast, than how Russia – and any future cybercriminal – hacked 39 states’ election rolls. The fact it isn’t, points to its true purpose. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

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?

The argument here is that elections are so decentralized, the results could not be altered sufficiently. In the first place the weak link is where the various election districts electronically send their results to a single center for tabulation. And the 70,000 versus 3 million vote tally which gave Trump the White House is proof enough that the argument that decentralization is what protects the sanctity of the democratic process is specious. (See: Russian hackers’ election goal may have been swing-state voter rollsRussian Hacking on Election More Widespread Than ReportedElection Hackers Altered Voter Rolls, Stole Private Data, Officials Say)

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.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

To Get to a More Perfect Union, Reform Electoral College, Promote Access to Ballot Box

Electoral College reform and a greater federal role in setting minimum national standards for access to the ballot box are necessary to insure that Americans get the president who reflects the will of the majority in a free and fair democratic election © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Electoral College reform and a greater federal role in setting minimum national standards for access to the ballot box are necessary to insure that Americans get the president who reflects the will of the majority in a free and fair democratic election © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

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.

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