This Week in Democracy Reform
This week, Oregon just made voting easier by making mail in ballots free. California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a law that mandates all presidential candidates release their tax returns. A New York resident pressured Cuomo to make changes in the state’s campaign financing system. The Editorial Board of the Chicago Sun Times called their current laws a means to “legalize bribery.” An Iowa citizen is working with the local government to pass an amendment to overturn Citizens United. A march in New Hampshire honored the life and legacy of “Granny D.” And across the country, states have reminded us of the importance to win local office and take back state houses.
In other news, the Long Island Press wrote about the link between special interests and the ongoing Opioid crisis in America. The Independent reported on the lack of bipartisan work on the issue of election security. The Washington Post discussed a new project by a Chicago-based group that makes gerrymandered districts into words because of their convoluted borders. Lastly, Politico reported on the lack of progress in securing voting machines across the country.
In case you missed it, voting rights vigils took place yesterday across the country to advocate for the reinstatement of the Voting Rights Act. And a DC Statehood hearing is rescheduled for September 19th.
An unwillingness to reach consensus on the many provisions in this bill is regrettable. Safeguarding elections from foreign influence is a vital matter and should not be held hostage to partisan politics.
To illustrate their scorn for the practice, three Chicago-based digital creatives created a font whose letters are composed of real-life districts, their borders so contorted that they resemble letters of the alphabet. Some states, such as California and Arizona, have attempted to stop gerrymandering by allowing independent panels to draw districts instead of lawmakers, though that hasn’t deterred the Ugly Gerry team from using California districts to form the letters “A,” “X” and “T” or Arizona’s 6th to represent “O.”
Tens of millions of Americans vote in counties and states that use paperless voting machines — devices that security experts say can be undetectably hacked and offer no way to audit the results when errors occur. Russia’s election interference in 2016 has spurred new demands for state and local governments to switch to machines that produce a paper record of every vote.
Today, I am signing SB 27, the Presidential Tax Transparency and Accountability Act. I agree with the Legislature that “the State of California has a strong interest in ensuring that its voters make informed, educated choices in the voting booth.” As one of the largest economies in the world and home to one in nine Americans eligible to vote, California has a special responsibility to require this information of presidential and gubernatorial candidates.
And, until the late 1990s, those campaign contributions could easily be converted by lawmakers for personal expenses, such as a trip to Italy or college tuition for their kids. When he was an Illinois state senator, Barack Obama called the practice “legalized bribery.
“Supervisor John Beard said the Board has felt the influence of special interest money from the state level. He said a new law allows heavily loaded logging trucks to travel on county roads, something the county engineer is “very concerned” about.“ That’s one example. We know plenty of others. Special interests are running over the rights of everybody else,” Beard said.
New Hampshire Updates
Granny D’s 14-month journey ended on the Capitol steps when she was 90. She traversed deserts and mountains, cities and farms in covering more than 3,200 miles on foot. She was arrested as part of a protest in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington in April of 2000, but her effort helped to draw support to the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law, which, at the time, set some firm limits on political donations.
New York Updates
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s reliance on contractors doing business with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for campaign contributions should concern all New Yorkers, and underscores the need for major campaign finance reform at the state level.
It just got easier to vote in Oregon, with new laws being signed Friday making it free to mail in ballots, requiring campaign ads to say who paid for them and making political organizations identify their largest donors.
ICYMI: Voting Rights Vigils
On August 6th, community leaders in 17 states and Washington D.C. participated in Voting Rights Vigils as a call to Congress to pass the Voting Rights Advancements Act. Yesterday marked the 54th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). In 2013, the Supreme Court gutted the VRA in its Shelby County v. Holder decision. Vigils were held in states that have curtailed voting rights in recent years such as Arkansas, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas.
“There are a lot of subtle ways that those who are looking to discriminate can go about doing that — things like setting an election in August when students and faculty are on vacation,” Wilburn said… As a former local elected official, I believe in local control,” Willburn said. “However … it is important our state and federal laws set a floor that we do not go below. We do not want our states discriminating.”-Iowa State Daily
“It’s the 54th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits racial discrimination in voting. People came out to Big Spring Park to show their support for the Voting Rights Act and encourage Congress to pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act. This new act pushes for all Americans to have equal access to ballot boxes.”-WZDX
“I call upon Congress to pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act. We have had enough with voting laws that suppress the voices of the black and brown community. If we have to march, we will march. If we have to call, we will call. Whatever we have to do to protect our right to vote.” said Vernon Williams.”-Urban CNY
“The Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that Section 4(b) of the act was unconstitutional. Section 4(b) determined what jurisdictions were covered by Section 5, which required certain areas with a history of discrimination to submit changes in voting procedures voting procedures to the U.S. Department of Justice or a D.C. federal district court before it went into effect. The case was Shelby County v. Holder.”-The Chronicle
Sample Tweet: More than 30 state and national groups participated in the Voting Rights Vigils that took place across the country this week. These events drew national attention to discriminatory voting laws and the lack of voter protections #RestoreTheVOTE
Sample Tweet: Across the country, in 17 states and Washington D.C. citizens came together to advocate for the passage of the Voting Rights Advancement Act and draw attention to discriminatory voter rules that have passed since the gutting of the 1965 Voting Rights Act #VRA54