Independent Voting Videos


Friday, March 6, 2015

NY's Email Deletion Policy

Automatically deleting email after 90 days could lead to the accidental disposal of important records, as the Cuomo administration presses ahead with its controversial new policy.

The Cuomo administration last week fully implemented a policy of deleting any email not proactively saved for retention after 90 days.  The result was a mass purge of messages in the inboxes of rank-and-file employees.

“With respect to a records retention policy, my belief is the nature of the communication and its significance should determine how long it should be kept, and there likely should not be an arbitrary dividing line between retention and disposal,” Robert Freeman, head of New York's Committee on Open Government, said.  “In 2015, in the era of electronic communications—particularly email—often all of us receive email communications that are indeed significant, which likely warrant a retention period of greater than 90 days.  Realistically, let's face it: mistakes are made.  Sometimes if there is an automatic obliteration of records, we may lose materials that are indeed important, that have historical value, and again, there may be situations in which we cannot necessarily predict the significance of the record.”

The official state policy was adopted in June 2013, but gubernatorial administrations have been automatically purging their inboxes going back six years, aides to Governor Andrew Cuomo say.

“This policy has been in place at the Executive Chamber since 2007 and the records retention policy that goes with it is clear, as well as consistent with State Archives guidelines,” Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said in an emailed statement.  “As Mr. Freeman previously said, that’s key.”

Official guidelines for employees say they should flag materials related to the awarding of state contracts or development of policies for further retention.  Documents or emails that are subject to Freedom of Information Law requests are to be preserved, as are records placed on hold because of litigation.

Nonetheless, the Cuomo administration automatically deleted emails that had been sought under FOIL in the summer of 2013 that related to a controversially named food cart that was banned from the Saratoga Race Course and Empire State Plaza in Albany.

Owners of the cart sued the state and are now asking a federal judge to sanction the state for “spoliation” of emails sent by former Cuomo adviser Bennet Liebman to officials in the executive chamber.

State legislators are drafting bills that would establish a different retention schedule for various records or mandate their preservation for at least five years.

Saving emails is something of a double-edged sword.  There are plenty of worthless government records, a message slip from a call that has been returned, and have no value going forward.

In the mid-90's, the lawyers for the company where I was the acting COO and CIO, ask the I.T. department to delete emails after a certain time, using saving space on our servers and backup systems, as the reason.

Today, the eDiscovery industry is thriving.

Electronic discovery, or eDiscovery, refers to discovery in litigation or government investigations which deals with the exchange of information in electronic format (often referred to as electronically stored information or ESI).  This is data subject to local rules and agreed-upon processes, and are often reviewed for privilege and relevance before being turned over to opposing counsel.

Data are identified as potentially relevant by attorneys and placed on legal hold.  Evidence is then extracted and analyzed using digital forensic procedures, and is reviewed using a document review platform.  Documents can be reviewed either as native files or after a conversion to PDF or TIFF form.  A document review platform is useful for its ability to aggregate and search large quantities of ESI.

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Thursday, March 5, 2015

NYC Student Voter Registration Day

The NYC Campaign Finance Board have created a great pilot program designed to educate students in NYC schools about the importance of voting and civic engagement.

Student Voter Registration Day NYC Votes will be facilitating workshops (as well as registering eligible voters) in school classrooms around NYC on Friday March 20, 2015.

Student Voter Registration Day (SVRD) is a pilot program designed to build upon the great work already happening in NYC schools to educate students about the importance of voting and civic engagement.  SVRD will be one day where NYC schools will collectively focus on civic engagement education, activities, and voter registration.  For those students who are not eligible to vote, there will also be information about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) provided by accredited staff.  The overarching message of the day is that all people – and particularly young people, regardless of immigration status – can and should be involved in their communities, because politics and elections affect their everyday lives.  There are many different ways to get involved, whether through participatory budgeting, being involved in the local community board, joining an advocacy organization, or if eligible, voting every year in local, state, and national elections.

SVRD will be held annually the third Friday in March, on or near Democracy Day, which is the day 18-year-olds won the right to vote.  This day was chosen because of its historical significance, and because more students in senior classes will be eligible to register to vote, as either 17-year-olds or 18-year-olds.  The first annual SVRD will be held on Friday, March 20, 2015.

The intent of SVRD is to increase youth voter registration and to excite youth about being involved in the democratic process.  SVRD is the product of a partnership between the City Council, led by the office of City Council Member Helen Rosenthal, the Campaign Finance Board’s voter engagement program: NYC Votes, the Department of Education, administrators, principals, teachers, and voter registration and civic engagement organizations.  Contributions by teachers, principals, administrators, and the people who work with youth every day on civic engagement issues has been critical to developing SVRD’s approach and materials.

What will SVRD look like?

This first year, SVRD is running as a pilot in a select number of high schools, in a select number of City Council districts.  These schools will be chosen collaboratively among participating City Council members, principals, teachers, and civic engagement organizations, with oversight by the Department of Education and the SVRD organizing team.  SVRD activities will be custom-tailored for each participating school through discussions between the school leadership and the SVRD organizing team. Each participating school will be presented with a menu of different options which may vary from half-day workshops to full school civic fairs or classroom instruction.

In addition to different activities to choose from, a variety of lesson materials sourced from stakeholders and educators will be provided.  For those teachers and schools that already have strong civic engagement and voter registration lessons, they are encouraged to participate in SVRD using their own materials, if they prefer.  The costs associated with each type of engagement will vary by school, and again will be tailored based on a school’s resources.  The majority of SVRD activity options will come at no additional cost to the school.

What are we asking for from school partners?

The office of Council Member Helen Rosenthal and NYC Votes have recruited a limited number of City Council Members to select a high school in their district to partner with on the SVRD pilot.  When a school is invited to participate they will be presented with the range of options for SVRD activities.  Schools are encouraged to bring SVRD to the attention of their administrators, teachers, student government, and other interested teacher or student bodies.  Any member of the school community is welcome to participate in SVRD at whatever capacity they are able.

NYC Votes will provide interested schools with a survey to capture all of the basic information about that school’s preferred level of engagement and logistical considerations for SVRD.  In partnership with NYC Votes, each school will solidify their plans for SVRD participation. Depending upon the level of engagement, NYC Votes staff, individuals trained by NYC Votes, or staff members and volunteers from well-established voter registration and civic engagement organizations will partner with the school to staff the events for SVRD.  All workshop facilitators will be trained in advance of SVRD; teachers and administrators are welcome to attend these “train the trainer” sessions, but are not required.  The time needed for each tier of participation will vary depending on the level of commitment from the school.  If the school has elected to hold a full day event, school staff may be needed to help with the logistics and monitoring of the activities.  For classroom instruction, teachers will need to be present though they are not required to lead SVRD activities.  City Council Members will be encouraged to attend a training session at the school in their district and to speak with students about the importance of participating in the democratic process.  To make sure the planning process moves forward smoothly, it’s recommended that each committed school designate a primary contact person for SVRD planning.

They are asking schools to commit to SVRD, to a specific level of engagement, and to working with their Council Member, NYC Votes, and a civic education organization (if applicable) by Monday, February 23rd.

Contact information:

Chyann Sapp

Youth Voter Coordinator, NYC Votes P: (212) 409-1844

Beth Newcomer

Legislative Aide, Council Member Helen Rosenthal

P: (212) 788-6975

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Albany Museum of Political Corruption

Former New York gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout has agreed to sit on the advisory board of the embryonic Albany Museum of Political Corruption.

“It’s all very exciting.  Her expertise and her energy will be invaluable to this project,” said Bruce Roter, music professor at the College of Saint Rose and the man behind the museum plans.

Roter, worked for Teachout’s Democratic primary campaign last year.  He said he met her at an event in Albany and later asked her join the board.  After assuring her office that her contributions would take up only as much time as she had to spare, he was told that “she’s on board.”

Zephyr, author of the recently released “Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin’s Snuff Box to Citizens United,” has lately called on Hillary Clinton to answer questions about her private email usage during her tenure as secretary of state.

Roter’s vision for the museum, includes a “Hall of Graft, Bribery and Kickbacks,” a “Three Men in a Room Room” and free admission for kids under 12, “but parents are encouraged to lie about the age of their children.

The Albany Museum of Political Corruption “is in the process of transitioning to become a non-profit” and is now accepting pledges for future support as opposed to outright donations, Roter said.

He said he also reached out to Jon Stewart’s agent, inviting the departing Comedy Central satirist to join the museum’s board of directors.  “He might just do it, you never know.  He called Albany a ‘Whitman’s Sampler of corruption’ — well, he can do something about it.”

Also on the advisory board so far: Frank Anechiarico, a government professor at Hamilton College and managing editor of the journal Public Integrity, and Sarah Rodman of Harvard University’s graduate program in museum studies.

“How do we build a museum? I’ve never built one before, have you? It’s not something we do every day.”  Using a symphonic analogy to describe his work for the museum, Roter said: “I’m a music professor, I’m a composer, and I’m not an expert in politics. But I’m a good orchestrator.”

CLICK HERE for more information about the museum.

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Denver Elections Division Creates Mobile Petition App eSign

Thanks to Richard Winger of Ballot Access News for this post.

The Denver Elections Division has launched eSign, a first-in-the-nation mobile petition signing application.

The secure app modernizes the signature gathering process by giving candidates the option of using tablets signed with a stylus to gather petition signatures if they choose to opt-in.  Otherwise, candidates can utilize the traditional paper petition process.

“This cutting edge application has the potential to transform the petition process - providing easier access to the ballot and efficiencies never seen before in this country,” said Denver Clerk Debra Johnson.  “For years the hallmark of Denver Elections has been innovation and progress - 2015 will be no different.  This bold approach has one thing in mind: our customers.”

If a candidate chooses to use eSign, their circulators would gather signatures on a tablet that is registered with the Denver Elections Division.  The tablets would then be returned to Elections HQ, the signature pages would be printed out, placed in a packet and then the signatures would be verified using the processes required by law.

Petition circulators will be able to confirm that a signer is a registered voter because the app interfaces with a voter database and they will also be able to tell at a glance how many signatures they’ve gathered since the app keeps a running tally.

“We are extremely excited to offer this innovative service to our customers.  It revolutionizes the petition gathering process and makes the ballot access process more effective and efficient,” said Amber McReynolds, Director of Elections.  “I am so proud of our team, our partners at Denver Technology Services, and our vendor 303 Software for making this happen.”

eSign will be piloted for the first time as potential candidates for the May 5, 2015 Municipal General Election gather signatures to run for office.  Candidates for Denver's May 5 election on Tuesday began the sometimes-arduous task of gathering petition signatures to qualify for the ballot, and more than a dozen took advantage of a new option.

Typically, campaigns have collected many more signatures than needed to avoid falling short when the Denver Elections Division verifies them.  The guesswork hasn't always worked in their favor.

Candidates for mayor, auditor, clerk and recorder and at-large City Council seats must collect 300 verified signatures by March 11.  The threshold for the council's district seats is 100 signatures within the district boundaries.

So far, 13 candidates have opted for the tablet method over paper petitions, Elections Division spokesman Alton Dillard said.  Campaigns can check out tablets from the division, paying a refundable $375 deposit for each, or register their own tablets to get the software, he said.

Denver elections officials say the office is the first in the nation to offer a mobile petition signing app.  The eSign software was developed with vendor 303 Software.

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No Labels First Problem Solver Convention

On Monday, October 12 2015, No Labels will host their first-ever Problem Solver Convention in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Since its inception in 2010, No Labels has been working to bring a new politics of problem solving to our government.  They were the first organization to call on leaders to put the labels aside and focus on fixing America’s most pressing problems.

No Labels has built a network featuring hundreds of thousands of citizens and local leaders across America and almost 100 bipartisan allies in the United States Congress.  They have developed proposals to reform the workings of Congress, the Presidency and the Federal government.  Their signature reform ideas, such as No Budget, No Pay, turned into laws passed by Congress.  And they are now leading an campaign for a new National Strategic Agenda.

They expect 1,000 or more voters to gather to discuss the importance of that National Strategic Agenda for the country and the need for a president who will use their first 100 days in office to set achievable goals with the opposition party.

In the weeks ahead their congressional Problem Solvers will be unveiling an official resolution calling for a National Strategic Agenda and four national goals.

Special guests on October 12 will include:

- No Labels Co-Chairman Gov. Jon Huntsman

- No Labels Co-Chairman Sen. Joe Lieberman

- No Labels Problem Solvers from the 114th Congress

And hopefully a few presidential candidates.

CLICK HERE if you are interested in joining and to RSVP and receive updates.

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Did the House Speaker End the Hastert Rule?

House Speaker John Boehner's Tuesday's vote passing yet another big bill that most of his Republican colleagues oppose, to avert defunding the Department of Homeland Security, was perhaps the final coffin nail in the "Hastert Rule," promulgated by former House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

He said a speaker should not allow votes on major bills opposed by most of his caucus.

More than two-thirds of House Republicans voted against the DHS bill Boehner offered Tuesday.

GOP Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, often tasked to explain congressional realities, said in an interview: "The Hastert rule's a rule until it's not."

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Bills to Eliminate EAC and Public Funding for Presidential Races

On the heels of the fifth anniversary of the U.S Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which said that corporations may spend unlimited amounts to influence national, state, local and judicial elections, House Republicans have introduced H.R. 412 - Repealing Presidential Public Financing and H.R. 195 - Election Assistance Termination Act bills, to end public financing of presidential elections.

H.R. 412, Repealing Presidential Public Financing

The legislative proposal, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), is being whisked through a House Administration Committee hearing.  The bill would repeal the presidential public financing system that has existed for more than a third of a century, with a House Administration Committee hearing.

H.R. 195, Election Assistance Termination Act

At the same time, H.R. 195, brought up in a similar manner by Rep. Gregg Harper (R - Miss.), would dismantle the newly reestablished Election Assistance Commission (EAC).  The EAC has finally been reinvigorated with duly appointed and confirmed Commissioners by Congress, and is now staffed by some of the most conscientious election authorities in the nation.  The Election Assistance Commission was created by Congress under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 to help prevent meltdowns of our electoral process like the embarrassing episode experienced in the 2000 presidential election.  The EAC is an independent, bipartisan federal commission charged with making our elections run smoothly.  Now up and running, it must be given a chance to carry through on its critical mission.

Both H.R. 359 and H.R. 195, could send no worse signal about being out of touch with ordinary Americans than to enact such measures that further bolster special interests in American politics.

Worse than the lack of an open legislative process is the substance of the bills: At a time when the American public is disgusted with special interest influence in Washington, H.R. 412 would give major corporations and other wealthy special interests even more power over elections by eliminating the presidential public funding system.  Ironically, this legislative assault on the presidential public financing system comes on the heels of the fifth “anniversary” of a judicial assault against decades of congressional legislation banning corporate financing of elections.

In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court set aside Citizens United’s original, narrow, challenge to the McCain - Feingold law and instead used the case to engage in a sweeping rewrite of the First Amendment and campaign finance law, allowing corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts directly to support or oppose candidates.

The result has been an unprecedented flood of secret money into federal, state and judicial elections.  Whatever your personal views on the merits of the Citizens United decision, it is beyond dispute that the ruling is wildly unpopular with the American public.  It has generated exceedingly strong, bipartisan anger and suspicion as to what the secret funders of our elections are attempting to buy.

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