Saturday, February 13, 2016

National Popular Vote Update

The Arizona House of Representatives passed the National Popular Vote bill by a bipartisan 40-16 vote on February 4, 2016. The bill now goes to the Senate, where two-thirds of Arizona Senators are sponsors.

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate receiving the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC.

So far, the National Popular Vote bill has passed a total of 34 legislative chambers in 23 states, including recent bipartisan:

- 40-16 vote in the Republican-controlled Arizona House
- 28-18 vote in the Republican-controlled Oklahoma Senate
- 57-4 vote in the Republican-controlled New York Senate
- 37-21 vote in the Democratic-controlled Oregon House

The bill has been enacted into law in 11 states possessing 165 electoral votes. It will become effective when enacted by states with 105 more electoral votes.

This video explains why 38 states are politically irrelevant in General election campaigns for President. It explains how the National Popular Vote bill will ensure that every voter, in every state, will be politically relevant in every Presidential election.

The U.S. Constitution leaves it to each state to choose its method of selecting its Presidential electors. Article II says, "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors...."

The "winner-take-all" method of awarding electoral votes is not part of the U.S. Constitution. It was never debated by the Constitutional Convention. It was never mentioned in the Federalist Papers. It was not envisioned by the Founding Fathers, much less endorsed by them. Only 3 states used winner-take-all in our nation's first Presidential election in 1789, and all of them repealed it by 1800. Current state winner-take-all laws may be repealed in the same way they were originally adopted, namely by state legislative action. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that deciding on the method of awarding electoral votes is an "exclusive" and "plenary" power of each state.

The National Popular Vote interstate compact would not take effect until enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes, that is, enough to elect a President (270 of 538). Under the compact, the winner will be the candidate receiving the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC) on Election Day. When the Electoral College meets in mid-December, the national popular vote winner will receive all of the electoral votes of the enacting states, and thereby become President. The Electoral College will thus represent the will of the voters in all 50 states (and DC).

The National Popular Vote bill retains the Electoral College and States control of elections.

CLICK HERE to email your legislators to support the National Popular Vote.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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DNC Rolls Back Obama Ban on Contributions from Federal Lobbyists

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has rolled back restrictions introduced by Presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008 that banned donations from Federal lobbyists and Political Action Committees. The ban was a symbolic way for Obama to put his stamp on the party, when he promised voters “we are going to change how Washington works.” At the time, lobbyists and corporate advocates in Washington complained about the ban and other limitations imposed by the new administration.

The decision was viewed with disappointment by good government activists who saw it as a step backward in the effort to limit special interest influence in Washington. Some suggested it could provide an advantage to Hillary Clinton’s fundraising efforts.

“It is a major step in the wrong direction,” said longtime reform advocate Fred Wertheimer. “And it is completely out of touch with the clear public rejection of the role of political money in Washington,” expressed during the 2016 campaign.

The change in the rules, already apparent to leading Washington lobbyists, was quietly introduced at some point during the past couple of months.

Last summer the DNC announced it was lifting a ban on lobbyist contributions to convention-related expenses. At the time, DNC officials said the move was necessary because Congress had eliminated about $20 million in Federal funding for the quadrennial party gatherings.

For the most part, they said, the DNC has returned to business as usual, pre-2008. The DNC has even named a Finance Director specifically for PAC donations who has recently emailed prospective donors to let them know that they can now contribute again.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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EAC’s Brian Newby Sued for Citizenship Form Decision

Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court turned down a petition from Arizona and Kansas to hear Kobach v. United States Election Assistance Commission, thereby letting stand a 10th Circuit ruling that the states may not force applicants using the Federal voter registration form to show citizenship documents.

So Arizona and Kansas implement a Two-Tiered Voting System. If you used the state form which required proof of citizenship, you could vote in Local, State, and Federal elections. But if you used the Federal form, you could only vote in Federal elections.

A state court has struck down Kansas' two-tiered voter registration system, ruling that Secretary of State Kris Kobach's office overstepped its legal authority by creating a system that prevents Federal form registrants from voting in state and local elections. The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the dual system.

U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) Executive Director Brian D. Newby’s action to allow three states to require documentary proof of citizenship on the Federal voter registration form is illegal, argued the League of Women Voters of the United States, along with its Alabama, Georgia, and Kansas state Leagues, and others in a suit filed on Feb. 12, 2016, in Federal court.

The Georgia NAACP, the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, and Project Vote, along with Marvin Brown and JoAnn Brown, also join the suit against the (EAC).

“Voters should not have to face an obstacle course in order to participate in our democracy,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, National League president. “We had hoped that a reconstituted EAC would focus on improving election administration. This action by the Executive Director would make the election system worse. His action challenges the impartiality of the Commission.”

Research shows 7 percent of voters do not have documentary proof of citizenship, and tens of thousands of Kansans have been blocked from registering to vote in the state.

On January 29, 2016, Newby sent letters to the Secretaries of State of Alabama, Georgia, and Kansas stating, without further explanation, that he would allow the three states to require citizenship documents for applicants using the federal registration form.

The Executive Director did not have authority to allow the three states to enforce documentary proof of citizenship requirements on the Federal form, and doing so violated both EAC policy and Federal law, according to a complaint submitted by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law with pro bono counsel at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP; the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the American Civil Liberties Union with pro bono counsel Steptoe & Johnson LLP; and Project Vote with pro bono counsel Arnold & Porter LLP.

If the documents, such as birth certificates or passports, are not provided, Americans will be denied the fundamental right to vote. The federal form is designed to guarantee a “simple means of registering to vote,” and already requires applicants to swear that they are U.S. citizens under penalty of perjury.

Documentary proof of citizenship requirements undermine the groups’ efforts to increase civic participation and make it more difficult for individuals to vote, according to the court filing. “This change was unauthorized and illegal, and is hugely detrimental to voters in Alabama, Georgia, and Kansas,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy program and representation for the Leagues in this case. “With presidential primaries fast approaching, these citizens deserve clarity on how — or if — they can register to vote. This will bring unneeded confusion and uncertainty during this presidential election year.”

In an interview earlier this week, Kobach defended the move and Newby’s authority to issue it. He denied that it was any special favor from a former colleague, and said the state would have requested the proof-of-citizenship requirement no matter who stepped into the role of Executive Director of the Commission.

“We had the letter drafted long before Newby was selected and it was going to go to whoever the new executive director was,” Kobach said. “We were just waiting for an executive to be appointed, and whoever it was would have gotten the same letter.”

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Trump Supporters File 'Birther' Lawsuit Against Cruz in Federal Court

Donald Trump supporters have filed a lawsuit challenging the eligibility of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), to run for President.

The lawsuit, filed Feb. 3, 2016 at a District court in Alabama, seeks a judgment “declaring that Rafael Edward Cruz is ineligible to qualify/run/seek and be elected to the Office of the President of the United States of America” due to his Canadian birth.

Several of the five plaintiffs: Sebastian Green, Shannon Duncan, Kathryn Spears, Kyle Spears and Jerry Parker, are backing Trump in the Republican Primary, their attorney, Thomas Drake said.

The lawsuit cites Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, which rules that “no person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of president.” Under that clause, the plaintiffs claim, “Cruz is not a ‘natural born’ citizen of the United States of America." “Mr. Cruz was born in Canada, and obviously Canada is not a territory or protectorate of the United States, it’s not dominion of the United States,” Drake explained. Cruz was born in Calgary, Canada, to an American mother. “You cannot be a natural-born or native-born citizen of two countries."

Cruz, a Constitutional lawyer and former Solicitor General of Texas, has maintained that he is eligible to serve as president, noting the distinction between natural-born and naturalized citizens.

A Federal lawsuit in Texas has also been filed seeking a judgment on whether Cruz is a natural-born citizen. A Texas attorney has filed the a lawsuit questioning Ted Cruz’s eligibility to serve as President. He argues that the question must be presented to the Supreme Court for fair adjudication instead of left up to popular consensus. “The U.S. Constitution is not a popularity document for fair weather only,” says the lawsuit filed by Newton Schwartz. “However persuasive one finds each side in this debate, the final decision ultimately rests in the hands of five or more of nine Justices on the Supreme Court as mandated by the Constitution.”

Critics have also filed a suit in Florida questioning Marco Rubio’s eligibility, arguing that he’s ineligible because his parents were both not citizens at his time of birth in Miami, making him an "Anchor Baby". Neither of his parents was a U.S. citizen at the time of Rubio’s birth, they were Cubans, but ultimately his parents applied for U.S. citizenship and were naturalized in 1975, four years after he was born. Rubio’s lawyers rebutted that argument in a legal filing.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Friday, February 12, 2016

Common Cause, Georgia NAACP File Suit Challenging Voter Purges

From Common Cause Press Release:

Georgia’s Secretary of State has illegally purged tens of thousands of voters from the state’s registration rolls and could remove hundreds of thousands more unless Georgia law is brought in line with requirements of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), Common Cause and the Georgia NAACP charge in a lawsuit filed late Feb. 10, 2016.

CLICK HERE to read the press release.

The suit highlights an apparent conflict between State and Federal voting laws. The NVRA specifically prohibits states from purging individuals for having failed to vote; however, Georgia law places voters who’ve missed voting for the previous three years on an “inactive” list and then purges those who fail to verify their addresses and do not vote in the next two general elections.

CLICK HERE to read the 45 page (PDF) lawsuit.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Maryland Legislation to End Congressional Gerrymandering with Fair Representation

Senator Jamin B. (Jamie) Raskin (D), District 20, in a Democratically-controlled legislature, has long suggested the best way to hold Congressional elections is with fair representation voting.

His new legislation presents a creative way to end the national standoff. He has proposed entering in an interstate compact.

This is a contract among states, for example the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey or the National Popular Vote plan for President, that would first involve negotiation with the state of Virginia, hence the name “Potomac Compact”.

Senator Raskin’s proposed compact would end having ugly districts, but more importantly end ugly representation and lack of competition: it allows Maryland, Virginia and other states to escape the single-winner district gerrymandering system altogether.

It proposes that Maryland and any other participating states, starting with negotiations with Virginia, form independent redistricting commissions that are empowered to create Congressional districts in which multiple candidates are elected, rather than a single candidate per district, as is currently the case.

By allowing more than one voice to represent a district, the new plan would break up the monopoly that one party or another has on representation in an area. It still would need Congressional consent to go into place, but it would be Congress consenting to plans agreed to by the participating states.

Maryland would be divided into two super-districts: one with five seats and another with three seats. Winning in the three-seat district would take just over 25 percent of the vote. Winning two seats would take just over 50 percent, and sweeping all three would take more than 75 percent. In the five-seat district, winning one seat would take about 17 percent of the vote, and winning a majority of three seats would take just over 50 percent. The result would be fair representation of every major political force in the state.

From a partisan perspective, backers of both major parties would almost certainly have the power to help elect at least one candidate in each super-district. The Democratic majority in the state would still be likely to win most seats, but not all of them. All voters in the state would experience competitive elections, even while very likely helping to elect at least one candidate who truly represents their views.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Thursday, February 11, 2016

NYC Council Speaker Mark-Viverito Advocates Voting Reforms

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D) outlined her voting reform agenda in her State Of The City address today.

Ease the Voting Process:
Unfortunately, many people do not exercise their right to vote. In the 2014 midterm elections, New York State ranked 49th in the nation for voter participation, only 29% of eligible voters voted. In New York City, only 20% of eligible voters cast ballots, hitting an historic low. Part of the blame for low voter turnout rests with New York State’s antiquated voting laws, which have failed to keep up with improvements to registration and voting accessibility seen in other jurisdictions.

The most significant reforms are only possible at the State level, and today, the Speaker called on the State to take the bold steps necessary to modernize New York’s registration and voting policies, including implementing automatic registration, preregistering youth, establishing early voting, allowing for same-day voter registration, and facilitating absentee voting.

The Council will call on the State to enact:

The Voter Empowerment Act (A.5972 Kavanagh/S.2538B Gianaris), which would enact reforms including automatic agency-based registration, online registration as a universal option, pre-registration of 16- and 17-year olds, and moving the registration deadline closer to Election Day.

• Early voting, which would allow voting prior to Election Day.

• A constitutional amendment to allow same-day voter registration.

• A constitutional amendment to allow no-excuse absentee voting, so any registered voter can vote absentee in-person or by mail.

At the City level, the Council will also work to ease the process of registering and voting by pursuing new initiatives:

The Online Voter Information Portal and App will be a one-stop shop for voter information, where users can find the absentee ballot application; track their absentee ballot’s status; look up their voting history, registration status, party enrollment, and sample ballots; find polling hours, their polling place, and the voter guide; and sign up to be a poll worker.

Voter Notifications through Email and Text Messaging will provide voters with the option of receiving e-mail and/or text message notifications about elections, including much of the information contained in the Online Information Portal and App. Text messages have been used to engage voters and drive turnout in the Council’s participatory budgeting efforts.

• Notice on Former Poll Sites will require formerly used poll sites to have posted notices directing voters to their new site.

In order to empower New York City’s youth and increase their participation in government, the Council will:

• Fund civic engagement programs, so that high school and college students move from civic theory to civic action, advocating for their points of view on real-world issues affecting their communities.

• Expand Student Voter Registration Days in New York City’s high schools, with the goal of registering 10,000 students to vote. This will expand the Council’s current initiative that funds student voter registration and engagement at 56 high schools to 125 high schools.

• Establish the New York City Social Justice Postgraduate Fellowship, an exciting new program to place diverse and talented graduates of professional and graduate schools in full-time, year-long positions in City government. This Fellowship will harness the passion of young New Yorkers, including social workers, lawyers and policy analysts, who want to make a difference in their communities.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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