Independent Voting Videos


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Launch of the Voting Rights Institute

Georgetown Law has established a Voting Rights Institute (VRI) to allow students to work on cases of disenfranchisement and provide training opportunities for students, attorneys and advocates. The institute has been created in partnership with the American Constitution Society (ACS) and the Campaign Legal Center (CLC).

The VRI will collect nationwide data through their website, and we will coordinate with other civil rights/voting rights organizations to shed light on what proposed voting changes will mean from both a legal and on-the-ground perspective at the local and national level. It will also monitor state and local websites and news articles identifying proposed or implemented voting changes, and will collect and distribute reporting from local sources to Voting Rights Institute-trained attorneys and other legal experts as appropriate, thereby helping groups in the field fill gaps in the current data collection, dissemination of information, and recruitment of legal advocates and volunteers.

The VRI website’s public portal will also provide voters an opportunity to find legal representation to protect their voting rights directly. A process which does not yet exist in the voting rights community. Voters can report their issues through an online intake form, which will then be reviewed by VRI staff at CLC, as well as attorneys and law students at the VRI at Georgetown Law. Using these resources, attorneys and law students at the VRI can then develop the facts about the issue raised in the intake form, determine whether a violation exists, and, if necessary, pursue litigation themselves or connect VRI-trained legal representation with the complainant. This screening process will be helpful in maximizing the efficiency of the voting rights bar.

Who will benefit from the VRI? The key beneficiaries of this project are:

- Voters, who will have access to information and legal resources protecting their voting rights.
- Georgetown law students who will gain ‘hands on’ practical training in the field of voting rights by experienced litigators in voting rights cases.
- Lawyers and community activists across the country who need access to current voting information, legal resources, and data, and who need training in the complex field of voting rights law.
- Voting rights and civil rights organizations, who face increasing demands on their limited resources to engage in voting rights enforcement.
- Members of the media who need information in real time about a voting rights issue.

The first class of students in VRI at Georgetown Law enrolled in August 2015 and currently are working on several cases. They include an amicus curiae brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in a Voting Rights Act case in Georgia, as well as possible litigation under the National Voting Rights Act (NVRA) against a state or states that are failing to provide voter registration applications and materials at public assistance agencies.

No right is more precious than the right to vote.

VRI hopes that they will create a legacy to all those who have dedicated their lives, and in some cases given their lives, for the right to vote.

CLICK HERE for more information about the Voting Rights Institute.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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E-Signatures for Absentee Ballots Spark Debate at Virgina Elections Board

A partisan battle over absentee voting broke out Tuesday at a Virgina State Board of Elections meeting, with Republicans warning that a new policy has opened the door to electronic voter fraud and Democrats dismissing the charge as unverified and overblown.

The concern was raised Tuesday evening at the end of what will likely be the last elections board meeting before the Nov. 3 General Assembly elections, when control of the State Senate will be up for grabs.

The debate centered on a policy that allows voters to use electronically typed signatures to apply for absentee ballots. The policy was approved in May at the request of Speaker of the House William J. Howell, R-Stafford, who was facing a spirited primary challenge from Susan B. Stimpson.

The elections board agreed that the issue merited further discussion but decided against making any major rule changes because absentee voting is underway.

Several Republican officials from Fairfax County said they have seen an influx of electronically signed absentee applications coming from the same IP address. When voters were contacted about applications deemed suspicious, the officials said, some voters said they had not requested a ballot.

“Clearly that person did not even do the simple thing, as poor as it is, of typing in their name,” said Keith Damon, elections chairman for the Fairfax County Republican Committee. “Someone else typed in their name, which is clearly illegal.”

Kevin Reynolds, an aide to Sen. Thomas A. Garrett Jr., R-Buckingham, said that without further regulation, applications “could be done by one person on a computer in a basement.”

Others dismissed the accusation as a misrepresentation of a policy that allows campaigns on both sides to use widely accepted digital technology to get more people involved in the democratic process.

“This isn’t new, crazy stuff,” said Del. Scott A. Surovell, D-Fairfax, who added that his campaign has used digital methods to sign up more than 850 people who wouldn’t otherwise vote. “And I think a lot of what we’re hearing today is paranoia and people chasing ghosts that do not exist.”

“These Republicans want one set of rules as Speaker Howell tries to mobilize his supporters, and now, as absentee voting begins, are demanding an entirely different set of rules apply when Democrats do the same,” said Georgina Cannan, co-chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Virginia’s volunteer Voter Protection Council.

Asked if Howell agreed with the concerns raised Tuesday, spokesman Matt Moran said the Howell campaign sought guidance on existing law and “followed that guidance.”

The electronic applications require other personal identifying information, such as Social Security numbers. Edgardo Cort├ęs, the state elections commissioner, called it “the TurboTax approach to filling out the forms.”

Critics said the system is ripe for abuse because personal information is too easily obtained. They called for the state to step in and require that more be done to verify that ballots were sent to a legitimate voter, such as requiring a written signature that could be checked against the returned ballot.

Clara Belle Wheeler, the lone Republican on the three-person elections board, said she was under the impression the policy was intended to allow electronic captures of cursive signatures on touchscreen tablets or devices with a stylus. Allowing typed signatures, she said, “opens up a can of worms.”

“We need to try to get all these worms corralled before they’re all over the place,” Wheeler said. She added that the issue is not partisan but about “the integrity of elections in Virginia.”

James B. Alcorn, the board chairman, cautioned against making a substantive policy change Tuesday because the item was not on the meeting agenda.

“I agree it’s an issue worth revisiting,” Alcorn said. “I don’t deny that for a second.”

If there are specific allegations that merit further investigation, Alcorn said, they should be brought forward.

“If you’re aware of some place that is being nefarious with this,” he said, “then let’s get that out front and let’s get that to a commonwealth’s attorney.”

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

It is Time to Replace Our Voting Machines

Making sure that voters go to the polls in greater numbers is a crucial challenge for November 2016. Unfortunately, it seems inevitable somewhere in America, some voters won’t be able to vote.

That’s because our voting infrastructure is crumbling.

After Florida’s hanging-chad debacle in 2000, most states switch over to digital voting systems that wouldn’t have the same issues as paper. And yet in early 2014, the Presidential Commission on Election Administration issued a report forewarning an impending crisis from the widespread wearing out of voting machines purchased a decade ago.

There are quite a few other problems with our voting machines:

- 36 states purchased a majority of machines before 2006, 10 years before the 2016 elections. In comparison, the average lifespan of a laptop computer is 3-5 years.

- 43 states use systems that are no longer manufactured.

- 28 states systems’ were not certified by the Federal Election Assistance Commission because they predate standards.

- Aging machines often are prone to crashes and screen freezes. These create long lines and can indirectly disenfranchise voters who have no choice but to leave without voting or vote with provisional ballots that usually do not get counted.

Democracy starts at the ballot box. Every citizen has a fundamental, constitutional right to vote. By fixing our antiquated voting infrastructure, we can help ensure that everyone can exercise their right to vote.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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NY Bill to Allow County Committees to Select Local Candidates

Bill A1853/S2317 provides that party designation of a candidate for nomination for any office to be filled by the voters of the entire county shall be made by the county committee and not the state committee.

The Assembly bill is in the Committee: Law Section: election Law.

CLICK HERE the two page (PDF) A1853 bill.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Does NY Have to Many Qualified Political Parties?

The New York Times had a recent editorialized on the issue of the proliferation of party lines on the New York ballot.

There are now 8 parties that have official ballot lines in New York, some with tiny numbers of registered party members. Fitting all of these parties on ballots, including others who never make the 50,000 vote cut, has resulted in long confusing ballots with type too small to easily read.

The editorial asks: Why all these separate parties? New York politicians endorse this system, called fusion voting, because they can pick up extra votes on the extra ballot lines. The mini-parties, which often push single issue policies, mostly survive by nominating the same big-name candidates of the two major parties. That is especially true during elections for Governor every four years, when state law requires a party to earn 50,000 votes in order to stay on future ballots.

The editorial ends: New York lawmakers should work to make the ballot less of a muddle. One way to make matters simpler for voters would be to require a politician to pick one party and one party line. If every party had a different candidate, the extraneous parties would have to pick good candidates, or simply disappear.

Another option is tightening the rules on how parties gain ballot lines.

Political Parties | 2014 Vote Total for Gov. | Current Registered Active Voters:

DEM | 1,811,672 | 5,262,004 (Democrat Party)
REP | 1,234,951 | 2,563,924 (Republican Party)
CON | 250,419 | 148,484 (Conservative Party)
GRE | 184,419 | 22,928 (Green Party)
WOR | 126,244 | 43,170 (Working Family Party)
IND | 77,762 | 433,659 (Independent Party)
WEP | 53,802 | 12 (Woman's Equality Party)
REF | 51,492 | 10 (Reform Party)

There are 5,587 voters registered in other parties and 2,448,701 voters that declined to select a party on their registration form.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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What Can Be Done About Dark Money in Elections Right Now

Since 2010's Citizens United decision, outside groups that conceal all of their funding sources from the public have spent more than $600 million to influence elections. We don't know where the money comes from. And we don't know what the donors hope to get in return.

With a stroke of his pen, President Obama can help address one particularly troubling area of dark money spending. He can issue an Executive Order requiring major companies that are awarded federal contracts to disclose all of their political donations.

Each year the federal government awards hundreds of billions of dollars in private sector contracts, much of it to just a handful of companies. And those companies in turn donate tens of millions in disclosed contributions, along with an untold amount of dark money.

President Obama has spoken out against the toxic influence of dark money. In his most recent State of the Union address, he said, "A better politics is one where we spend less time drowning in dark money for ads that pull us into the gutter." Now is the time for him to move beyond words, and take this critical step.

While disclosure of federal contractors' political spending wouldn't fix all money in politics problems, it would ensure that hundreds of billions in taxpayer dollars go to companies best equipped to do the job, not those that make the biggest political donations.

Americans deserve to know if a donation has influenced who receives a government contract. And they deserve to have the information needed to hold elected officials accountable.

This may be the president's last opportunity before the 2016 election to combat the increasing, and overwhelming influence of big donations over our elections and our political system.

It is vital that he act.

Letter to President Barack Obama:

Like many Americans, I see the growing power of special interest money in our elections as one of the biggest threats to our country today. In particular, “dark money” groups have spent more than $600 million to secretly influence elections since 2010.

We don’t know where that money is coming from, or what the donors hope to get in return — but we do know that average Americans who can’t afford jumbo contributions have a hard time competing with these interests for the ears of their elected representatives.

You’ve spoken out about this problem before. But you could act, tomorrow, to strike a blow against secret special interests and for average voters. To protect my voice and reduce the risk of corruption, I urge you to issue an Executive Order requiring major companies that are awarded federal contracts disclose all of their political spending.

Every year, the federal government awards hundreds of billions in taxpayer dollars through private sector contracts to a handful of companies. Those companies donate tens of millions in disclosed contributions to politicians — along with an unknown amount of dark money.

This Executive Order wouldn’t solve the dark money problem. But with it, you would ensure that hundreds of billions in taxpayer dollars go to companies best equipped to do the job, not those that make the biggest political donations.

As president, this may be your best remaining chance to reduce the power of secret special interests over our political process. The 2016 election is already under way. Please act now to bring this dark money to light.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Supreme Court Rejects NJ Closed Primary Case

On October 5, the U.S. Supreme Court revealed that on September 28, it had refused to hear Balsam v Guadagno, 15-39.

This is the case in which some New Jersey voters argued that New Jersey’s closed primaries are unconstitutional.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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