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Friday, July 3, 2015

It's Time to Make No-Reason Absentee Voting Available to All Voters


Election Day is the time eligible voters are able to exercise one of their most fundamental American rights: The Right to Vote.

It's the time when voters have a chance to make their voices heard. But sometimes life gets in the way on Election Day. Maybe you're working a long shift and can't take time off to get to your polling place; maybe you don't have reliable transportation; maybe you or your kids get sick and you aren't able to leave the house. Sometimes we just don't have time to get to the polls, but that doesn't mean we don't deserve to have our voice heard.

Instead of having to plan ahead and wait in line at the polls on Election Day, you could cast a ballot without having to leave your home. It would certainly make voting more convenient and would help in building a democracy that represents all people in our state.

Current law restricts absentee ballots in many states to voters who can't provide one of a limited number of accepted reasons, but not everyone has a reason that aligns with the current laws and they shouldn't have to. Voting should be convenient. Twenty-seven states, including Wisconsin, Illinois and Ohio, already have no-reason absentee voting. It's time for our elected officials to make absentee voting accessible to all citizens.

The process will have to include security protections, as this method of voting is where voter fraud occurs.











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Thursday, July 2, 2015

NYC BOE Gives Themselves Raises


The New York City Board of Elections may not always work, but working there just got a lot more lucrative.

The bipartisan board’s commissioners went behind closed doors to approve raises that jack up the pay of a slew of top managers at a cost of nearly $202,000 a year, and that’s just to start.

The agency’s executive director, Staten Island Democrat Michael Ryan, will see his pay jump nearly 10%, to $198,200 from about $180,600 after the secret vote. His deputy, Bronx Republican Dawn Sandow, will make $182,500, up more than 12% from about $162,600. The highest-percentage hike went to Betty Ann Canizio-Aqil, the Democratic deputy chief clerk of the Brooklyn office. Her pay leaped 16.8%, from $102,755 to $120,000, records show. Just behind her with a 15.2% bump from $104,134 to $120,000 was Anthony Ribustello, the deputy chief clerk of the board’s Bronx office.

New York City Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), who has waged a campaign to clean up a board that built a bad rep as a nest of patronage and blundering, had plenty to say. “The Board of Elections waited until just after the (city) budget agreement was announced to sneak in a raise for top managers, who are already overpaid,” fumed Kallos, who helps oversee the agency as head of the Council’s Governmental Operations Committee.

Kallos said the raise money would have been better spent preparing and running elections to cut down on long lines and head off problems for voters. “Between refusing to (advertise) for open positions or major meetings, failure to correct for nepotism, and constant overspending, they should be cutting salaries — not raising them,” Kallos said.

Seven top managers at the agency’s central office also scored 5% raises that balloon their checks from between $5,200 to nearly $8,000 a year.

Ryan said the raises were simply about fairness. “The commissioners analyzed the salaries of day-to-day operations managers across city government,” he said. “This raise package was an effort to offset the disparity between the salaries paid at other city agencies and the salaries paid at the board.”











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Expanding Medicaid In Every State Is the Next Healthcare Challenge





Medicaid expansion is a main pillar of the Affordable Care Act that increases Medicaid eligibility to cover individuals making up to 138 percent of the poverty level—or $27,724 a year for a family of three.

Expanding Medicaid helps ensure that people who make too much to be eligible for traditional Medicaid but too little to afford insurance of their own aren’t left without coverage. But thanks to the ACA’s first Supreme Court saga, states are allowed to choose whether or not to accept federal funding to expand Medicaid. The result has been almost half of all governors refusing to expand Medicaid eligibility for political reasons leaving more than 4 million people uninsured.

Not expanding Medicaid has costs both to humans and economy. If all 21 remaining states accepted Medicaid expansion, 4.2 million residents would become newly insured. Moreover, conservative governors refusing Medicaid expansion are hurting their state’s economically. For every $1 a state spends to expand Medicaid $13.4 federal dollars will flow into the state helping hospitals deliver care and boosting state economic growth and employment.

From 2014 to 2017, the federal government will pay for 100% of the difference between a state's current Medicaid eligibility level and the ACA minimum. Federal contributions to the expansion will drop to 95% in 2017 and remain at 90% after 2020, according to the ACA.

It is time for conservative lawmakers to put people over politics and expand Medicaid.

It is time for conservatives to stop fighting against the law at the expense of millions of their constituents.











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Former NYS Sen. Malcolm Smith Sentenced


Former New York Democratic State Sen. Malcolm Smith was sentenced Wednesday to seven years in prison in a scheme to bribe his way onto the ballot for the 2013 New York City Mayoral election.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas agreed with the defense that unlike other recent public corruption cases, there was no evidence Mr. Smith ever lined his own pockets. But the judge called his crime no less serious, saying, "What makes this case different from the others was the corruption of the process."

At the trial in suburban White Plains, prosecutors told jurors that Mr. Smith wanted to be mayor but also was eager to avoid a Democratic mayoral primary in 2013. So the onetime Senate minority leader instead decided to obtain the backing of Republican leaders in three boroughs, which would allow him to run for the GOP line, and authorized bribes totaling about $200,000 to do it, prosecutors said.

The jury saw video recordings from a sting operation of transactions that prosecutors said were bribes. They also heard testimony from an FBI informant identified only as "Raj" who had posed as a wealthy real estate developer and was in on meetings involving Mr. Smith and Republican leaders.

In imposing the sentence, the judge reponded: "If Mr. Smith had said 'no' to the scoundrel we wouldn't be here."

Afterward, Mr. Smith left without speaking to reporters. His lawyer said there would be an appeal.

A co-defendant convicted at the same trial of receiving bribes and witness tampering, former Queens Republican Vice Chairman Vincent Tabone, was sentenced to three and a half years in prison at a separate proceeding Wednesday.

Of four other politicians who were arrested with Mr. Smith and Mr. Tabone, two have been convicted and two have pleaded guilty.

Mr. Smith was ordered to surrender to prison Sept. 21.











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Maine Rank-Choice Voting Ballot Initiative Update


Let’s celebrate the great work of reform advocates in Maine.

Volunteers and supporters have gathered more than enough signatures for their 2016 ballot initiative to use Rank-Choice Voting for all elections for state and congressional offices.

Organizers collected an additional 5,000 signatures during recent municipal elections, all in one day!

They have reached over 60,000 signatures, nearly all collected by volunteers.

CLICK HERE to view See their campaign website for more on how you can help.











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Feeding the Food Movement


Founded on the belief that the future of food is now, FOOD-X is on a mission to scale change throughout our food system. This first-of-its-kind, food-business accelerator empowers early-stage food companies through funding, opportunity, and a deep mentor network of food and business experts.

Shen Tong, a good friend of mine, is the founder and partner of Food-X, an international business accelerator program focused on launching food-related ventures. An organizer of the democracy movement that occupied Tiananmen Square, Shen was named one of Newsweek’s People of the Year in 1989. Following his exile to the US, Shen pursued PhDs and became an entrepreneur, founding multiple ventures over the past two decades.



This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.

CLICK HERE for more information about FOOD-X.











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Redistricting Decision and Three Battleground States


The Supreme Court may have knocked out the best-known challenge to existing congressional districts in a number of states on Monday, but maps still remain in flux for 2016 in three important, large battleground states: Florida, North Carolina and Virginia.

Continued redistricting litigation, spearheaded mostly by Democrats, who were in the legislative minority in the three states after the 2010 Census, and their allies, involves 51 of the nation’s 435 congressional districts and could allow Democrats to make a dent in the GOP’s House majority in the 2016 elections.

Florida
The decision bolsters Democrats’ case in Florida, where voters in 2010 approved amendments to the state constitution that prohibit legislators from considering partisan composition and incumbent protection when drawing new districts. Had the Arizona Legislature succeeded in convincing the court that cutting the Legislature out of the redistricting process was unconstitutional, opponents of the Florida Fair Districts amendments could have sued to have the restrictions on the Legislature there regarding congressional districts struck down as well.

Florida’s GOP-controlled Legislature was already forced to redraw the map last summer, after groups linked to Democrats sued under the Fair Districts amendments. The new map, which made slight tweaks to the districts represented by Democrat Corrine Brown and Republican Daniel Webster, was passed last August, too late for the 2014 elections, and is scheduled to take effect in 2016.

But the same groups who sued to overturn the first map are challenging the tweaked version, too, arguing the Legislature’s changes don’t go far enough. The state Supreme Court heard the case in March and is expected to release a decision soon.

If the Legislature is asked to draw a third map with more significant adjustments, it could affect some of the Sunshine State’s competitive House districts, particularly those in North and Central Florida, where Democrat Gwen Graham and Republican David Jolly hold seats in districts that voted for the opposite party’s presidential candidate in 2012. Republicans control 17 of the state’s 27 congressional districts.

North Carolina
The Supreme Court in April ordered the North Carolina Supreme Court to take another look at its decision to uphold the state’s GOP-dominated congressional map, 10 of the 13 House members from North Carolina are Republicans. The Tar Heel State’s map is among the most contorted in the country, though GOP legislators have claimed that the VRA forced them to draw districts like the state’s 12th District, which snakes from Charlotte up to Greensboro to take in black voters; roughly half of the district’s residents are African-Americans. Democratic Rep. Alma Adams won more than 75 percent of the vote there last fall. The North Carolina Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case on Aug. 31.

Virginia
In Virginia, a court has found that the GOP-controlled Legislature in 2012 packed African-American voters into Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott’s district in order to shore up GOP Reps. Scott Rigell and Randy Forbes, who represent adjacent districts. The court is giving the Virginia General Assembly until Sept. 1 to redraw the map, a process that could make the two Republican seats more competitive. But Republicans, who hold eight of the commonwealth’s 11 House seats, have pledged to appeal.











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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