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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

ACLU of Arkansas Files Suit Over Voter I.D. Law


Thanks to Ballet Access News for this post.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Arkansas Public Law Center filed a lawsuit in state court today on behalf of four plaintiffs seeking to overturn the state's voter I.D. law as violating the state constitution.

The legislature passed Act 595, over Gov. Mike Beebe's veto, in 2013, requiring a photo I.D.

The suit cites the Arkansas constitution, which says:

Elections shall be free and equal.  No power, civil or military, shall ever interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage; nor shall any law be enacted whereby such right shall be impaired or forfeited, except for the commission of a felony, upon lawful conviction thereof.

To vote, an Arkansas citizen must now be in possession of a I.D. card issued by the federal government, the state or an accredited post-secondary school in Arkansas.

Don't have a car?  No longer driving?  Aren't in the military?  Aren't in school?  Not a world traveler equipped with a passport?  Don't work for the state?

Plaintiffs in the suit are Freedom Kohls, Toylanda Smith and Joe Flakes, who do not possess photo I.D.s, and Barry Haas, who has one but declined to show it at the polls at an election this year and was required to cast a provisional ballot, which was not counted in the election results.  Defendants are Secretary of State Mark Martin and the members of the state Board of Election Commissioners.

Kohls is a 34-year-old Hurricane Katrina refugee who lost all her possessions, including her ID, in the storm.  Smith has had trouble navigating the system to get a photo I.D., which is required to get a birth certificate.  Flakes is 78 and was never issued a birth certificate because he was delivered by a midwife who did not properly record his birth; he'd have to go to court to get a birth certificate.

At a press conference in front of the Pulaski County Courthouse this afternoon, ACLU director Rita Sklar called the right to vote fundamental and the "great equalizer" that gives the same weight of opinion at the polls to all.  She said voter impersonation was not a problem; the law only serves to make it harder for "the poor, the disabled, the elderly, people of color" to vote: "This law stands between qualified voters and the ballot box."  ACLU lawyer Holly Dickson noted that the new law also requires that the name on the voter I.D. match the name the voter registered under, which create hurdles for women who taken their husband's name since registering and whose I.D. reflects the name.

Sklar and Dickson said it was their experience in meeting people across the state that most people do not know the law exists.

The complaint has been assigned to Judge Tim Fox's court.  The suit asks Fox to enjoin the state from requiring a voter I.D.; the ACLU would like to see him act before the May 20 primary.*mnsp; The deadline to register to vote is Monday, April 21.

If Fox does not issue an injunction but rules after the primary that the state law is unconstitutional, disenfranchised voters could sue to nullify the results of the election.










NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote!

Michael H. Drucker
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McCutcheon Lawyer Brings New Campaign Finance Cases


This is an update from a prior post from an article in POLITICO by Byron Tau.

The attorney who brought the successful campaign finance challenge McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission is back with a new case concerning the rules governing political action committees.  Dan Backer of the firm DB Capitol Strategies has filed suit on behalf of several plaintiffs, arguing that the laws regarding political action committee donation limits are arbitrary, indefensible and an unconstitutional violation of the equal protection clause.

"These discriminatory restrictions impermissibly allow entrenched institutions and interests to engage in protected First Amendment activities to a greater extent than newly formed grassroots organizations that have spontaneously mobilized in response to emergent political issues and developments," alleges the lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

At issue are campaign finance laws dating to the 1970s that set different donation limits based on the age of a political action committee.  PACs that are less than 6 months old are permitted to give up to $5,200 to a candidate in an election cycle, while PACs more than 6 months old can give $10,000 per election cycle.

By contrast, new PACs can give $10,000 to a state political party committee and $32,400 to a national political party per year.  Those limits actually decrease once a PAC reaches 6 months old to $5,000 each year to a state or local party and $15,000 annually to a national party.

“The right of groups and individuals to speak are being treated very differently,” Backer said in an interview.

The challenge was filed on behalf of a tea party political action committee, a local Virginia political party and a Republican congressional candidate running in Nevada.

Many of those rules were initially established by Congress to prevent someone from forming a network of brand-new PACs to circumvent contribution restrictions on individuals and PACs.  But Backer says the campaign finance landscape has changed and evolved significantly since Congress set those limits more than 40 years ago.

Since then, the Supreme Court has affirmed the right of donors, corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of cash independent of campaigns.  The court also recently struck down the aggregate contribution limit in McCutcheon, a case that Backer first brought.

Backer also said he’s planning on bringing a future challenge to other federal campaign finance laws.  Specifically, Backer said he’d like to challenge the law that indexed individual contribution limits to inflation, but not PAC donations.  Individual donation limits increase every cycle based on inflation and are currently set by the FEC at $5,200 per cycle.  PAC donations to candidates, on the other hand, have been set at $10,000 per election since the 1970s.  Inflation has steadily eaten away at the real dollar value of that limit.

“I’m going to be bringing that case almost certainly sometime this year,” Backer said. The fact that PAC contributions remain un-indexed to inflation is “completely insane,” he said.










NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote!

Michael H. Drucker
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United We Stand Festival at UCLA





The newest video trailer for Free & Equal’s United We Stand Festival at UCLA on May 10th has been released today!

Produced by United We Stand Fest musical performer The Siren, the trailer features our major musical performers and speakers to truly represent this powerful, positive, and peaceful movement to overcome political corruption and create a better world.



The United We Stand Festival at UCLA is the kickoff for a University Bus Tour across America, combining music and education to awaken the nation.

Inspiring the young and the old to help elect principled leaders who are not swayed by special interests, but who can restore a world of peace, liberty, harmony, justice, ecology, prosperity, for all.

Musical headliners at UCLA include Public Enemy, members of Wu-Tang Clan, Immortal Technique, The Siren, Cynic, Tatiana Moroz, Rooftop Revolutionaries, A-Alikes, Luminaries, Jon Goodhue, Sounds of Solidarity, and more.

Speakers include Larry King (media legend), Ben & Jerry (Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream), Marianne Williamson (New York Times bestselling author & independent congressional candidate [CA-33]), David Bronner (CEO of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps), and Sean Stone (son of Oliver Stone, host of Buzzsaw).

Other notable figures include Dr. Jill Stein, Gov. Gary Johnson, Amber Lyon (Emmy-winning journalist/whistleblower), Ben Swann (Emmy-winning journalist), Diane Goldstein (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition), Mnar Muhawesh (Mint Press News), and many more.

Tickets are on sale now, at the revolutionary price of $17.76, at UCLA Central Ticket Office and Ticketmaster.com.

Free & Equal Elections Foundation is an election reform organization dedicated to the idea that all citizens should enjoy an equal share of the rights and responsibilities of our nation's governance. We strive to create a system in which all citizens are equal in their ability to participate.










NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote!

Michael H. Drucker
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Monday, April 14, 2014

April 15 is a National Day of Representation


On Tuesday, April 15th, people across America will hold a sign, recruit supporters, and do creative actions to demand “No Taxation Without Representation.”



Policy decisions on nearly every issue, regardless of public opinion, are decided by whoever can write the biggest campaign check.  That’s great for the handful of people who can afford to buy access, but for the rest of us, it’s taxation without representation.  You shouldn’t have to buy access to your own government.

It’s time for politicians to represent us, not big money special interests.

Tax Day is the perfect time to remind our government they’re supposed to work for us, not lobbyists.  So on April 15th, we’re calling for a National Day of Representation!

CLICK HERE to join us.










NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote!

Michael H. Drucker
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Sunday, April 13, 2014

In FL You Have to Decide to Vote or Go to the Bathroom


Remember how bad the voter lines were on Election Day in 2012? In Florida, some stayed in line for over six hours.

And now, they won’t be able to use the bathroom.  The Miami-Dade County Elections Department has quietly implemented a policy to close the bathrooms at all polling facilities.

Voters would have to choose between voting, or using the bathroom.

This is a political scheme to depress voter turnout in a heavily Democratic county, and it’s also probably illegal for violating basic disability laws.

CLICK HERE to sign this petition: Urge U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the new Florida voting rule which closes all restrooms at polling places on Election Day.










NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote!

Michael H. Drucker
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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Entire City goes with Online-Only Voting


An entire municipality will utilize online-only voting in the next election with all balloting to be run via Scytl, a tech company based in Barcelona, Spain.

The controversial rollout is being deployed not in the U.S., where Scytl two years ago acquired 100 percent of SOE Software, the leading software provider of election management solutions in the United States.  The online-only vote will take place Oct. 27 in Canada, when Leamington, Ontario, will become the first Canadian municipality to cast all ballots via an Internet-only voting process.

Every registered voter in Leamington, with a population of about 17,000, must cast ballots through mobile devices or computer.  The municipality’s website says “this sole method of voting follows Council’s strategic plan to be environmentally friendly and to embrace technology.”  “This cost effective type of voting will also address accessible voters’ issues,” said the site.

Feedback on the news site expressed nearly universal concern about Internet security.  Nearly all reader comments opposed the idea of online-only voting.

The U.S. may not be too far from Internet voting.  In January, President Obama’s special commission on election reform recommended future electronic voting, even suggesting tablet computers, such as iPads, be used to cast votes.

Obama’s 10-person Presidential Commission on Election Administration released its recommendations:

- Modernization of the registration process through continued expansion of online voter registration and expanded state collaboration in improving the accuracy of voter lists;

- State-of-the-art techniques to assure efficient management of polling places;

- Reforms of the standard-setting and certification process for new voting technology to address soon-to-be antiquated voting machines and to encourage innovation and the adoption of widely available off-the-shelf technologies.

The document states that software-only products “can be integrated with off-the-shelf commercial hardware components such as computers, laptops, tablets, scanners, printers, and even machine-readable code scanners and signature pad products.”

“Tablet computers such as iPads are common components of these new technologies.  They can be integrated into the check-in, voting, and verification processes in the polling place.”

The commission called attention to new technologies that allow voters to “pre-fill” sample ballots at home that can be later scanned at the polling place.

The panel addressed concerns that such technologies can be hacked.  “The fact that a tablet or off-the-shelf computer can be hacked or can break down does not mean such technology is inherently less secure than existing ballot marking methods if proper precautions are taken.”

The concept of electronic voting is already being tested.  In 2012, Scytl announced the successful implementation of technology that allows ballots to be cast using Google and Apple smartphones and tablet computers.










NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote!

Michael H. Drucker
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Ban on Public Funding of Presidential Candidates, Primaries and Conventions


A ban on public funding of presidential conventions was quietly signed into law by Barack Obama on Thursday in a move that could further increase the dependency of US political parties on wealthy donors.

A day after the supreme court removed aggregate limits on how much wealthy individuals can spend supporting candidates, the White House agreed to enact legislation dismantling what was left of an alternative public financing model set up after the Watergate scandal.

US taxpayers could previously elect to earmark $3 on their tax returns each year to help support presidential candidates, primaries and conventions in a bid to reduce their reliance on donors, but the amount spent has dwindled in recent years as parties increasingly ignore the subsidies because the offer requires agreeing to some limits on overall spending.

Now the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has proposed scrapping the last actively used part of the subsidy system, which provided an $18m grant to support each party convention in 2012, and use the money to fund national research into childhood diseases instead.

Despite opposition from some Democrats, including House speaker Nancy Pelosi, who regard it a political stunt, the bill called the The Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act was signed into law in a ceremony at the White House on Thursday afternoon.

President Obama posed with the bill's sponsor, Republican congressman Eric Cantor, and the family of Gabriella Miller, who died after being diagnosed with brain cancer at age 9.  He called the bill "a wonderful way to remember a wonderful girl", without mentioning its related requirement to “terminate the entitlement of national committees of eligible political parties to payments from the Presidential Election Campaign Fund.”

Campaign finance watchdogs also have mixed feelings about the decision to fund the research by removing public election support, which they say comes amid a “wholesale dismantling” of the system of campaign finance regulation introduced after Watergate.

The Supreme Court decision to lift donor limits led to weary resignation in Washington on Thursday about what many see as an inexorable slide toward more influence-buying by wealthy donors.

Meanwhile the vice chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission warned that it was even failing to enforce what limited rules remain in place.










NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote!

Michael H. Drucker
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