Thursday, April 26, 2018

NY Draft Convention Resolution to Allow Unaffiliated Voters in Democratic Primary

As the New York Democratic Primary between Governor Andrew Cuomo and Cynthia Nixon continues to heat up, a Group of Progressive Activists is pushing for the State Party to change its Rules and Open Up the Primary to Unaffiliated Voters.

New York Progressive Action Network (NYPAN), a Grassroots Coalition affiliated with Our Revolution, which grew out of Senator Bernie Sanders’ Presidential Campaign, is drafting a Resolution that its Members hope to introduce at the State Democratic Party’s Nominating Convention in May, the Group’s Co-Chair, George Albro, said Tuesday.

The State Convention of the New York State Democratic Committee is May 23 – May 24, 2018, at Hofstra University,

The Resolution will Call for a Change in the Party’s Internal Rules to allow Registered Voters Without a Party Affiliation to Cast Ballots in the Democratic Primary, which is currently a “Closed” Primary where Voting is Restricted to Registered Democrats.

The potentially Election-altering Resolution will have to be Signed by at least Ten Members of the Party’s State Committee and delivered 15 days, May 9th, Prior to the Convention in order to be included on the Agenda, according to the Party’s Bylaws. It would need a Two-Thirds Majority of Delegates to Pass. The Group is Guaranteed One Signature, Jay Bellanca, another Co-Chair of NYPAN from Upstate, a State Committee Member from the 113th Assembly District, and Albro said the Group was in Talks with Reform-minded Lawmakers to Support their Resolution.

Albro said the Group will “introduce a resolution to the effect of allowing Unaffiliated voters, voters who are not in any party, what the State call ‘Blanks’,” to Vote in the Primary. As of April 1st, there were 6.2 Million Registered Democrats in the State, 2.8 Million Republicans, and about 2.6 Million Unaffiliated Voters. Allowing those Unaffiliated with a Party to Participate could drastically alter the outcome, but the Chances of the Resolution Passing are unclear, and it may not stand up to Legal Scrutiny.

The Proposed Rule Change in this Case would alter the Democratic Primary. “It would have no effect on any other would not allow raiding of would only allow pure unaffiliated voters who have no agenda but a desire to vote,” Albro said, decrying the Sorry State of Voter Turnout in New York, which ranked 41 out of 50 States in the 2016 General Election. “The people who can vote won’t, and the people who want to vote, can’t,” he said.

State Democratic Party Executive Director Geoff Berman was unsure if the Party could make such a Change. “Under state law, and this applies to all political parties, not just to Democrats, in order to vote in a party’s primary, you have to affiliate yourself with that party in your voter registration,” Berman said in a Phone interview. He added, “My understanding after consulting with election law attorneys and others is that state law does not permit Democrats to make this change unilaterally.”

He wouldn’t speculate on whether the State Committee would Support the NYPAN Resolution, Berman himself will not have a Vote, and He insisted that any change could create Voter Confusion and invite Court Challenges. “I think the most sensible way to go about changing it is through state law so that the resulting rules apply equally to all political parties and don’t create a patchwork that’s confusing to voters,” He said.

Over the last several weeks, Berman has been at the Receiving end of Criticism over the Role and Independence, or alleged Lack thereof, of the State Democratic Party in this Year’s Primary Elections, especially that for Governor. Left-leaning Activists and Groups like NYPAN have questioned whether the State Party is playing Favorites by Supporting the Incumbent. Berman was Appointed by Gov. Cuomo, who is, by virtue of his Position, the de facto Leader of the Party in New York.

At the same time, those same Grassroots Groups are pushing for Changes to the Deadlines for Registering in a Party and for Switching Party Affiliation, which would allow greater Participation in Primaries but require Alterations to State Law. Ultimately, though, Albro said it will be up to Cuomo to push for Expanding Access to the Democratic Primary, and that the Governor could not blame Republicans for holding up the Change that NYPAN is Proposing, as he often does when Voting and Electoral Reforms Fail in the State Legislature. “[T]he powers that be in the Democratic Party are sometimes not democratic,” Albro mused. “I would think that the governor controls the state committee. It’s up to him whether he wants this passed.”

There is Precedent for the NYPAN Proposal. The Independence Party in 2003 went to Court and Won the Right to Allow Unaffiliated Voters to Vote in its Primaries, though that has never been put to the Test in a Statewide Election and the Verdict left some Unanswered Questions about whether Unaffiliated could also Vote on Internal Party Business and Election-related Deadlines. Just last year, the Reform Party was Allowed Unaffiliated Voters to Vote in its Primary for Mayor of New York City.

I have written about this issue in this Blog. New York puts Federal, State, Local, and Party Elections on One Ballot. So, I think there will have to be Two different Ballots, one for Party Members with all Contests, the other for Unaffiliated without Party Elections.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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NY Court Picks NY Federal Attorney

Exercising a seldom-used Power, the Judges of the Federal District Court in Manhattan voted Unanimously on Wednesday to Appoint Geoffrey S. Berman as the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, according to a Court Statement.

Mr. Berman was Appointed Interim United States Attorney in January, and his 120-day Term was due to Expire next week.

With no one yet Nominated by President Trump for the Southern District position, the Judges acted to fill it with Mr. Berman.

Under Federal Law, he will now Serve until the Senate Confirms a Nominee by President Trump, whose Administration has been Slow to Fill many Posts in the Executive and Judicial Branches.

The United States Attorney's Office in Manhattan is overseeing the Federal Investigation of Mr. Trump's Personal Lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, and it recently emerged that Mr. Berman has been Recused, for Undisclosed Reasons.

His Deputy, Robert S. Khuzami, is now Overseeing the Inquiry.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Funding for Crucial Women Health Programs Here to Stay

This Week has been Wins for Women’s Health Care Funding in the Courts.

On Tuesday, a Federal Judge Ruled that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) could Not Stop Funding Programs affiliated with Planned Parenthood, as ensuring the Programs’ Survival “prevent[s] harm to the community…and prevent[s] loss of data regarding the effectiveness of teen pregnancy prevention.”

On Wednesday, a Judge in Baltimore Ruled that HHS “improperly moved to terminate five-year grant awards issued to the city and a non-profit two years early” for a Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program.

The Courts’ Actions ensure that Women in many Communities can still access Critical Services, but with Trump in Office, we can expect that more Attacks on Women’s Reproductive Rights and Evidence-Based Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs are still to come.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Electionline Weekly Apr-26-2018

Legislative Updates

Arizona: According to the Arizona Republic, a Bill that would have allowed Counties with the proper Technology to keep Early Voting Centers Open from Saturday through Monday before Election Day, and that had widespread Bipartisan Support, has been Gutted by the Speaker of the House. Speaker JD Mesnard (R-17th District, Chandler) Removed the Weekend Provision from the Bill.

Connecticut: By an 81-65 vote, the House of Representatives has Approved a Resolution that could eventually allow Early Voting in the Nutmeg State. The Resolution would ask Voters to Amend the State’s Constitution to allow Early Voting. The Bill now moves to the Senate.

Hawaii: This week, Lawmakers have introduced a Bill that would Pilot a Vote-by-Mail Program on Kauai in 2020 before making a Decision to move the System Statewide. The Bill this week is identical to a Bill that was introduced in 2017.

Illinois: The House has Approved a Bill that would remove Illinois from Crosscheck, the Voter Roll Database that checks for Multiple Voting, which has been found to have Bad Data and Checking Accuracy. The Bill has been sent to Gov. Brue Rauner.

a Bill that would require Counties with less than 3 Million People to have a process in place to allow Pre-Trial Detainees to Vote-by-Mail has been Approved by the House. Counties with Populations Higher than 3 Millions would be required to have a Voting Booth in their Jail. The Bill now moves to the Senate.

Massachusetts: Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has Signed an Ordinance this week that will Require Voter Registration Forms to be made Available at Public High Schools, Welcome Centers, all Neighborhood Branches of the Boston Public Library, and all Youth and Family Community Centers.

Minnesota: By a 7-0 vote, the St. Louis Park City Council has Voted to move the City to a Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV) system. The Council still needs to vote one more time, on Monday May 7th, to Finalize the Move. This vote must also be Unanimous or a Referendum will be called.

New Hampshire: The Senate Election Law Committee has voted 3-2 to move House Bill 1264 to the Full Senate. Under the Bill the Word Domicile would be Aligned with Residence in order to allow someone to Register to Vote in the State. The Bill would not Explicitly Bar anyone from Voting, but would Require someone who Votes to obtain Residency Status, including by Obtaining a New Hampshire Driver’s License within 60 days. House Bill 1264 Removing Four Words, “for the indefinite future”, from the Current Law’s explanation of Residence. The Change was prompted by a 2015 State Supreme Court Decision that made it clear that “domicile” and "resident" or "inhabitant" do not have the same meaning.

Ohio: The Columbiana County Board of Commissioners Approved a Request to Allow County Employees to Serve as Poll Workers. Under the Resolution, County Employees will be given a Paid Day Off to Work the Polls. They will also be allowed to Collect the roughly $101 Poll Workers receive for Working on Election Day.

Oklahoma: Gov. Mary Fallin (R) has Vetoed a Bill that would have Legalized Ballot Selfies in Oklahoma. "I am concerned how this will potentially open up the voting process for voter intimidation and propaganda electioneering," Fallin wrote in Her Letter to Legislators explaining her Veto.

Legal Updates

Federal Litigation: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has Affirmed a Lower Court Ruling that Invalidated as too Abstract a Patent Infringement Case brought by Voter Verified, Inc. against ES&S, Manufacturer of voting Equipment.

California: A Lawsuit has been filed in San Francisco Superior Court against Secretary of State Alex Padilla accusing Him of Misinterpreting the Law and Failing to provide Ballots and other Elections Materials in Languages other than English. According to the San Francisco Gate, State Law requires Padilla’s Office to decide every Four years which areas need Language Assistance, and to Order County Officials to provide Translations of Sample Ballots and other Materials enabling Voters to fill out English-Language Ballots. Language Aid is Required if at least 3% of Voting-Age Residents in a County or Precinct “lack sufficient skills in English to vote without assistance.” The Suit contended the Law Mandates Assistance throughout a County that meets the 3% threshold, including 18 California Counties where at least 3% of Voting-Age Residents speak Primarily Spanish, but Padilla has Required Assistance only in Individual Voting Precincts rather than County-Wide.

Florida: A Three-Judge Panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta has issued a Stay in the March 27th Order by U.S. District Judge Mark Walker that Declared the State’s System of Restoring Ex-Felon Voting Rights as Fatally Flawed and Unconstitutionally Arbitrary.

Guam: A Federal Lawsuit that seeks to provide Voting Rights to Residents of Guam and other Territories has been Appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In November 2015, Six U.S. Citizens, who all are Former Illinois Residents now Living in Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Filed a Lawsuit in Illinois' Northern District Court. The Group argued that the Laws allowing them to Vote in particular Areas, but not Certain U.S. Territories, including Guam, are a Violation of their Equal Protection Rights, according to Court Documents.

Indiana: U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Evans Baker has Ruled that Marion County, which had previously only Set Up One Early Voting Site for the entire County, was in fact Not Providing Equal Ballot Access. In the Ruling Baker did Not Require the County to have the New Sites Ready for the May Primary, but will need to have them for the Election in November.

Kansas: Secretary of State Kris Kobach has Affirmed His Plans to Appeal the Ruling of Judge Julie Robinson that found Him in Contempt of Court in the Ongoing Case against the State’s Proof-of-Citizenship Law, that requires the Proof to Vote in State and Local Elections.

Mississippi: Last week, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann sought to have Two Ex-Felon Voting Rights Lawsuits merged into One Case, but some Former Felons are Objecting. One Suit was Filed by the Mississippi Center for Justices and other by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Attorneys in the Southern Poverty Law Center Suit have Filed Papers with the Judge requesting that the Two Cases remain Separate because they make Different Arguments.

North Dakota: The State is Appealing a Portion of U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland’s Early April Ruling that Prevented the State from Requiring IDs that include a “current residential street address.” The State is also asking for a Stay of the Ruling while the Appeal is Pending.

U.S. Virgin Islands: This week, Superior Court Judge Denise Francios heard Testimony in the Challenge to the Law Passed by the Senate in 2017 to Restructure the Entities that Oversee and Conduct Elections in the USVI. The Law calls for the Elimination of Two District Elections Boards and the Joint Board of Elections (BOE) instead Replacing them with One, Territory-wide Board.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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RCV in New York Update

MY State Senator, Liz Kruger (D-28th District), has a Bill (S5616), that establishes a Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV)/instant Runoff Voting (IRV) Method for certain Local Elections and Provides for Repeal of such Provisions.

Its Co-Sponsors are: Brad Hoylman (D-27th) and José M. Serrano (D-29th District).

TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the election law, in relation to establishing an instant runoff voting method for certain local
elections and providing for the repeal of such provisions upon expiration thereof.

PURPOSE: To permit the use of the instant run off voting method on a trial basis in elections in the years 2018, 2019 and 2020. This pilot program would permit the State Legislature to evaluate the broader application of the instant runoff voting method.

I wrote Liz about using RCV in the Election of Mayor, Public Advocate, and Comptroller, in New York City, which now is a Run-Off Election if no Candidate gets at least 40%.

This is Her Response:

Dear Mr. Drucker

Thank you for writing me regarding legislation that would allow for the adoption of ranked choice or instant runoff voting in New York State. I sponsor legislation to allow localities to adopt this voting model (S5616).

Our current primary system creates the distinct possibility for candidates to win with significantly less than a majority of votes. Instant Runoff Voting is one mechanism for addressing this problem, by allowing voters to rank their second and third choices, thereby ensuring that voter preferences are more fully evaluated through the electoral process. IRV has the advantage of reducing the chances that extremely polarizing candidates will win elections with a small percentage of the vote. IRV would also reduce the problem of low turnout that occurs in traditional runoff elections.

Thank you again for writing. I will continue to work for the adoption of S5616 and other legislation that would permit localities to adopt Instant Runoff Voting for elections in New York State.


Liz Krueger
State Senator

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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House Subcommittee Proposes Unified U.S. Space Command

​The Defense Department would bring back U.S. Space Command as a Subordinate Unified Command under U.S. Strategic Command under a Proposal put forward Wednesday by the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee. The Defense Department originally created a U.S. Space Command in 1985, but former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld merged the Command with STRATCOM in 2002.

The Proposal is contained in the Subcommittee’s “mark" of the Fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, to be discussed in Committee Markups today before the Bill goes to the Full Armed Services Committee.

Under the Proposal, the New Command would be responsible “for carrying out joint space warfighting operations.” Unless directed otherwise, all Active and Reserve Space Warfighting Operational Forces in the U.S. Military would be assigned to the New Command, “including the numbered Air Force responsible for carrying out space warfighting operations,” according to the Mark.

The Commander would be a Four-Star General or Admiral, to be Appointed by the President, with the Advice and Consent of the Senate.
For the Three Years following establishment of the Command, the Commander of Air Force Space Command could hold both Posts, but after that period One Person could not serve in Both positions simultaneously.

The Subcommittee mark would also direct establishment of a New Numbered Air Force responsible for Space Warfighting Operations and Assigned to the New U.S. Space Command, but creation of this New Numbered Air Force “shall not effect the space support mission of the 14th Air Force,” including as it relates to Space Launches, Training, and Exercises. The 14th AF also would still be Assigned to Air Force Space Command (AFSPC).

The Strategic Forces Subcommittee Proposal also has language directing the Pentagon to develop a Plan to Establish an Alternative Acquisition System for Defense Space Acquisition; requiring Evaluation and better Security of the Protected Satellite Communications Program and Overhead persistent Infrared Systems Supply Chain; requiring DOD to consider the Risks and Benefits of using Small and Medium-size Buses for Strategic and Tactical Payloads; and directs Department of Defense (DOD) to Brief the Committee on Efforts to use Commercial Equipment for a follow-on Wideband Communications system.

Other Language in the Subcommittee Mark includes Proposals to Recommend Funding above Trump’s Budget Request to Speed Development of a Conventional prompt Strike Operational Capability; to continue Development of Critical directed: Energy, Space Sensing, and Hypersonic Defense capabilities by the Missile Defense Agency; and require the Missile Defense Agency to establish a Boost-Phase Intercept Program that uses Kinetic Interceptors, as well as begin Developing a Set of Space Sensors for Missile Defense Tracking and Discrimination.

The Proposal from the Sea Power and Projection Forces Subcommittee includes Language to Authorize Full Funding for the B-21 and would establish a Minimum of 479 Air Refueling Tankers for the Air Force, compared to 489 Total Tankers in Services Fleet as of Fiscal 2016. That number, however, would be Subject to the Results of the Mobility Capability and Requirements Study 2018.

This Proposal would also Authorize Multiyear Procurement of C-130J Aircraft, recommend full Funding for the VC-25B Presidential Recapitalization Aircraft Program, the New Air Force One, and recommend continued Support for Propulsion and Propeller Upgrades of Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve C-130H Airlift Aircraft.

The Proposal from the Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee contains a Number of Air Force-related Provisions, including Language to Require the Air Force to continue the JSTARS Recapitalization Program and integrate that Recapitalization Program into what the Subcommittee has called “the foundational platform” for the Advanced Battle Management system.

The Proposal also works to aid efforts to address Physiological Episodes in Tactical and Training Aircraft—Pilots continue to Report Hypoxia-like Physiological incidents in Air Force T-6 Trainers, even though the T-6 Fleet is flying again following a February Grounding. The Mark also would require the Navy and Air Force Secretaries to Certify that all New Aircraft have the most Advanced Technology to alleviate these Episodes, as well as require the Defense Secretary to provide a Cost Estimate and Baseline Schedule for the F-35 Continuous Capability Development and Delivery Program.

In addition, the Language would set Conditions and encourage DOD to look into ways to Speed the Future Vertical Lift Program.

The Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee Mark recommends to the Committee additional Funding for Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Programs, and Directed-Energy and Hypersonic Programs.

This Proposal is also aimed at bolstering Cyber Warfare Capabilities and strengthening Congressional Oversight through such steps as toughening Defense Department Networks, Weapons Systems, Supply Chains, and Capabilities. It would also increase Congressional Oversight of Cyber Military Operations and Cyber Warfare Capabilities, and would Strengthen International Partnerships for Cyber Warfare and Influence Operations. And, it would take a number of steps to Strengthen Counterterrorism and Unconventional Warfare Capabilities, including Creation of a Pentagon Principal Adviser for Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction to Oversee Policies and Activities within DOD.

The Readiness Subcommittee Proposal includes Language recommending Increased Funding for Equipment Maintenance, Spare Parts, and Training, as well a Requirement that DOD include Cyber and Space in its Quarterly Readiness Reports. Language in the Military Personnel Subcommittee Mark includes Provisions to enable Full Funding for a Pay Raise for Troops, and Authorizes a Higher End-Strength for the Air Force, Army, Navy, Naval, Air Reserve, and Air National Guard.

I served in the Air Force from 1965 to 1971 and is a Member of the Air Force Association.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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IN Judge Orders Early Satellite Voting Precincts for Marion County

A Federal Judge Wednesday ordered Indiana Marion County to establish at least Two Early Satellite Voting Precincts in time for the November General Election, though the Court refrained from Requiring them in time for the May 8th Primary Election.

Senior Judge Sarah Evans Barker issued an Injunction in a Suit brought by Common Cause and the NAACP. The Suit filed in 2017 alleged that the County Election Board’s decision in recent years to permit Early Voting in just One Location Countywide provided Unequal Access to the Ballot and Violated Voting Rights in Indianapolis, particularly for Minority Voters.

Barker’s Injunction was issued contemporaneously with a 48-Page Order that found that there was too little time before the May 8th Primary to Order Early Voting Precincts, creating too great a Burden on the Marion County Election Board.

“The benefits to Plaintiffs at this late hour, meanwhile, would be comparatively modest. Finally, while the character and magnitude of Plaintiffs’ injury does not vary with the type of election (primary or general), the public’s interest in an electoral market free from arbitrary governmental interference in favor of one political party over another is less impaired in the primary-election context. And the public, too, would be ill served by last-minute upheaval and confusion in the administration of the May primary,” Barker wrote in Common Cause Indiana, et al. v. Marion County Election Board, et al, 1:17-cv-1388.

“As to the November General Election, however, we find that the balance of equities tips in Plaintiffs’ favor. Plaintiffs’ fair likelihood of success on the merits, and the constitutionally fundamental nature of their asserted injury, justify the imposition of this reduced burden. Both Plaintiffs and the public are positioned to enjoy the full benefits of (early in-person) voting restored to its 2008 levels, while the public will suffer minimal disruption to any ongoing election preparation efforts, and will reap the harvest of an electoral contest conducted without a governmental thumb on the scale.” Barker wrote.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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