Tuesday, June 19, 2018

NYC Mayoral Charter Revision Commission Hears Expert Testimony on Campaign Finance Reform

The New York City Charter Revision Commission empaneled by Mayor Bill de Blasio for 2018 met at NYU for the second of Four Expert Advisory Issue Forums, discussing what could be the Marquee Issue for this Year’s Mayor's Commission: Changing the City’s Campaign Finance System. The First Meeting was Focused on Voting and Election Reform, which I previously wrote about.

Like the First Hearing, the Commission heard from invited Experts on the topic at hand, and was broken into Two Sections. For Campaign Finance, the first Panel discussed Context and Perspective of the City’s System from Politicians and Experts, and the Second provided Recommendations.

The Commission, consisting of 15 Members appointed by de Blasio, including Chair Cesar Perales, will Finalize a List of Proposed Changes to the City Charter by early September that will then appear on the General Election Ballot in November for Voters to Approve or Disapprove.
Representatives from the City’s Nonpartisan Campaign Finance Board (CFB) provided Five Recommendations to the Commission for Improving the City’s Public Campaign Finance System and its Centerpiece, the Public Matching Funds Program.

The Board recommends:

- Lowering Individual Contribution Limits from $5,100 to $2,250 for Citywide Offices, from $3,950 to $1,750 for Boroughwide Offices, and from $2,850 to $1,250 for City Council Seats.

- Increase the Matching Funds Rate from 6-to-1, for every Dollar under $175 raised via an Individual Contribution, the City Disburses $6, to 8-to-1. This would be coupled with an Increase of the Maximum Matchable Amount, from $175 to $250.

- Increase the Cap on Public Funds as a Percentage of a Campaign’s Total Spending Limit from 55% to 65%.

- Lower the Threshold to Qualify for Matching Funds for Citywide Races: $250,000 from 1,000 Eligible Contributors for Mayor, $125,000 from 500 Contributors for Public Advocate, $75,000 from 500 Contributors for Comptroller.

- Lower the Minimum Individual Contribution Counted toward the Public Match Threshold, from $10 to $5.

Others, including Advocates, Elected Officials, and Academics, also provided Recommendations to the Commission, with some differing from the CFB and others in line with it.

The City’s current Public Election Financing System, whereby Donations to Candidates of up to $175 are Matched by Public Dollars at a Rate of 6 to 1, has been cited as a Model Nationwide for placing more Power in Elections in the Hands of the Average Voter. The Public Matching Program came into being in 1989, after a Wave of Corruption Scandals in City, State, and Federal Government led to the Passage of Local Law 8, which established a 1:1 Match. The Match was Increased to 4:1 through the 1998 Charter Revision Commission, and was Increased again to the current 6:1 in 2007.

The system has significantly Lowered Candidate reliance on Political Action Committee (PAC) Money and other “Big Money” Donations found at other Levels of Elected Government, including State-Level Elections in New York. The CFB presented Data comparing an Unnamed City Council Member’s Finances with that of a Member of Congress and of the State Senate. The Member of Congress raised 77% of their Money from PACs and 0.6% from Small Contributions of $200 or less. The State Senator raised 89% from PACs and 7% from Small Contributions. The City Council Member, on the other hand, raised 25% from PACs, and 62% from Small Contributions when Matching Fund Allocations were taken into account.

However, for Citywide Offices, the Contribution Percentages can be a Red Herring. In 2017, while 73% of Contributions to Mayoral Candidates participating in the Public Match Program came from Donors who Contributed under $175, 45% of the Actual Dollar Value of the Total Contributions came from 650 Individuals who Donated the Maximum for the 2017 Election, which was $4,950, it has since Risen Automatically, per Law, to $5,100. For the City Council, the Distribution is more Equal, and in fact, Council Candidates as a whole received more money in 2017 from Small Donors than from Contributors of the Maximum Amount allowed by the Program.

Non-Participants in the Program can take the Form of a Rich Self-Funder like Michael Bloomberg, but can also take the Form of an Incumbent without serious Competition not wanting to use Taxpayer Funds for a formality Election or Interested in Looser Restrictions on their Spending. Non-Participation in Competitive Races is fairly Rare, though. According to the CFB’s Assistant Executive Director for Public Affairs, Eric Friedman, 28 out of 64 Non-Participants in the Public Finance System in 2017 reported raising $0.

Others who Testified were largely in Line with the CFB on Raising the Match Rate and Reducing the Maximum Allowable Contribution by about Half. Advocates Broke with the CFB on the Issue of the Match Cap: while the CFB Recommended that the Cap be lifted to 65%, Alex Camarda of Reinvent Albany and Michael Malbin of SUNY Albany’s Campaign Finance Institute recommended that the Cap be Eliminated Entirely, which would have the City provide more Public Funds relative to the Spending Limit. “I don’t see what purpose that serves,” Malbin said of the Matching Cap. Camarda and Malbin both Endorsed Raising the Rate of Matching Funds Rate above 6-to-1, but did not recommend a Specific Rate.

For the 2021 Election, the Spending Limit for a City Council Candidate is set at $190,000, and the Maximum Public Funds Disbursement is $104,500, or 55% of the Spending Limit. Eliminating the Cap would mean that a Candidate could Spend up to 85% of the Spending Limit using Public Funds. City Council Member Ben Kallos (D-5th District) recently Re-introduced a Bill that would Eliminate the Matching Funds Cap.

CFB Representatives were asked by Commissioner Wendy Weiser, Director of the Democracy Program at NYU’s Brennan Center, why the Board is endorsing a 65% Cap instead of Elimination. CFB Executive Director Amy Loprest said that Raising it to 85% would be impractical. “We make public funds payments to candidates who are on the ballot and who are opposed on the ballot, therefore we can only make those payments once the ballot has been set,” said Loprest. She noted that according to State Election Law, Ballots could only be set after the End of Petitioning. “The ballot is set roughly at the end of July, beginning of August. Which means that we make our first public funds payments at the beginning of August, which leaves about five weeks before the primary.” She noted that this would cause Campaigns to be Constrained to Spending most of their Money in the Five Weeks before the Primary.

Camarda agreed in part. “I think that in citywide races, 65 percent is plenty because citywide candidates don’t often hit the cap,” he said. “Our concern would be for City Council, because as I mentioned, 30 percent of the candidates in 2013 actually hit the cap.” The CFB stated that it wouldn’t Oppose Eliminating the Cap, but that it was not its First Preference.

The Commissioners, including Chair Perales, a former Secretary of State under Governor Andrew Cuomo, appeared Receptive to the Changes Proposed by the CFB and the other Testifiers, for the most part. Most lines of Questioning were of an Inquisitive rather than Adversarial Tone. The Commissioner who was most Skeptical and Critical of the Proposed Changes was John Siegal, an Attorney and a de Blasio Appointee to the Civilian Complaint Review Board. “The reason, clearly, that mayoral candidates rely more on big contributions is because it takes a lot of money to run an effective mayoral campaign,” said Siegal, who donated $4,500 to de Blasio’s 2013 Mayoral Campaign. “And while it sounds good and feels good to say ‘let’s lower the contribution limit,’ that is going to have Consequences. Candidates are going to have to work way harder to raise Money. They’re going to have to spend a lot more time raising money.” He noted that there is an “efficiency to getting on the phone and getting 500 People to give $4,500 or $5,100 that is going to be lost here.”

The CFB’s Chair, Frederick Schaffer, said that he would Agree with Siegal if the only Recommendation made by the Board was to Lower the Contribution Limit. “That’s why we want to increase the match for citywide officials from 6-to-1 to 8-to-1, and increase the actual amount from $175 to $250,” Schaffer said. “We crunched those numbers precisely with this problem in mind, and we think that the overall effect of those three things together meets the concern that you have just expressed.”

Siegal was also Critical of a Proposed “Geographical Requirement” for Citywide Candidates, which would force them to Fundraise around the city. Malbin’s Presentation to the Commission noted that most Money raised for citywide Contests comes from only Five City Council Districts, Representing Manhattan around Central Park and Brownstone Brooklyn. For Citywide Candidates, Malbin recommended that they must show a Minimum Number of Contributors in 20 of 51 Council Districts to Qualify for Public Matching Funds. The CFB suggested that Citywide Candidates raise 50 Contributions from each Borough.

Siegal called this a “fundamentally different requirement than we’ve ever had in the system,” saying that previous Campaign Finance Law was Limiting the Money Candidates can Raise rather than explicitly saying who it must be Raised From, which he said would set a Bad Precedent, “engineering campaign fundraising.”

“Have you actually looked at how many Republicans raise 50 matching contributions in [the] Bronx? Or how many Democrats actually raise 50 contributions in Staten Island? And do we really want to tell candidates that they have to go out and introduce themselves to communities where they have no background and no ties, and the first thing they have to do is go ask for money. That doesn’t seem to me that it’s getting money out of politics, it seems to me like it’s pushing the fundraising race into places for other reasons,” he added.

Schaffer Dismissed the Notion that 50 Contributions per Borough was Unattainable for a Seeker of Citywide Office. “We’re trying to identify people who are reasonably likely to be real candidates, and so we thought the number 50 was really quite minimal, even for a Democrat in Staten Island or a Republican in the Bronx,” Schaffer said. There are currently Three Citywide Elected Offices: Mayor, Public Advocate, and Comptroller.

Other Commissioners also had Questions and Concerns. Dale Ho, of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, questioned whether it was appropriate to put such specific Numbers, Limits, and Thresholds into the City Charter, which he Characterized as Difficult to Change and rarely Brought Up for Debate, versus the Easier-to-Change City Code. “As you can see from all this machinery here, [the charter] is quite difficult to amend,” Ho said. “If it turns out that the number should change over time, maybe the limits need to be reduced even more, maybe the match numbers need to go up even higher, maybe we miscalibrate something and we need to adjust something. If these changes are in the city charter, that kind of ties the hands of the city in a way that if they’re in the code, maybe they’re a little easier to adjust.”

Schaffer, a former Top Appointee in the Office of the City’s Corporation Counsel, its Top Lawyer, said he believed that the City Council can Amend the Charter “just like ordinary legislation,” which Perales agreed with. Other Issues beyond those Encompassed by the CFB’s Recommendations also arose. Government Reform Group Citizens Union remained Neutral on Increasing Public Funds Disbursement to Candidates, but gave Suggestions for Transparency Measures if the Commission decided to Increase the Disbursement. Rachel Bloom, Citizens Union’s Director of Public Policy, called on the Commission to Prohibit Public Funds Disbursed to Candidates to be used to Pay Consultants that also Lobby the City, subject Candidate Coordination with Union Members to Campaign Finance Regulations, Tighten Local Law 181, which Regulates the Nonprofits of Elected officials, Restrict the Transfer of Campaign Funds running for one Office to another Office, and to Transfer Lobbying Reporting and Enforcement to the CFB.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams Advocated for Eliminating Money from Politics Entirely and moving to a 100% Publicly Funded system. Adams said that Candidacies Receiving Public funding could be gauged by Petition Signatures, or by reaching a Threshold through $1 Donations that would end up in the Public Finance System. He also suggested that the Members of the Commission, none of whom have held Elected Office, were not fully Equipped to know what raising Money as a Politician is like, and that they should hold a “Mock Election” to gain fuller Experience.

The Mayoral Charter Revision Commission will meet twice more next Week:

- Tuesday for Community Boards and Land Use Issues

- Thursday, to hear Civic Engagement and Independent Redistricting

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Judge Strikes Down Kansas Voter Law

A Federal Judge has struck down a Kansas Voter Citizenship Law that Secretary of State Kris Kobach had Personally Defended. Judge Julie Robinson also ordered Kobach, who is seeking the Republican Nomination for Governor, to take more Hours of Continuing Legal Education after he was found in Contempt and was frequently chided during the Trial over his Missteps. In an 118-page Ruling Monday, Robinson ordered a Halt to the State’s Requirement that People provide Proof of Citizenship in the Registration process if they want to Vote in State and Local Elections. If they don't they only can Vote in Federal and Presidential Elections. The Decision would take affect as the August and November Elections approach.

Robinson’s ruling amounted to a takedown of the Law that Kobach had Championed and Lawmakers Approved several years ago. Judge Robinson found that it “disproportionately impacts duly qualified registration applicants, while only nominally preventing noncitizen voter registration.” “If eligible Kansans’ votes are not counted despite believing they are registered to vote, it erodes confidence in the electoral system,” Robinson wrote. She ordered Kobach not to Enforce the Physical Proof of Citizenship Law and its accompanying Regulations.

Kobach's Office said he will Appeal the Ruling. "Judge Robinson is the first judge in the country to come to the extreme conclusion that requiring a voter to prove his citizenship is unconstitutional. Her conclusion is incorrect, and it is inconsistent with precedents of the U.S. Supreme Court," his Office said in a Statement.

The Ruling is the culmination of a Federal Lawsuit filed in 2016. At a Bench Trial earlier this year, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Attorney Mark Johnson represented Voters who said they had been Impeded from Registering by the Law. “This decision is a stinging rebuke of Kris Kobach, and the centerpiece of his voter suppression efforts: a show-me-your-papers law that has disenfranchised tens of thousands of Kansans. That law was based on a xenophobic lie that noncitizens are engaged in rampant elections fraud," said Dale Ho, Director of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project.

Under the Ruling, Kobach must Instruct all State and County Election Officers that Voter Registration Applicants do not need to Provide Proof of Citizenship in order to Register to Vote. Registrants who have Not Provided Proof of Citizenship must be Listed the same as all other Registrants.

The Voter Registration Form used in most States states: The above information is true, I understand that if it is not true, I can be convicted and fined up to $5,000 and/or jailed for up to four years.

Robinson rejected Kobach’s argument that the Law was needed to Prohibit Voter Fraud. She said of the Tens of Thousands of People whose Voter Registrations have been Canceled or Suspended because of a lack of Proof of Citizenship, less than 1% have been Confirmed to be Non-Citizens.
Instead of helping to Block Voter Fraud, the Law “acted as a deterrent to registration and voting for substantially more eligible Kansans than it has prevented ineligible voters from registering to vote,” she wrote.

The Ruling was also a slap against Kobach as an Attorney. Robinson wrote Kobach had a “well-documented history of avoiding this Court’s orders.” She repeatedly criticized Kobach’s Conduct in Court, noting that at least once he tried to introduce Evidence despite Robinson having Excluded it. She also wrote that Kobach Failed to Disclose Documents, and she Faulted Misleading Testimony by one of his Witnesses.

Kobach was previously Fined $1,000 in the Case and held in Contempt.

Robinson concluded her Ruling by ordering Kobach to take Six Additional Hours of continuing Legal Education in addition to any other Hours required for a Law License. “The additional CLE must pertain to federal or Kansas civil rules of procedure or evidence,” Robinson wrote.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Lawsuit Says Voting System in NY's Long Island Town Shuts Out Latinos

The Problem in Brentwood, which sits within the Town of Islip, is the way that Islip, a mostly White Community, Elects its Local Leaders that Diluted the Power of Latino Residents, effectively Robbing them of their Vote. “If you come to Brentwood, you would notice that our town looks very different from the other towns in this municipality,” said Ms. Maria Hernandez, 53, who moved to Brentwood from El Salvador nearly 20 years ago. “There’s so much lack of interest from the town board that we feel like an island. We are like a ghost town.”

So on Monday, with the help of Two Community Groups, Ms. Hernandez and Three other Latino Residents of Brentwood filed Suit against the Town, claiming that Islip’s Electoral System, in which Candidates seek Votes Townwide instead of in Specific Districts, has deprived them of Political Representation. The Lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, seeks to Replace this so-called At-Large System with a District system, a move that could give Latino Candidates a better chance of being Elected from largely Latino areas.

At the heart of the Suit is the Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, which Lawyers in the 1990s used successfully to scrap Discriminatory At-Large systems in the nearby Long Island Town of Hempstead and in New Rochelle in Westchester County. In 2006, the Federal Government Sued the Village of Port Chester, NY, on similar grounds, and a Judge eventually Ruled that the Village’s At-Large system Affected the “rights of Hispanics to participate in the political process.”

In Islip, the New Suit contends, At-Large Voting “has for many years systematically prevented members of the town’s minority Latino community from electing any candidates of their choice to the Islip Town Board, thus denying the members of that community their most basic rights. Members of the town’s Latino community have been demoted to second-class citizens,” it claims.

Islip, which sits in Suffolk County between the Long Island Expressway and the Great South Bay, Encompasses Four Incorporated Villages and more than 20 Unincorporated Hamlets, among them, Brentwood, Central Islip, and North Bay Shore, which are predominantly Latino. But even though Latinos make up about a Third of Islip’s Total Population, a Latino Resident has never been Elected to its Five-Person Town Board.

According to the Lawsuit, this has led to a persistent Neglect of Islip’s Latino areas. Potholes go Unfixed, it says, and all of Islip’s Five Brownfield Sites, land that has been Environmentally Contaminated and often Abandoned as a result, are in or near Brentwood. When Latino Residents of the Town call their Local Fire and Police Departments, the Suit contends, “they are often met with hostile and unresponsive officials who ignore or mistreat them.”

In 2005, the Lawsuit notes, Islip initially Refused to allow a Central American Parade to be held on its Streets and only agreed to do so after being Sued. In 2013, the Town closed down the only Local Pool that was easily accessible to its Latino Residents. The following year, the Suit maintains, Companies with “political connections” to Town Officials dumped nearly 40,000 Tons of Debris containing Asbestos and Pesticides into Roberto Clemente Park, which primarily served the Latino Community.

“One of the critical things about this case is where we are in our country’s history,” said Frederick K. Brewington, a Lawyer for the Islip Plaintiffs, who also brought the Suit against Hempstead in 1996. “This lawsuit is important to a growing population that has been tossed and tattered by government officials. It serves as an opportunity for the community to speak loudly into the microphone and utilize laws put there for that very purpose.”

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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We Need to Support the BUILD Act

In a few weeks, the ONE Organization Volunteers will hand-deliver Printed Copies of their Petition in support of the BUILD Act to both of your Senators and Member of Congress.

Vaccines, Medicine, and simple Tests save lives every day in our Communities, and they have the same Power in Africa, but only when they reach the People who need them. This is just one area where the BUILD Act will deliver.

In 2011, Health Officials in Ghana wanted to buy American-made Mobile Medical Clinics to reach People in Rural Areas. That Project almost fell apart, but it was saved when the U.S. Government stepped in with a Small Insurance Guarantee. The BUILD Act would support more Transformative Projects like that one.

Once the Mobile Clinics were delivered, they began making a huge difference in Ghana. In one location they enabled Health Workers to test the Hearing of 495 Children in a single day. According to the former Ghanaian Minister of Health, Sherry Ayittey, the Clinics are “a dream come true.”

The Mobile Clinics were purchased from a Business located in Cheyenne, Wyoming, so that Company and its Workers were also glad the Project could move forward. The U.S. Government didn’t buy the Mobile Clinics or Build them, it only provided Insurance to ensure the Deal could proceed.

With obvious Benefits at Home and in Developing Countries, it’s no surprise that the BUILD Act is gaining support in Congress. It has already received bipartisan Approval from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. To keep up the Momentum, we have to make sure your Leaders know that this Bill has the Support of their Constituents.

The Build Act of 2018 - H.R.5105

This Bill establishes the United States International Development Finance Corporation to facilitate the participation of Private Sector Capital and Skills in the Economic Development of Countries with Low- or Lower-Middle-Income Economies and Countries Transitioning from Nonmarket to Market Economies in order to complement U.S. Assistance and Foreign Policy Objectives.

The Corporation may:

(1) Make Loans or Loan Guarantees

(2) As a Minority Investor acquire Equity or Financial Interests in Entities

(3) Provide Insurance or Reinsurance to Private Sector Entities and Qualifying Sovereign Entities

(4) Provide Technical Assistance

(5) Administer Special Projects

(6) Establish Enterprise Funds

(7) issue obligations

(8) Charge Service Fees

The Corporation shall Terminate after Seven Years.

The Corporation shall Not Provide Assistance to:

(1) A Country whose Government has repeatedly supported Acts of International Terrorism

(2) A Private Sector Entity that is engaged in Monopolistic Practices

The Bill prescribes Transitional Provisions, including Transferring to the Corporation the Functions, Personnel, Assets, and Liabilities of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which is subsequently Terminated, and specified elements of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Supreme Court Punts Two Gerrymandering Cases

The U.S. Supreme Court punted on Two Major Gerrymandering Cases. One on Voting Districts against Democrats (Maryland), the other against Republicans (Wisconsin).

In the Wisconsin Case, Gill v. Whitford, they sent it back to Lower Courts because the Plaintiffs Failed to demonstrate Standing. “The case is remanded to the District Court to give the plaintiffs an opportunity to prove concrete and particularized injuries,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in the Majority Opinion.

The Decision in Gill v. Whitford, one of the most hyped Supreme Court Cases on the issue of Gerrymandering in the past 50 years, means rather than Weigh in on the Merits of the Case, the Nation’s Highest Court is sending it back down to a Lower Court, where the Battle over the Constitutionality of Partisan Gerrymandering will continue.

In the Maryland Benisek v. Lamone Case, they said the Plaintiffs took Too Long to bring their Claim. This Partisan Gerrymandering Case in which Republican Plaintiffs filed Suit against Democratic Mapmakers, whom the GOP argues Retaliated against Republican Voters in the 6th District by Diluting their Votes with the 2011 Congressional Map. The Supreme Court’s Ruling essentially allows that Case to go to Trial in the Lower Court.

As the Tools for Redistricting have become increasingly sophisticated and capable of producing Partisan advantages, so have the Analytic Tools for identifying Gerrymanders. Those Tools were key for the Plaintiffs in the Gill v. Whitford Case. In their arguments, new ways of Identifying Gerrymanders gave them a way to spot Partisan Gerrymanders, and identify tipping points where those Gerrymanders constituted Constitutional Infringement. There were Supercomputer Simulations. There were different measures of just how many Seats devious Gerrymandering Schemes purloined from opposing Parties. Chief among those was the “Efficiency Gap,” a Metric that allows Observers to Calculate “Wasted Votes,” those that go to Losing Candidates or those that would’ve Won anyways. Those Tests, which found that the Wisconsin GOP had built enough advantage to continue to hold a Majority of Seats even if they don’t get 50% of the Votes, were enough for a Federal District Court to Strike the Maps down.

Upon Appeal, those Tests were not enough for the Supreme Court to Uphold that Decision. Specifically, the Justices Unanimously agreed that the Plaintiffs’ Sophisticated Tests of Partisan Gerrymandering pick up damage done to Opposing Parties, but didn’t quite show how Wisconsin’s Politically Biased Map Infringes upon Individual Constitutional Rights, and how it Burdens Individual Voters. Since Gerrymandering Rulings under the Voting Rights Act derive from the Equal Protection Clause, tests that prove a Violation of an Individual’s Civil Rights are Critical to making the Rulings Stick.

While Voting-Rights Groups hoping for a firm Precedent-Setting Decision before the next round of Map-Drawing in 2021 expressed disappointment with the Court’s Decision, it clearly doesn’t mean the end of the line for Partisan Gerrymandering arguments in Federal Courts. For one, Plaintiffs could Reconfigure their Arguments to again meet the District Court’s, and presumably, the Supreme Court’s, Standard.

The High Court is now primed to take on a Consolidated Challenge to Partisan-Aligned Maps in North Carolina that were Created as a Direct response to its earlier Decision on Racial Gerrymandering in the State.

There are still Three Major potential Precedent-Setting Partisan Gerrymandering Cases still percolating through Federal Courts. In this saga, the Supreme Court seems intent on biding its time, and slowly feeling out the Changes its Decisions might make in an already rapidly changing landscape of Voting Rights and Mapmaking. With Redistricting emerging as a hot-button Issue, and with Voters in Multiple States pushing for Ballot Measures to change the way their States do it, even the Court’s Punting might have Major Downstream effects if it’s the last word by 2020. But, by all appearances, it won’t be.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Monday, June 18, 2018

NC Governor Vetoes Bill with Sore Loser Law

Thanks to Richard Winger of Ballot Access News for this post.

On June 15th, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper Vetoed SB 486 .

Among many other Provisions, it prevents Parties that Nominate by Convention from Nominating anyone who had earlier that Year run in a Party Primary for the Same Office.

North Carolina already Bans Primary Candidates from becoming Independent Candidates, but the Law doesn’t apply to Nominations by Convention Parties.

Generally, Newly-Qualifying Parties in North Carolina Nominate by Convention, not Primary.

CLICK HERE to read the 12 page (pdf) SB 486.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Saturday, June 16, 2018

NYC Mayoral Charter Revision Commission Hears Expert Testimony on Voting and Elections

The New York City Charter Revision Commission called by Mayor Bill de Blasio convened to collect Expert Testimony on ways to foster increased participation in Municipal Elections. Eleven of the Commission’s 15 Members sat at the Hearing, which was divided into Two parts, One focused generally on Voting Rights and Election Administration in the City, and a Second centered on the Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV) system, or Instant Runoff Primaries, that may be Proposed to Voters later this year, among other Measures deemed appropriate by the Commission.

The Charter Revision Commission was established by de Blasio in April and is Charged with collecting Public Input on Recommendations to Amend or Revise the Charter of the City of New York, a Slate of Proposals that will be made Official in September and placed on the Ballot in November 2018. Though any Charter Revision Commission is able to look at any Aspect of City Governance it chooses, de Blasio said he was forming this Commission to look at Voting, Elections, and Campaign Finance Reform.

Panelists for the First Portion of the Hearing: Catherine Gray, Co-President of the League of Women Voters of the City of New York; Perry Grossman, of the New York Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project; Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause New York; Jerry Vattamala, of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund; and Andrew Wilkes, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Generation Citizen, spoke at length about specific challenges facing New York City Voters and what they identified as Problems with the City’s Electoral System.
Grossman opened Testimony recounting the “archaic voting practices” Restricting Voting in the City. New York State, and thus the City, he said, does not allow Early Voting, Automatic Voter Registration, Same-Day Registration, or Online Voting Registration, and has Restrictive Access to Absentee Ballots.

Adopting these Measures, as several States and other Municipalities have already done, would go far to Increase Voter Turnout here, Grossman said, pointing out that New York State ranked 47th Nationally in Voter Registration and 44th Nationally in Turnout for the 2016 Presidential Election. His suggestions to the Commission, including Early Voting and Strengthening the ability of City Agencies to Electronically Transmit Voter Registration Records to the Board of Elections (BOE) were echoed by several other Panelists.

But they ran up against a question inherent to the Commission’s Role as a City Body attempting Structural Change with Statewide and National implications: How far can it go? Commission Chair Cesar Perales, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s former Secretary of State, told Grossman that it’s “not clear what the city can do on its own without violating state law,” specifically with regard to Expanding Access to Absentee Ballots, which is Legislated by the State. All of the Reforms Grossman called for have been the Topic of Debate in Albany, where they have Failed to Pass the Republican-Controlled State Senate.

Commissioner Wendy Weiser, Director of the Democracy Program of NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice, echoed Perales’ concerns, asking Grossman if New York City’s Home Rule gives it greater Freedom in running its own Elections to the extent that it could offer Expanded Voting Rights for Municipal Elections while retaining Restrictive Measures for State and Federal Elections.

Grossman answered affirmatively, and several others who testified, Advocating for Measures ranging from Lowering the Voting Age to 16 to Enfranchising Non-Citizens to adopting Voter Pre-Registration, proposed similar systems of Tiered Franchise, by which the City could give New Classes of New Yorkers the Ability to Vote in Local Elections, but not anywhere else.

Several Panelists also pointed out that the City’s lackluster Language Services Restrict Voting in what is, by some measures, the World’s most Lingually-Diverse place. Vattamala, of the South Asian Legal Defense Fund, focused his Testimony on this hindrance, Recounting the Board of Elections’ repeated Failures to provide City Council-Mandated Translation services. The BOE is a State Entity that the City Funds and thus has some Oversight of. In 1990, Vattamala explained in providing examples, after the City Council Ordered the Provision of Chinese-language Voting services, the Board of Elections sent Mandarin Translators to the mainly Cantonese-speaking Chinatown in Manhattan and Cantonese Translators to the mainly Mandarin-speaking Chinatown in Queens.

In 2000, the Board of Elections Mistranslated Chinese Ballots in the Primary Election, writing “Democrat” where the English said “Republican” and vice-versa, and, in 2013, the Board simply Failed to provide the Bengali-language Ballots necessary in Queens. Horror stories of the Board of Elections were widely-recounted at the Hearing. Common Cause’s Lerner spoke of the BOE Preventing Translators from entering Polling Stations during the November 2016 Election, and Failing to Implement several Initiatives of the City Council and the previous Charter Revision Commission.
Several Commissioners seemed keenly aware of the Difficulties of enacting whatever they may propose for a New Charter.

Commissioner Rachel Godsil responded to Lerner’s specific Suggestions to the Commission, that the Charter should amplify a Constitutional Right to Vote, Clarify Conflicts of Interest Law, and Consolidate and Enhance already existing City Agencies, among other Proposals, with a question about the feasibility of Effecting Change. With the Board of Elections not following previous Recommendations, she said, “can we do anything?”
Later, Commissioner Larian Angelo asked a Panelist who’d spoken at length about Incompetence among some Poll Workers how, in that case, she could see “any reforms happen, ever?”

Panelists offered several ideas for Accountability Mechanisms for the Commission’s Recommendations, but the question of Enforcement remained.
Throughout the Three-Hour Hearing, the Commissioners’ faces betrayed little. A few times throughout, a Commissioner seemed particularly interested in a Suggestion: Commissioner Dale Ho nodded when Andrew Wilkes suggested Lowering the Municipal Voting Age to 16; Wendy Weiser nodded at the Proposal that the City’s Charter offer an Express Right to Vote in Local Elections.

While the Problems and Solutions brought up at the first half of the Hearing ranged widely in Scope and Subject, the Second half was tightly focused on RCV in the races for Mayor, Public Advocate, and Comptroller, which is now a Run-Off Election if no one gets 40%+1, a Reform that has widespread Support and appears likely to be Included in the Commission’s Recommendations.

Four Panelists: Rob Ritchie of Fair Vote; Jerry Vattamala; Susan Lerner; Grace Wachlarowicz of the Minneapolis City Clerk’s Office; and David Kallick of the Fiscal Policy Institute, seemed to support New York City adopting RCV. Though Wachlarowicz clarified, for the Record, that, as a Civil Servant, she could not Personally Advocate For or Against a Political Proposal.

Panelists explained what they saw as the RCV Benefits: Incentives for Candidates to Appeal to Voters beyond their Base; Cost-Saving; and Retained Participation relative to an Expensive and Poorly-Attended Run-Off Election, based off the Results in American Jurisdictions that have Implemented RCV, seemingly Increased Election of Candidates of Color. The Commissioners seemed generally Supportive, or, at least, Interested in the System.

Commissioner John Siegal told Ritchie that he has “an open mind about this proposal,” and Questions to those Testifying mainly concerned the Commissioners’ Own Understanding and Feasibility concerns, like Cost and Machine Malfunctions. When the Final Expert, Hofstra University Professor Craig Burnett, spoke about the System’s Flaws, which include “Ballot Exhaustion,” the Prospect that All of an Individual’s Ranked Choices will be Eliminated in Early Rounds of Vote-Counting, and Racial and Ethnic Minorities being less likely to Complete a Full Ballot and therefore facing a Higher Risk of Exhaustion, he faced a Less-Friendly Commission. Chair Perales interrupted Burnett during his Five Minutes of Testimony, which he had not done to any other Panelist, and asked Ritchie to “Retort” immediately following Burnett’s Speech.

The Final Round of Questioning was more Free-Wheeling than previous Rounds, which had been directed at a Single Panelist. In Closing the Hearing, the Commission asked the Assembled Experts about the Risks of Strategic Voting, Dynamics of Incumbent Power, Minority Community Representation, and Effects on Campaign Finance. Then, citing “Commission Exhaustion,” Perales asked for a Motion to Adjourn. The Commission's Second of its Four Expert Hearings will Focus on Campaign Finance.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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