Sunday, February 18, 2018

NM Legislation to Close Door on Unverifiable Campaign Contributions and Foreign Money




The New Mexico "Credit Card Loophole" is a gap in their Campaign Finance Laws that allows Individuals, including Foreign Sources, to make Anonymous Donations to Political Campaigns using Untraceable Prepaid Credit Cards. Individuals can use the Loophole to mask their Identity and evade Contribution Limits.

The New Mexico State Legislature unanimously passed a Bill (SB 50) that Closes the Credit Card Loophole at the State Level. Remarkably, that vote took place just Five days after it was messaged by Governor Susana Martinez, passing through both the Senate and House. SB 50 now goes back to Governor Martinez for her Signature to turn it into Law.

SB 50 Adds a necessary Layer of Security and Integrity to the State’s Campaign Finance Laws.

Bridge Alliance's Director of Development, Doug Nickle, played a key role in championing this Bill and shepherding it through the New Mexico Legislature.

His role in SB 50 started when he testified in front of the Courts, Corrections, and Justice interim committee last summer, in HIS capacity at Take Back our Republic, and spoke on a range of Campaign Finance related issues.

The eventual Sponsors of the Bill, Senator Cisco McSorley (D-16th District), and Representatives Bill Rehm (R-31st District) and Jim Dines (R-20th District), focused on the Online Credit Card Campaign Contribution Loophole and requested more information. Over the next couple of Months, he worked with Dare To Be United’s National Programs Director, Joe Livoti, to draft proposed Legislation.

Senator McSorley took the lead and filed what ended up becoming SB 50. Leading up to the short Legislative Session, Common Cause New Mexico was extremely diligent in promoting SB 50 as the Common Sense, Nonpartisan Campaign Finance Reform that it is. Additionally, they received tremendous Support and Guidance from New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse-Oliver and her Staff, who are keenly focused on Election Transparency and Disclosure issues.

This process was an astoundingly successful Collaborative effort. Fundamental, Contributions came from Joe Livoti of Dare To Be United, Heather Ferguson of Common Cause New Mexico, and the Team at Take Back Our Republic.

Proof that Representative Democracy can work efficiently if we engage as Citizens, we owe gratitude to the Bipartisan Spirit and Leadership of Senator McSorley, Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, Representative Rehm and Representative Dines, and Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse-Oliver and her Staff. It was a hugely successful Bipartisan Collaboration, linking the Commitment and Good Will of Reformers and Elected Officials.

The Bridge Alliance was founded on the Principle that we can achieve much more together than any one of us can achieve on our own, and SB 50 is a great example of that Philosophy in Action.

Looking forward to working with all of Member Organizations to achieve many more successes in all areas of Political Reform throughout 2018 and beyond.

CLICK HERE to read more about the Loophole on Bridge Alliance, Take Back Our Republic's website.









NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Saturday, February 17, 2018

OK Libertarian's Thoughts on Top-Two Primaries


Chris Powell, past Chairman of the Oklahoma Libertarian Party and a Candidate for Governor, wrote this recent Editorial as a Contributor to The Oklahoman, Top-Two Primaries are Bad for Democracy

Members of The Oklahoma Acadamy are suggesting that the State Switch to a "top-two" Primary, a system in which all candidates filing for a particular office compete against each other, regardless of party, with the two candidates receiving the most votes advancing to the general election. They cannot have looked closely at California and Washington, the states using top-two, or they would know that this system discourages voter participation, doesn't reduce partisanship and allows special interests greater leverage.

Professors Boris Schor and Nolan McCarty track polarization at americanlegislatures.com. Their latest rankings show California has the nation's most polarized legislature. Washington is fifth. Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight has also written of the studies routinely showing that top two has no moderating effect.

In California, voter turnout has not returned to the level of 2008, the last election before the advent of top-two, and primaries that theoretically should draw more interest also have dismally low participation rates. Washington has seen similar declines.

Supporters of top-two assume that candidates will moderate their positions to appeal to more people, and the two best candidates will advance to the general election. However, candidates run on issues, not segments of the political spectrum. Candidates in a crowded field won't have to appeal to a majority, simply needing to win either the largest or second-largest plurality, a percentage that grows smaller with each additional candidate entering the race. The will of the majority can easily be thwarted such as in the 2016 race for state treasurer in Washington where three Democrat candidates collectively won 52 percent of the vote, but split evenly enough that both Republicans advanced instead.

More importantly, a top-two system means the real choices are made in the primary when turnout is much lower. This effectively disenfranchises the hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans who typically only vote in the general election, including most of the ever-growing ranks of independents accustomed to not being able to participate in our state's primaries.

In states such as Oklahoma and California where one party or another has a clear advantage, it means that a minority party will frequently have no acceptable choices in major races, driving down voter turnout. Hillary Clinton's huge margin of victory in California in 2016 was partially due to Republicans having little reason to go to the polls as the U.S. Senate campaign, their major statewide race, produced a choice of two very similar Democrats in the general election. For 2018, it's probable there will be no Republican on the November ballot for either U.S. Senate or Governor.

Top-two muffles dissenting voices, reduces voter turnout, often advances candidates the majority finds undesirable, and actually increases the leverage of special interests who are better able to influence outcomes by swaying the much smaller percentage of the electorate that participates in primaries. It has been demonstrably bad for democracy in the two states using the system.

Real reform, such as ranked-choice voting or approval voting, would be inclusive of alternative voices, increase choice for voters and produce elected officials who really would be more acceptable to more of the public.


I like the idea of Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV) but would make it a Top-Three Primary.









NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Amendment to Change CO’s Constitution May be Unconstitutional


Rick Hasen writes on his Election Law Blog about District Judge: Amendment that made it harder to change Colorado’s Constitution may be unconstitutional.

A District Court Judge gave an initial win Wednesday to a Group that Claims Amendment 71 Unconstitutionally raised the Bar for Petitioners hoping to Change the Colorado Constitution.

Judge William J. Martínez denied a request from the Secretary of State’s Office that asked to dismiss the Lawsuit against the Amendment. Martínez also gave the State until March 9th to say why a Permanent Injunction should not be placed on the part of the Law that requires 2% of Signatures from each Senate District in Colorado.

Court Documents show Martínez believes that because there is a substantial difference in the Registered Voter Population from Senate District to Senate District, Amendment 71 could Violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

The clause protects “one person, one vote.”

Hansen:

One could interpret Amendment 71 as giving each legislative district one “vote” in favor of or against placing a proposed constitutional initiative on the ballot — like the measures that gave us legal cannabis and the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

District 21, where Commerce City is located, needs only 1,610 signatures to cast a “yea” vote. However, District 23, where Johnstown is located, needs 2,644 signatures, the documents show.

“But if Colorado has a good faith basis for believing it can develop empirical data showing that vote dilution is not actually occurring as between the various state Senate districts, the court will not foreclose that opportunity,” the documents state.










NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Friday, February 16, 2018

Flurry of Courts Have Ruled on Election Maps


Judges in a Number of States have recently thrown out Election Maps, saying that they have been Gerrymandered to the point of being Unconstitutional, effectively dooming one Party to permanent Underrepresentation.

The decisions are certain to have drawn the Supreme Court’s interest as it mulls a Resolution to the question of Extreme Partisan Gerrymanders. The Justices are expected to decide this Spring whether the practice violates the Constitution, and if so, how to determine whether an Electoral Map is fairly drawn.

Here are the basics of the Major Contested Cases:

Maryland: 6th Congressional District - Statewide, Democrats hold Seven of the State’s Eight House Seats, including the 6th Congressional District, while Republicans hold One. The Boundaries of the District have been the subject of Legal Challenges since they were drawn in 2011. In the current Case, known as Benisek v. Lamone, Republicans were denied a Preliminary Injunction by a Three-Judge Federal Panel, and Appealed that Denial to the Supreme Court, which unexpectedly took the Case. The Plaintiffs argue that Democratic State Lawmakers drew the Map to place the Republican who had held the Seat for 10 Terms, Roscoe G. Bartlett, at a Political Disadvantage, Violating the Voters’ First Amendment Rights. Mr. Bartlett was defeated in 2012. The Supreme Court is Scheduled to Hear Arguments in the Case in late March. The Map remains in Effect for the time being.

North Carolina: Congressional Districts - In 2016, Republican Candidates received 53% of the votes cast, and won 10 of the State’s 13 Seats; Democrats received 47% of the votes and won 3 Seats. The Map was thrown out and ordered Redrawn by a Panel of Three Federal Judges on Jan. 9th, who said that Republicans had Drawn it most recently in 2016 in an attempt to gain a Political advantage. The Supreme Court temporarily Blocked the Lower Court’s Order to Redraw the Map Nine days later. The Supreme Court has not said whether it will schedule Arguments in the Case, known as Rucho v. Common Cause. The Court may choose instead to let whatever Ruling it issues in another Gerrymandering Case stand as its Final Word on the matter. Because of the temporary Block, Experts say the current North Carolina Map will probably remain in effect for the Midterm Elections this Fall.

Pennsylvania: Congressional Districts - Republican Candidates received 54% of the vote in 2016, and won 13 of the State’s 18 Seats. Democratic Candidates received 46% of the votes and won Five Seats. The State Supreme Court ruled on Jan. 22nd that the Map “clearly, plainly and palpably” Violated the State Constitution and ordered the Map Redrawn. The Republicans who control the State Legislature asked the United States Supreme Court to Block the State Court’s Order, but were turned down. The Republican Leaders then Drew a New Map with less Convoluted District Lines than before, but Pennsylvania’s Democratic Governor, Tom Wolf, refused to Approve it, saying it was just as severely Gerrymandered for Partisan advantage as the old Map was. Under the State Court’s Order, a Neutral Outside Expert, Nathaniel Persily of Stanford University, is to Draft and submit a New Map that satisfies the Court’s Criteria by Thursday, Feb. 15th. The Court said it intended to Certify a Map by Monday, Feb. 19th. As the Map is Redrawn, there are potential Political and Legal consequences worth watching. Republicans have said they are considering other moves in Federal Court to Delay or Alter the State Supreme Court Order, but Experts say the odds of success are slim. The State Court has Rejected Republican efforts to Disqualify Two of its Judges on Ethics grounds. As matters now stand, the May 15th Primary and Nov. 6th Midterm General Election for House Seats will be held using a New Map. But the old one will still be in effect for a Special Election on March 13th to fill one vacant House Seat.

Wisconsin: State Assembly Districts - In the most recent General Election, 52% of the votes were cast for Republican Assembly Candidates, who won almost two-thirds of the Seats, 64 out of 99. Democrats received 46% of the Vote and won 35 Seats. What’s happened so far? In November 2016, a Panel of Three Judges ruled that the Map was Unconstitutionally drawn to favor Republicans, the first time a Partisan Gerrymander was struck down in Federal Court. The ruling was notable, according to Experts, because it provided a clear Mathematical Formula to Measure how Partisan a District Map is. The Decision was Appealed to the Supreme Court, which took the Case, known as Gill v. Whitford), and heard arguments in October 2017. The Supreme Court is expected to rule in the Spring, probably setting the course for the other Cases in Federal Court as well.









NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Supreme Court and Dreamers' Case


The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday discussed how to handle President Trump's Appeal of a Judge's decision Blocking his Plan to End Protections for Young Illegal Immigrants dubbed "Dreamers," and the Nine Justices could announce as early as Tuesday whether they will take up the Case.

Trump's Administration is Appealing San Francisco-based U.S. District Judge William Alsup's Jan. 9th Ruling that Halted the President's Order to End the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which Protects from Deportation Young Adults who came into Country Illegally as Children and gives them Work Permits.

U.S. Lawmakers have been working to resolve the fate of the Hundreds of Thousands of Young Adults, mostly Hispanics, protected by the program, but Legislation that would have done so Failed in the Senate on Thursday. DACA was implemented in 2012 by Democratic former President Obama as an Executive Order.

If the Justices agree to hear the Appeal by the Republican President, they likely would not Rule on the Case until late June.

If they turn away the Appeal, Alsup's Nationwide Injunction Blocking Trump's Plan to Rescind DACA would remain in Effect while Legal Challenges to the President's Action proceed.

Alsup's Injunction was issued in a Lawsuit led by California's Democratic Attorney General.

Under Trump's Order, DACA would begin Phasing Out on March 5th. If Alsup's Decision remains in place, DACA Beneficiaries would be able to Reapply for Protections and Work Orders past that Deadline, although the Administration is Not Processing New Applications.

On Tuesday, a Second U.S. Judge issued a similar Injunction ordering the Trump Administration to keep DACA in place.

Protecting the Dreamers is of Paramount importance to Democrats and some Republicans. Trump himself has backed Legislation that would give them a Path to Citizenship in 10 to 12 years, but also would curtail Legal Immigration, like the Lottery and Chain Migration.

Under DACA, about 700,000 Young Adults receive Protections for Two-year Periods and Three-year Work Permits, after which they must Reapply. An estimated 1.8 Million People are Eligible for the Program.

Trump's move to Rescind DACA prompted Legal Challenges by Democratic State Attorneys General and various Organizations and Individuals in multiple Federal Courts.

Trump's Administration argued that Obama Exceeded his Powers under the Constitution when he Bypassed Congress and created DACA.

For those Dreamers who are in the Military, Honorable Discharged, or waiting for Boot Camp, will not be Deported according to the Defense Department. But they were promised Citizenship after they left Honorably and no one knows were that promise stands.









NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Independent Party Asks Supreme Court to Hear Lawsuit to Get on CA Ballot


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

On February 15th, the Independent Party asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Independent Party v Padilla.

The California Election Law says when a group wishes to Qualify as a Political Party, it must notify the Secretary of State, who in turn will Notify each County Elections Office to tally the Number of Registered Voters in that group. If the group persuades at least 60,000 or so Voters to join it on Voter Registration Forms then it becomes Qualified.

The Independent Party asked the Secretary of State for such a Tally, but he refused, saying the Name of the Independent Party is too similar to the Name of the already-Qualified American Independent Party.

Ever since 1891, California has Banned Two Parties from having Names that are too similar. However, the Law has never before been interpreted to Ban Two Parties from having the same word in their Names.

California permitted both the Democratic Party and the National Democratic Party to be on the Ballot in 1896. Also, in 1900, it allowed both the Democratic Party and the Social Democratic Party to be on the Ballot, later the Social Democratic Party changed its Name to the Socialist Party. And in 1912, it allowed both the Socialist Party and the Socialist Labor Party to be on the Ballot, in one Assembly District.

The Ninth Circuit Opinion was only Four Pages, and virtually ignored the Issue of when Two Party Names are too similar to each other. Instead, the Ninth Circuit expressed the Opinion that for a Group to call itself the Independent Party was Fraudulent. The Ninth Circuit ignored the Record, which showed that Ballot-Qualified Parties named Independent Party exist now in: Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, and Oregon, and were Ballot-Qualified in Eight other States in the recent past: Arkansas, Hawaii, Maryland, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah, and Vermont.

At one time or another, 47 of the 50 States have had Two Parties on the Ballot simultaneously that shared a Common Word in their Names.

If it had not been possible for Parties to Share a Word in their Names, the various Socialist Parties, such as the Socialist Party, the Socialist Labor Party, the Socialist Workers Party, and Workers World, could not have existed.









NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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CA Initiative for Top-Four Primaries


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

A proposed California Top-Four Primary Initiative (#17-0053) by Richard Charles Ginnaty, to convert the Top-Two system to a Top-Four system has begun to circulate.

It needs 585,407 Valid Signatures by August 13th, 2018.

If it got enough Valid Signatures, it would be on the Ballot in 2020.

I would rather see a Top-Three Primary.

CLICH HERE for more information about the California Top-Four Primary Initiative (#17-0053).









NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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