Thursday, January 27, 2022

Judge Says States Can Investigate WinRed’s Fund-Raising Tactics

A Federal Judge, in Minnesota, on Wednesday, dismissed a Lawsuit filed by WinRed, a Company that Processes Online Donations for Republicans, that sought to Block State Attorneys General, from Investigating Fund-Raising Tactics that have triggered Complaints of Fraud.

The Attorneys General from Four States: Connecticut, Maryland, Minnesota, and New York, First sent Letters to WinRed last April, asking for Documents, after a New York Times Investigation, revealed the Company’s use of Prechecked Boxes to Automatically Enroll Donors in Recurring Contribution Programs.

The Boxes resulted in a Surge in Demands for Refunds from Supporters of Trump.

WinRed Declined to provide the Documents, and instead went to the Federal Court, to argue that Federal Law should pre-empt any State-level Consumer Investigations.

Chief Judge John R. Tunheim of the U.S. District Court, in Minnesota, ruled against the Company, on Wednesday.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

Electionline Weekly January-27-2022

Legislative Updates

Federal Legislation: District of Columbia Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) has introduced legislation that will allow the District to schedule its own special elections. The bill, entitled the District of Columbia Special Elections Home Rule Act. “The bill simply removes a limitation on the District that is not only inconsistent with the self-government authority otherwise granted by the Home Rule Act, but is also counterproductive,” Norton’s team stated via press release. “[District of Columbia Special Elections Home Rule Act] follows legislation we got enacted in 2012 that gave the D.C. Board of Elections (“Board”) more flexibility to set the date of special elections for local offices to maximize voter participation,” Norton said in a Tuesday statement. “Although we sought complete authority for the District over the scheduling of special elections, the 2012 law, the District of Columbia Special Election Reform Act, did not include this home-rule principle. D.C. should have complete authority over a matter that is unrelated to any other congressional district and has no relevance to Congress.”

Arizona: The Senate Government Committee advanced seven election bills in its first meeting since the conclusion of the Senate’s unprecedented ballot review last year. In a series of party-line votes, Republicans on the committee voted to advance bills that would make pictures of all ballots publicly accessible after an election; end all-mail elections for cities and school boards and require extensive security requirements on ballot paper akin to those used to prevent and detect counterfeit money. They also voted to change the threshold that triggers an automatic recount, from a margin of 0.1 percentage points to 0.5 points. Democrats said the election bills were a response to false conspiracies and promote false narratives about the security of elections. “Saying that the election was stolen, that’s great for a campaign speech but that’s not reality,” said Sen. Martin Quezada, a Democrat from Glendale. “And its our job as members to focus on reality.”

Lawmakers have introduced a second wave of election-related bills in the past week that would alter the voting system more dramatically than those heard just days ago in a legislative committee. Newly introduced bills include House Bill 2596, which would let Legislature reject the results of a state election and order a new one, along with a multitude of other fundamental changes to election law. It incorporates several features demanded by election conspiracy theorists, like limiting all voting to Election Day, requiring all voting be in-person and mandating that officials count all the ballots by hand within 24 hours. It also states that the Legislature “shall call itself into session” to review the ballot-counting process “and on review shall accept or reject the election results.” House Bill 2237 would ban same day voter registration. Senate Bill 1453 would allow same-day registration. Senate Bill 1459 requires that election workers use a unique password to log into election systems, and provides for a misdemeanor charge for those who share their password with others.

Florida: The Apopka City Council has approved an agreement with the Orange County Supervisor of Elections (SOE) to conduct an early voting site from Tuesday, March 1st through Sunday, March 6th at the Apopka Community Center. However, according to The Apopka Voice, councilmembers debated the hours and ultimately chose an alternative slate of ours. Instead of opening the site from 8 am-5 pm on those dates, Council voted 5-0 to increase the hours from 7 am-7 pm – the same times as the March 8th election date. The SOE estimates a cost of $21,196.16 to administer the early voting site for the six days (and 12 hours per day) leading up to the March 8th election. The previous estimate for eight-hour days was $13,200.

Georgia: The Georgia Senate rejected a plan to amend the state constitution to include a ban on voting by noncitizens that is already in state law. Senate Resolution 363 won a 33-14 majority, but fell short of the two-thirds majority of 38 needed for a constitutional amendment on a party line vote, with Democrats opposing the measure and Republicans supporting it. Republicans said the change is needed to clarify the constitution to reflect state law that says only citizens of the United States and residents of Georgia can vote. Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has been campaigning in favor of the change, arguing the constitution needs more clarity. “The intention of this legislation may by to try to incite a particular base in this state to gin up support for their own elections,” said Sen Emanuel Jones, a Decatur Democrat.

Democratic lawmakers are proposing a complete repeal of the state’s voting law — even provisions that authorize ballot drop boxes and mandate a second Saturday of early voting statewide. The legislation, House Bill 941, is co-sponsored by 30 Democrats in the House of Representatives. The 83-page bill would also roll back parts of the law they most strongly oppose, such as new ID requirements for absentee voting and the ability for the state to replace county election boards.

Illinois: A bill filed by Rep. Charles Meier, R-Highland aims to combat voter fraud by allowing a county clerk the ability to cancel a voter registration if they do not think the person is a qualified voter. House Bill 4310 seeks to address issues with the state’s mail-in vote system and would give county clerks the ability to turn down a voter registration if the clerk believes the registration is fake or if the voter has passed away or moved. Meier said his bill would give county clerks the ability to withhold any applications they get back as invalid. “The ballots will be mailed out to where they are addressed to and if you don’t live there anymore you should not be getting those ballots mailed back to you with votes,” Meier said. “A county clerk is an elected position and they are supposed to uphold the law.” The bill has been assigned to the Rules Committee but has not yet been moved.

Indiana: A Republican-backed proposal that would require Indiana voters who request mail-in ballots to swear under possible penalty of perjury that they won’t be able to vote in person at any time during the 28 days before Election Day was approved by a House committee in 12-7 party line vote. Republican Rep. Tim Wesco of Osceola defended the proposal he’s sponsoring as an updating of the state’s mail-in ballot law to reflect the greater availability of early in-person voting over the past couple decades. “I believe the best policy is to encourage people to vote in person, whether on Election Day or in-person early as much as possible,” Wesco said. Indiana’s current mail-in voting limits allow people to vote by mail only if they fall into one of several categories, including being 65 or older, confined to their homes, scheduled to work throughout the 12 hours Election Day polling sites are open or being absent from their home counties on Election Day. None of those restrictions currently involve the early voting period. Lake County Election and Voter Registration Board Director Michelle Fajman said she is disappointed in the bill advancing. When considering “our day-to-day life,” different circumstances arise where someone doesn’t think they could vote in person and then their schedule changes, she said, and that the threat of a perjury charge is too strong. “I am very disappointed that (the bill) would get any traction,” Fajman said. “That’s voter suppression at its peak. They’re going to make people scared to vote absentee.”

The House Ways and Means Committee has voted down a bill that would have moved the deadline for counties to install a vital election security measure on their voting machines. State law gives counties that use those machines until 2030 to install the paper backups. A bill this session would’ve moved that up to July 2024. But the House Ways and Means Committee deleted that change because it costs money, about $12 million. The state currently has a $4 billion surplus.

Massachusetts: House lawmakers are set to debate legislation that would permanently expand early voting opportunities and make voting-by-mail a standard option in future elections, but Democratic leaders left out of the bill a popular reform that would allow voters to register and vote on the same day. The latest version of the VOTES Act put together by House Ways and Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz seeks to enshrine some of the changes made to voting rules during the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to minimize health risks. New options for voters, such as voting by mail and expanded windows for in-person early voting, led to a record number of ballots being cast in the 2020 elections. The House bill (H 4359), however, does not call for same-day voter registration, setting up a potential clash, if that doesn’t change, with the Senate where Democrats included same-day registration in the version of the VOTES Act it passed last October.

Mississippi: House Judiciary B. Chairman Nick Bain, R-Corinth, filed House Bill 630 that would allow former felons who have had their crimes expunged, or removed from their criminal record, to register to vote. “This process would simplify suffrage restoration and make it easier for formerly incarcerated felons,” Bain told the Daily Journal. Under the Mississippi Constitution, people convicted of any of 10 felonies — including perjury, arson and bigamy — lose their voting privileges for life. A 2009 opinion from the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office expanded the list of disqualifying felonies to 22. For someone to have their suffrage restored, a lawmaker has to introduce a bill on their behalf, and two-thirds of lawmakers in both legislative chambers must agree to it. A person can also seek a gubernatorial pardon. Mississippi is the only state that requires legislative action to regain the right to vote. Under Bain’s proposal, people convicted of a felony who have the crime successfully expunged from their record would automatically be allowed to register to vote. Current state law requires a person to petition a court to expunge a crime from their criminal record five years after they have completed their sentence requirements and paid all of their fines.

Nebraska: Sen. Mike Groene’s bill to slash the early-voting period in Nebraska elections will receive its required public hearing in the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee this week. Legislative Bill 785 would reduce the time period for mailing out early-voting ballots and returning completed ones from 35 to 22 days before statewide primary or general elections. LB 785 wouldn’t change the current 15-day period in which registered voters can cast early ballots before all other elections. Groene’s bill has 10 co-sponsors.

New Hampshire: Under a bill heard this week before the Senate Election Law and Municipal Affairs Committee, a voter would be able to decide to vote by absentee ballot without meeting the current legal reasons to do so. Senate Bill 427 mirrors changes in election laws for the 2020 election due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The allowable use of absentee ballots for that election included health reasons as well as current excuses such as being out of town on election day or a disability preventing a person from going to the polls. Senate Bill 427 would also allow election officials to begin processing absentee ballots before election day for one day that would be announced prior the meeting for processing. The bill’s prime sponsor, Senate Minority Leader Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, noted the change was incredibly successful producing the largest voter turnout in state history, more than 814,000 ballots cast, and three times the normal volume of absentee ballots. The change had bipartisan support, she noted, and allowed voters to vote in a safe and efficient manner.

New Mexico: A sweeping elections bill backed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is a little less hefty than expected. The version of the legislation introduced wouldn’t authorize a straight-party voting option, extend the mail-back deadline for absentee ballots or expand early voting by a day – all of which were components of the proposal announced earlier this month. As it stands now, the election bill would: Establish a permanent absentee voter list, allowing people to sign up once to receive absentee ballots for statewide elections, rather than having to file a new application each time; Allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in local and municipal elections; Restore the voting rights of felons who aren’t incarcerated; Permitting people without an official state ID to register to vote online by using their full Social Security number; and Designating Election Day as a state holiday. The proposal is supported by Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, and its co-sponsors include the Democratic floor leaders in both chambers, Sen. Peter Wirth of Santa Fe and Rep. Javier Martínez of Albuquerque. “Even as we’ve seen attempts around the country to make voting more difficult for eligible voters,” Toulouse Oliver said, “here in New Mexico we continue to be a leader in how to balance the demands for voter access with the needs of maintaining our high levels of election security.”

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has authorized legislators to take up a proposal designed to protect election workers by making it a crime to threaten employees working for county clerks or the secretary of state. The proposal, Senate Bill 144, is sponsored by Sen. Katy Duhigg, an Albuquerque Democrat and former city clerk. “Election officials at all levels, from the secretary of state down to your local polling official, have been harassed, threatened, and generally discouraged from being part of our democratic process since 2020,” Duhigg said. “It’s very important that our democracy continue to thrive, and it can only do that if we have a continued influx of professionals and citizen volunteers who come to these important jobs to conduct elections in a fair and nonpartisan manner.”

New York: A bill that would extend the availability of absentee ballots to anyone who is at risk of contracting COVID-19 was approved in the Democratic-led state Assembly as officials seek to continue election changes put in place due to the ongoing public health crisis. “As we go into the third year of a global pandemic, we cannot ask New Yorkers to risk their health in order to vote,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said. “By extending this provision, we will allow New Yorkers to exercise their constitutional right to vote without worrying about exposing themselves, their loved ones and their community to COVID-19.” The measure extends the absentee ballot provision for the pandemic to the end of 2022. It was previously approved in July 2020 and had expired at the end of last year. “We have to make sure that every eligible New Yorker can easily exercise their constitutional right to vote,” Assembly Elections Chair Latrice Walker said. “That means allowing people to vote by absentee ballot, especially during the pandemic. I’m glad we’re extending this necessary protection through the 2022 elections.”

State lawmakers are amending a bill that could change the make-up and management structure of the New York City Board of Elections. ‘We’ve been working with both the State Board of Election for guidance, many election lawyers, many people familiar with the problems that the city has had forever with their elections. And I think that we’ve come up with a good model,” said the bill’s State Senate sponsor, Senator Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan). The Krueger-Rozic legislation would give the New York City Council more leverage in appointing commissioners and give city officials greater insight into budgetary matters. It would also set qualification standards for Board members, and outline some of their duties in more clear terms. The bill also replaces the current executive director with Democrat and Republican co-executive directors hired by the mayor with approval of either the City Council Speaker or Public Advocate from lists of candidates provided by the Board.

Ohio: Ohio’s partisan primary would be delayed another month to account for the prolonged redistricting process under new legislation introduced by House Democrats. House Bill 544, sponsored by Reps. Thomas West and Lisa Sobecki, would move the primary from May 3 to June 7. The measure aims to give candidates and election officials ample time to prepare for the election as mapmakers take another stab at drawing legislative and congressional districts. State officials have suggested moving the Feb. 2 filing deadline to accommodate legislative candidates and already pushed the deadline for congressional races to March 3. However, some Republicans and Democrats are hesitant to move the election itself.

Oklahoma: Rep. Sean Roberts, R-Hominy has filed a bill would require all voters in Oklahoma to re-register with the state before the end of 2023 or lose their local voting status. House Bill 3677 says all voters in the state of Oklahoma must reregister with their local county election board by December 31, 2023. If any voter fails to reregister by that date, but meets the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 requirements, they will be placed on a ‘Federal Election Only’ list and will not be eligible to vote in any state election.

Pennsylvania: Sen. Ryan Aument (R-36) introduced legislation that would reconcile any errors, duplicate files, or any other discrepancies within the state’s voter registration records. Senate Bill 1018 will include the recommendations made by Auditor General Eugene DePasquale from his 2019 report of the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors (SURE). SURE is the program the Department of State uses to keep a complete list of all the voters registered in Pennsylvania. Aument’s bill will not allow the Department of State, PennDOT, and counties from holding any information needed to perform and full and complete audit. It will also require that the SURE system be audited every four years. “There are legitimate issues and irregularities within Pennsylvania’s election system that must be fixed so we can be confident in any election results produced by that system. Despite opponent’s claims that nothing is wrong with our elections, independent third-party audits have shown this is false, and I would be doing a disservice to my constituents if I did not act to correct these problems,” Aument said. The bill has been referred by the Senate State Government Committee for consideration.

Legal Updates

Alabama: A three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama rejected the legislature’s redrawn U.S. congressional district map for November elections, saying it likely violated the Voting Rights Act and stood to deny Black voters an additional representative. The court found that the Republican-dominated state legislature should have drawn the district lines to give minorities a majority in a second district, or at least a better chance of competing. “The appropriate remedy is a congressional redistricting plan that includes either an additional majority-Black congressional district, or an additional district in which Black voters otherwise have an opportunity to elect a representative of their choice,” the judges said in a 225-page ruling. The court postponed an upcoming candidate qualification deadline until Feb. 11 to give the legislature time to redraw the lines. The state has filed an appeal.

Georgia: Judges granted a prosecutor’s request to seat a special grand jury to help criminally investigate former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the state’s 2020 election results during the waning days of his administration. Atlanta-area District Attorney Fani Willis made the request last week, citing the need for additional authority to compel witnesses to testify by subpoena. In a brief order, Fulton County Chief Superior Court Judge Christopher Brasher said a majority of local judges agreed to authorize the panel for a year’s term beginning May 2. “The special purpose grand jury shall be authorized to investigate any and all facts and circumstances relating directly or indirectly to alleged violations of the laws of the State of Georgia, as set forth in the request of the District Attorney … ” the order stated.

Maryland: Seth Wilson, president of the Washington County Republican Central Committee is seeking a new location for the county’s second early-voting site that was approved by the county and state elections boards. Wilson filed court paperwork in Anne Arundel County, where the state Board of Elections is located, seeking a court’s review and possible revision of the decision. The site in question is two miles away from the Washington County Election Board’s headquarters — the primary early-voting center. The second site was added because state law requires counties with at least 50,000 registered voters, but fewer than 100,000, must have two early-voting centers. Wilson said he felt that there were other areas in the county that weren’t being served, that should have an early-voting site.

Michigan: The Michigan Court of Appeals has reinstated four charges related to forging or falsifying election records against the Southfield city clerk, after four of the six charges she faced were dismissed by a lower court judge in April. And a review of evidence that is part of the three-judge panel’s opinion sheds light on a possible motive for Clerk Sherikia Lavette Hawkins to alter information related to 193 absentee ballots after the Nov. 6, 2018 election. In July 2020, Hawkins, 40, was ordered to stand trial on charges of falsifying election records, forgery of a public record, using a computer to falsify election records, using a computer to commit a crime related to forgery of a public record, misconduct in office, and using a computer to commit a crime connected to misconduct in office. But Oakland County Circuit Judge Leo Bowman last year dismissed the first four charges. Now, the Michigan Court of Appeals has reversed Bowman and increased the number of live charges back to six, up from two. The panel rejected Bowman’s finding that a district court judge erred in sending her to trial on all six counts, after hearing evidence at a preliminary hearing. “Specifically, the evidence supported the conclusion that defendant willfully falsely altered entries in the QVF (Qualified Voter File, the state’s voter database) by indicating AV (absentee voter) ballots received and accepted were either not received or not accepted because they had no signature by Election Day,” the panel said.

The Michigan Supreme Court has struck down an effort by Republicans to make it harder to change state law through petition drives. The court threw out a 15% geographic cap on the number of signatures to get an issue on the statewide ballot. It would have placed a burden on petition circulators by forcing them to be aware of where they were gathering signatures. But the Supreme Court says it violates with the Michigan Constitution. The changes were made by the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2018 and signed by Gov. Rick Snyder before he left office.

New Jersey: A do-over election in Old Bridge, where the results of the November 2021 contest were invalidated after some voters received the wrong ballots, is on for March 22. A state appellate court affirmed the decision of Superior Court Judge Thomas Daniel McCloskey to thrown out the general election results and hold a new election, rejecting an appeal filed by Democrat Jill DeCaro. McCloskey found the state Division of Elections at fault, saying their statewide voter database didn’t properly follow boundaries set in the 2011 ward redistricting map put voters from the odd numbered homes on one side of Cymbeline Drive in Ward 2, and the even numbered homes on the opposite side of Cymbeline Drive residing in the Ward 4. Appellate Court Judge Carmen Messano agreed with DeCaro that some Cymbeline Drive residents have been registered in the wrong ward for several years. Messano found that facts were insufficient to reject a special election. “The official ward map was admitted in evidence, and the judge found conclusively that the residents on that side of Cymbeline Drive are within the Fourth Ward and should have received ballots to vote in that Ward,” Messano wrote in his order. “Nothing in the record raises a material dispute to the contrary.” Blame for the mistake rested with the Statewide Voter Registration System, McCloskey said.

Pennsylvania: Lackawanna County District Attorney Mark Powell says that an investigation found no reason to file a criminal charge against a man who dropped off multiple voter ballots at a downtown Scranton drop box last May. The district attorney assigned county detectives to investigate the case in October at the request of county Commissioner Chris Chermak. “We have thoroughly investigated the complaint filed by Commissioner Chermak and have found zero evidence of election fraud,” Powell said. “Absent additional evidence, we do not believe criminal charges against the gentleman seen dropping off ballots at the Lackawanna County Government Center are warranted at this time. There is no evidence that he fraudulently harvested votes.” Powell said the man cooperated with the investigation “and told detectives that he was simply dropping off ballots for his friends.”

Wisconsin: Waukesha County Circuit Judge Michael Bohren has kept in place his decision from last week that determined absentee ballot drop boxes can’t be used in Wisconsin. Bohren last week ruled ballot drop boxes could not be used in Wisconsin because state law says absentee ballots must be returned by mail or in person. He also determined voters cannot have someone else return their ballot for them. Groups that support drop boxes asked to put the ruling on hold for the Feb. 15 primary for spring elections while they pursue an appeal. They argued that approach was best because the primary election is so soon. The District 4 Court of Appeals blocked the lower court ruling and ruled that ballot drop boxes may be used in the Feb. 15 primary. The ruling was issued the day before election clerks were scheduled to send voters absentee ballots. This week’s decision affects only the Feb. 15 primary. The appeals court will decide later what rules will be in place for elections after that. The appeals judges wrote that they were acting in part because they did not want voters to be confused by rules that changed so close to election day. “Given this situation, the risk of confusion — and possible disenfranchisement — is compelling,” the judges wrote in their decision. The matter has been appealed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

Biden Signs EO Making Sexual Harassment An Offense In Military's Judicial Code

President Biden, on Wednesday, signed an Executive Order, designating Sexual Harassment as an Offense in the U.S. Military's Judicial Code. Biden took the step, after it was Included in this year's National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

A Provision in the NDAA required that the President take this step to make Sexual Harassment an "Offense Punishable," in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, within 30 days of the Bill becoming Law. Biden signed that Bill, into Law at the End of December, 2021.

White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki, said this Change was a "key recommendation" from the Defense Department's Independent Review Commission on Military Sexual Assault. The Commission released about 80 Recommendations to Reform the Military Justice system's handling of these Issues in 2021. The Pentagon said they would Implement All of the Recommendations in September, 2021.

This year's NDAA, an Annual must-pass piece of Legislation that Authorizes Department of Defense Spending, included several Changes to how Sexual Harassment and Assault are Prosecuted within the U.S. Military.

Along with designating Sexual Harassment as a separate Offense, the NDAA changed how Sexual Harassment Complaints are handled within the Military. Military Commanders now have to forward Complaints of Sexual Harassment to Independent Investigators.

Commanders have also been Removed from "decisions related to the prosecution of covered crimes," which include Rape, Sexual Assault, Murder, and Manslaughter. Those Decisions will instead be moved to an Office of the Special Trial Counsel, that will be Created in each Service.

Even though the NDAA made several Changes to the way the Military handles Sexual Assault and Harassment, Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), ultimately Voted against the Legislation, arguing it did Not go far enough to Reform the system. Gillibrand has been an outspoken Advocate of Reforming the Military Justice system, and has Spearheaded Legislation to Change the system. "While there's no doubt that those are important advances, this bill does not reform the military justice system in a way that will truly help survivors get justice," Gillibrand said in December, 2021.

The White House called this year's NDAA "a historical point ... with meaningful reform of the military justice system and handling of handling of sexual assault cases."

"The President believes that this legislation takes groundbreaking steps to improve the response and ... prevention of sexual assault in the military," White House Deputy Press Secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, told Reporters traveling with the President to Kansas City, Missouri in December, 2021.

Robert Capovilla, a Partner at Capovilla & Williams and a former U.S. Army Judge Advocate, believes this step sends a Clear Message to Military Service Members that Allegations of Sexual Harassment will be taken Seriously.

"It sends a message from our President, our Commander in Chief, that sexual harassment allegations are going to be taken very seriously," Capovilla said. "I think any intent to eradicate sexual assault or harassment from the ranks is a good step and certainly a necessary step."

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

NYC MTA Chief Vows Action On Subway Safety

At the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) Monthly Board meeting Wednesday, the First since the last Fatal Subway Pushing earlier this month, Members of the Public voiced concerns about Safety during the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Since the Jan. 15 Killing of Michelle Go, Advocates and Officials have discussed adding Subway Platform Barriers, and introducing Mental Health Professionals into the Subways. The MTA has Wavered on the Viability of Platform Barriers.

“We’re going to be rolling up our sleeves on operational issues,” MTA Chief Executive Janno Lieber said. “We want to share data, identify the stations that have trouble spots, to adjust deployments, to improve communication between the teams—communication between the police, our operational professionals and what we hope and expect will be large numbers of mental health workers.”

Lieber mentioned Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) and Mayor Eric Adams’ (D) News Conference this month, in which they announced the Deployment of more Police Officers in the Subway system. The addition of Police has been the subject of much Debate, with many Riders saying an increased Presence doesn’t make them feel Safer.

The Governor’s Safe Options Support program is expected to introduce Mental Health workers into the Subway system, investing $11 million in the initiative Statewide in fiscal year 2023.

“There’s a lot of money that’s been spent on mental health in this city, and will continue to be spent on mental health and homelessness,” Lieber said. Lieber said the MTA has been “seriously engaging” on Platform Doors, but he cited Obstacles including Americans With Disabilities Act, conforming Accessibility, and the wide variety of Cars within the Subway Fleet.

Asked at a News Conference if Platform Doors are Realistic, Lieber said Only about 45 of New York’s 472 Stations could be Equipped with the Barriers.

Addressing Safety concerns, the MTA’s Chief Customer Officer, Sarah Meyer, said the Agency has “installed thousands of cameras in our system and provided thousands of clips to investigators.”

In addition to Subway Safety, some Members of the Public criticized Access-a-Ride, the City’s Paratransit service, for its Shared-Rides Policy. The Program serves eligible New Yorkers including Senior Citizens and People with Disabilities. The ongoing Pandemic has left some Immunocompromised Riders fearing for their Lives, they said.

“I cannot be safe if somebody’s not vaccinated and you don’t care,” One Member of the Public said. “You have to worry about this population of people. We use this system. It’s vital, it’s important, it’s a necessity to our well-being.”

Other Speakers emphasized that the MTA needs to Ramp-Up Construction of Elevators to serve New Yorkers with Disabilities.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

NYC Trying To Stop Gun Violence

President Biden, will be coming to New York City next week, giving a Presidential assist to Mayor Eric Adams (D) as the new Mayor battles a surge in Gun Violence. The White House announced the visit after the Shooting Deaths of Two NYPD Officers, the fourth and fifth cops Shot this month, and after Adams rolled out an ambitious and Controversial Plan to counteract the Violence. One big ask from Adams is Federal help to crack down on Gun Trafficking.

The Presidential visit suggests Biden is on board, though Federal Gun control proposals, pushed by New York City Mayors, have stubbornly gone nowhere for many years now. And another Branch of the Federal Government could be making things harder for the City, as the Supreme Court may soon strike down New York Laws that make it difficult to get a Permit to carry a concealed Gun outside the Home.

The White House said Biden and Adams plan to “discuss the Administration’s comprehensive strategy to combat gun crime, which includes historic levels of funding for cities and states to put more cops on the beat and invest in community violence prevention and intervention programs, as well as stepped up federal law enforcement efforts against illegal gun traffickers.”

Another plank in Adams’ Crime plan, tougher Bail Laws, is facing headwinds in Albany, that got stronger Wednesday, when Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) declined to get behind the Mayor’s Proposal. Adams wants Judges to have the Power to keep Defendants in Jail, before Trial, if the Judge believes they are Dangerous, a retreat from 2019 Laws placing Strict Limits on Cash Bail.

Democratic Legislative Leaders, however, are reluctant to make such changes. Hochul suggested she’ll stand with the Legislators, though her Comments leave some wiggle room for future Negotiations. “I will absolutely stand behind the fundamental promise on why we needed bail reform in the first place,” she said.

When Alvin Bragg (D) was a Candidate for Manhattan District Attorney, he spoke often about Gun Possession cases that did Not merit Harsh Prosecution or Imprisonment, saying that Not every Person, charged with such a Crime was linked to Violence. But on Wednesday, facing a Backlash over the Lenient Policies, he put in place upon taking Office earlier this month and following a String of High-Profile Shootings, the Appointment of a New Prosecutor dedicated to Preventing Gun Violence, and acknowledged that his Emphasis, if Not his Approach, had Changed.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

OH Maps Rejected Again

The fate of Ohio's State House and Senate Maps, is once more in the hands of the Ohio Supreme Court and Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor.

The Ohio Supreme Court will decide whether New Legislative Maps, approved by Republicans Saturday, either Satisfy or Skirt the wishes of Ohio Voters who overwhelmingly supported Redistricting Reform in 2015.

On Tuesday, Advocates who Sued over the First, now Rejected Maps, pointed out Problems with the Vew Versions, which could give the GOP a 57-42 advantage in the Ohio House and a 20-13 advantage in the Ohio Senate.

The Second round of Maps, which passed, Sturday evening in a 5-2 Party-Line Vote, despite Democrats' Objections, Reduce the number of Republican-leaning Seats in the Ohio House and Senate, but don't Match the Statewide Voting preferences of Voters in the Buckeye State.

"The Commission’s refusal to follow this Court’s order and comply with the Ohio Constitution reflects a stubborn intransigence toward complying with (the Ohio Constitution), and a troubling willingness to flout those mandates whenever political expediency might dictate," Attorneys wrote in Objections to the New Maps.

Because the Maps did Not receive Bipartisan Support, they could last only Four years.

Plaintiffs asked the Ohio Supreme Court to Declare the New Maps Unconstitutional, Order the Ohio Redistricting Commission to draw a Third round of Maps and Order, if necessary, a Delayed Deadline for Candidates to file Paperwork, which is currently Feb. 2, 2022.

“We object to the maps drawn by the Ohio Redistricting Commission along party lines because voters deserve better," said Jen Miller, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters, which is One of the Plaintiffs. "These are partisan, gerrymandered maps that harm voters by favoring political interests.”

The New Maps fall short of Ohioans' Voting Preferences, which amount to 54% for Republican Candidates and 46% for Democratic Candidates, over the past Decade. Instead, the New Plans crafted 57.5% House Seats and 60.6% of Senate Seats to lean Republican.

About a Dozen of the Democratic-leaning Seats are Only barely so. Time will tell whether these efforts were enough to satisfy the Ohio Supreme Court's Order Rejected Mapmakers' First attempt.

Republicans say their New Maps are close enough to the Statewide Voting Preference, and don't Violate other Parts of the Ohio Constitution, such as Compact Districts, and how Senate Incumbents are treated.

“The map that we are presenting to you does comply with the court order," House Republican Staff Member, Blake Springhetti, told the Commission Saturday. "I would say that given the time frame, we did the best we could."

Plaintiffs in the Lawsuits proposed their own Maps to the Ohio Redistricting Commission. Those Plans gave Republicans a 57-42 or 56-43 advantage in the House, depending on Election Data used, and an 18-15 advantage in the Senate.

They also pointed out places where GOP Mapmakers could have drawn Democratic Districts and chose Not to, such as Hamilton County's Senate seats. Instead of drawing Two Democratic Senate Districts in the Southwest Ohio county, the enacted Plan Packs Democratic Voters into One, Attorneys argued.

In addition to Proportionality, the Maps had other Problems, Attorneys contended. Stanford Professor, Jonathan Rodden, analyzed the New Maps and found Multiple Splits in Two Franklin County House Districts, which divided Columbus, Grove City, and Jackson Township.

The Public was cut-out of the Mapmaking process. "Not only were members of the public deprived of the opportunity to provide input on the substance of the plan, but they were also deprived of any chance to note the plan’s deficiencies under the Ohio Constitution," according to the Objection filed.

The groups that Sued over Ohio's Maps include:

- The League of Women Voters of Ohio.

- The Ohio Chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute.

- Former Attorney General Eric Holder's National Redistricting Action Fund.

- The Ohio Organizing Collaborative.

- Ohio Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

- Ohio Environmental Council.

- Sx Ohioans.

Attorneys argued that Ohio Supreme Court Oversight is needed so the Commission "finally does its job, ceases the partisan game-playing, and draws a map that reflects what the Constitution requires rather than what the Commission thinks it can get away with."

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

CA Redwood Forest Returned To Indigenous Tribes For Protection

Hundreds of acres of California Redwood Forest, have been returned to Native American Tribes for Conservation.

Nonprofit Save the Redwoods League, announced on Tuesday, that it is Transferring at least 523 acres of a Property, formerly known as Andersonia West on the Lost Coast, which is Five hours North of San Francisco, to the InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council.

The Council is made up of 10 Native Tribes, that work to Protect culturally important Lands, Waters, and Wildlife, within the Traditional Sinkyone Tribal Territory.

“It’s a real blessing,” said Priscilla Hunter, Chairwoman of the Sinkyone Council. “It’s like a healing for our ancestors. I know our ancestors are happy. This was given to us to protect.” Hunter noted that the Tribes were forcibly Removed from the Land by European American Settlers, Generations ago, after which the Forest was largely stripped for Timber.

In addition to vowing to Protect the Land, the Council has also Renamed the Land to Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ, meaning “Fish Run Place” in the Sinkyone language.

“Renaming the property Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ lets people know that it’s a sacred place; it’s a place for our Native people,” Crista Ray, a Tribal Citizen of the Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians, and Board Member of the Sinkyone Council, said in a Statement.

“It lets them know that there was a language and that there was a people who lived there long before now,” Ray said.

The Land Transfer, is Not only part of a Movement to Return Indigenous Homelands to the Ancestors of those who lived there prior to European Settlements, it’s also Save the Redwoods League’s Second Donation to the Council.

In 2012, the League Transferred a 164-acre Property to the Group for Conservation.

“For so many decades tribal voices have been marginalized in the mainstream conservation movement,” said Hawk Rosales, former Executive Director of the Council. “It’s only until very recently that they have been invited to participate meaningfully and to take a leadership role.”

This Specific piece of Land was Purchased Two years ago for $3.5 million, funded by Pacific Gas & Electric Company, in an effort to Reduce the Company’s Liability and Mend its Reputation for Damaging the Environment.

It’s the Habitat of Multiple Animals, listed under the Endangered Species Act, including the Marbled Murrelet and the Northern Spotted Owl. The Land’s former History of Damage and Pollution makes its Return to the Indigenous Community even more Signifcant.

“The Sinkyone Council today represents the Indigenous Peoples who are the original stewards of this land. Their connection to the redwood forest is longstanding, and it is deep,” Sam Hodder, President and CEO of Save the Redwoods League, said in a Statement. “We believe the best way to permanently protect and heal this land is through tribal stewardship.”

But while the News is Positive and a clear Step in the Right Direction, it has also brought attention to how Natives are spoken about and how Coverage is often phrased.

In doing Indigenous Communities Justice, we must Not only Return their Land, but Respect them.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker