Saturday, October 22, 2016

Message to RNC Members to Avoid Getting Tagged as Engaging in Poll Watching Because of Consent Decree

This is the text of an email that went out to RNC folks:

RNC Members,

Please take a few minutes to read this important information. With early and absentee voting under way and Election Day approaching, I wanted to remind you of the restrictions placed on the RNC by the consent decree in the case Democratic National Committee v. Republican National Committee.

The Consent Decree prohibits the RNC – or anyone acting on the RNC’s behalf – from engaging in “ballot security” activity, which includes, but is not limited to, efforts to prevent or remedy vote fraud, unless advance notice is given to the DNC and the U.S. District Court that enforces the Consent Decree grants permission.

The effect is that no RNC employees or RNC members acting in their capacity as members may engage in any way with certain Election Day and pre-Election Day activities.

Examples of things you are prohibited from doing in your role as an RNC member include:

· Preparing challenge lists
· Poll watching
· Recruiting or training poll watchers
· Making contact with voters at the polls
· Taking pictures or recording video at poll sites
· Informing potential voters that vote fraud is a crime
· Assisting, training or advising others who are participating in any of these activities
· Recruiting others to participate any of these activities

The prohibition on the RNC’s involvement in these activities also means that no RNC resources may be used for these activities, and that you may not use your RNC title, letterhead, business cards, or other indicia of RNC membership in connection with these activities.

If the RNC is found to violate the Consent Decree, its provisions will extend for another eight years. Currently, it is set to expire in December 17, and I ask your full cooperation in making sure that it is not extended.

Given the seriousness of the Consent Decree and the severe consequences of a violation, you are encouraged not to engage in “ballot security” activities even in your personal, state party, or campaign capacity. If you elect to do so, please be aware that the RNC in no way sanctions your activity. You are not an agent of the RNC for any such purpose.

Adherence to the Consent Decree is of the utmost importance. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to ask.

Best regards,

John Ryder

General Counsel

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
Digg! StumbleUpon

Challenge to Colorado’s Ballot Selfie Law

On October 20, 2016, Attorney Adam Frank representing Libertarian Party of Colorado Communications Director, and Libertarian National Committee Region 1 Representative, Caryn Ann Harlos, requested that Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrisey publicly affirm that their offices will not be prosecuting any violations of C.R.S.§ 1-13-712 prohibiting the sharing of a voter’s marked ballot and disclosure of the voter’s candidate selection.

This statute is blatantly unconstitutional and in violation of the fundamental right to freedom in political speech.

As stated in this communication:

Ms. Harlos would like to make and publish a video of herself filling out her ballot while describing why she is voting for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s candidate for President. As the Communications Director for a third party, it is vital to her party’s future the she be allowed to publicize her vote on social media in order to encourage others to vote for her party’s candidates in this and future elections. In short, Ms. Harlos seeks to engage in essential political speech. Prosecuting her for doing so would be blatantly unconstitutional.

Harlos has indicated her intent to direct her attorney to file a Civil Rights suit on her behalf in Federal Court seeking a temporary and permanent injunction if a positive response is not received by close of business on October 26, 2016.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
Digg! StumbleUpon

Louisiana Voter Registration Requirement Discriminates Against Naturalized Citizens

Louisiana is discriminating against Naturalized Citizens by requiring them to provide Citizenship documents when registering to vote, a requirement that is not asked of other potential voters who must simply swear they are U.S. citizens, according to a Federal lawsuit filed by two civil rights groups.

The lawsuit by the Fair Elections Legal Network and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) was filed on behalf of three naturalized citizens who must meet the requirement, which dates back to 1874. VAYLA New Orleans, a nonprofit organization that has attempted to register voters, is also a plaintiff.

The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana.

The groups also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to put this requirement on hold as the case proceeds.

CLICK HERE to read the 26 page (PDF) complaint.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
Digg! StumbleUpon

Wyoming is Requiring Citizenship Proof From Naturalized Voters

The Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office alerted County Clerks to require an undetermined number of people to provide Proof of Citizenship before allowing them to vote, stirring anger from some who say it has deterred people from casting ballots.

State Election Director Kai Schon said some Non-Citizens can apply for driver’s licenses and that information did not make it into the Voter Registration system until recently, making it necessary to ask some people to show they are qualified to vote.

“Prior to this year, there was no means of validating whether or not individuals registering to vote with a Wyoming driver’s license were citizens or not,” Schon wrote in a letter to a critic Tuesday.

The State alerted the Teton County Clerk’s Office to check 59 people early this year. The office has notified them to provide citizenship confirmation before they can vote in next month’s General Election.

Schon did not say how many voters statewide were told to verify their status.

Isabel Zumel, an Advocate for Teton County’s Latino community, has written to Secretary of State Ed Murray saying the move prevented some voting in the August Primary Election. She told Murray she knows of three people who received notice requiring them to provide Proof of Citizenship. “One of the people got very upset,” Zumel said. “I think it just made her so upset that she decided not to go forward and show the proof.”

The effort did not target a specific ethnicity, Teton County Clerk Sherry Daigle said, but she has received some angry calls from people who had received citizenship and had to go register to vote. “It wasn’t singling any specific people out at all,” she said. “It wasn’t malicious in any means.”

The State used driver’s license information from the State Department of Transportation to identify people who were originally registered as non-residents, temporary aliens or resident aliens, Schon said Wednesday.

The Election Director said some of the people on the lists may have subsequently become naturalized citizens. He said the State undertook the project to satisfy concerns of County Clerks around the State that no Non-Citizens be allowed to vote, although he said he’s not aware that any has.

Carbon County Clerk Gwen Bartlett, President of the Wyoming County Clerk’s Association, said the verification effort was a joint project between the association and the State. She said a person who may be in the State for six months on a work visa can get a driver’s license. “It’s really no different than a felon, if somebody had registered that was a felon, and our system does those checks to make sure that we don’t have felons on the roles, and then we notify them and say, ‘Hey, there’s a potential that you may be a match to a felon,’” Bartlett said.

She said she believes her office notified about five people in Carbon County and hasn’t received any complaints. Schon said the verification effort wasn’t intended to hurt or benefit any Political Party.

The Secretary of State is a Republican, as are the other four Statewide elected officials. Registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by roughly 154,000 to 44,000, according to the latest figures.

“In a state with a small population, and with outcomes of local elections having margins as slim as 10 or fewer votes, anything that impedes qualified voters from registering and voting is significant and can ultimately affect the outcome of local elections,” Zumel said in her letter to Murray.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
Digg! StumbleUpon

Friday, October 21, 2016

CO Proposition 108 Would Open State, Local Primaries to Unaffiliated Voters

Colorado voters are being asked to allow unaffiliated voters to participate in Non-Presidential Primary Elections.

The statutory Proposition 108 question reads, “Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning the process of selecting candidates representing political parties on a general election ballot, and, in connection therewith, allowing an unaffiliated elector to vote in the primary election of a political party without declaring an affiliation with that party and permitting a political party in specific circumstances to select all of its candidates by assembly or convention instead of by primary election?”

The ballot question is separate of another ballot issue, Proposition 107, which would allow unaffiliated voters to participate in Presidential Primary Elections.

Proposition 108 comes as unaffiliated voters grow tired of the two-party system. Unaffiliated voters make up one-third of voters in Colorado. The current system allows only voters affiliated with a Political Party to vote in that Party’s Primary Election.

While unaffiliated voters are allowed to affiliate with a Party up to and including the same day of the June Primary Election, many don’t want to pledge to a Party to participate in the Election, which includes State, County and Federal offices, other than President.

Proposition 108 would no longer require voters to affiliate with a Party to vote in a Non-Presidential Primary Election. Unaffiliated voters would receive a combined ballot that shows all candidates for elected office for each Political Party.

The combined ballot would be separated by Party, so that unaffiliated voters only vote in contests for one Political Party. Voting for multiple Parties would spoil the ballot. In some cases, clerks might choose to send unaffiliated voters two separate ballots, which would be divided by Party. Unaffiliated voters would return only one of the ballots.

Minor parties, such as the Green Party and Libertarian Party, would be included on the combined ballot.

There is an option in the ballot question that would allow Major Parties to opt out of holding a Primary Election that is open to unaffiliated voters. It would take a three-fourths majority vote of the State Party’s Central Committee. If the Party opts out, then it would nominate candidates in a Partisan Assembly or Convention.

Minor parties would be allowed to exclude unaffiliated voters. Only voters affiliated with the Minor Party would receive that Party’s Primary Election ballot, if the Party chooses to opt out, unlike the Major parties, which would switch to a nominating system.

A “yes” vote for Proposition 108 would allow unaffiliated voters to participate in the June Primary Election.

A “no” vote would maintain the current system, which excludes unaffiliated voters.

Supporters say Proposition 108 would give unaffiliated voters, whose tax dollars help pay for the $5 million Primary Election every two years, a chance to participate.

Proponents argue that unaffiliated participation would lead to candidates who better represent all Coloradans. It also would increase participation, supporters say.

Opponents, however, say the combined ballot would lead to confusion, in which voters would vote for multiple Parties, thereby spoiling their ballots. This would change Election results and lead to lawsuits.

There’s also the burden the initiative would place on County Clerks, who would have to print and process combined ballots, or send two separate ballots to voters.

Critics say the measure is unnecessary, pointing out that voters can register with a party up to and including election day to participate.

Parties also worry about non-members having a say over candidates who represent the Party.

Opening the vote to all voters is a first step. The problem with 107 is, it still restrict the voters to choice only one Party's candidates. The ideal fix would be to allow all voters to pick their choice of candidates, regardless of Party.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
Digg! StumbleUpon

Sustainable Food System Could Be a Trillion-Dollar Global Windfall

Credit: Larry French/AP Images for DuPont

Our planet has a very long way to go toward building a food system that is truly and genuinely sustainable, but that work, if done correctly, could come with a massive reward.

That’s the conclusion of a new report released this month by the Business and Sustainable Development Commission (BSDC), an international nonprofit hoping to make a strong bottom-line case for industries to take a more earth-friendly approach to their businesses. In its flagship report, the Commission appears to have done just that.

The report claims that taking a sustainable approach to the world’s food and agriculture challenges, like hunger, food waste and environmental degradation, could lead to new business opportunities totaling an annual $2.3 trillion, and 80 million new jobs, by 2030, based on an analysis of of industry reports and academic literature.

That economic impact would be a seven-fold return on an annual investment of $320 billion, according to the report.

What exactly is meant by a sustainable approach that could achieve this, though? The approach considered by the report is one outlined by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), or Global Goals, which were released last year with the aim of reducing poverty, hunger, and inequality around the world by 2030.

The SDG agenda calls for significant shifts in how our food is produced, processed and sold, including growing and consuming more produce and meats that have a reduced environmental impact, embracing sustainable farming practices like low- and no-till agriculture and reducing food waste at both the production and retail level.

Such shifts, the report’s author Fraser Thompson said, aren’t just “pie-in-the-sky” daydreaming or, as some critics of the SDGs have put it, byproducts of a “worthless” “high school wish list.” “It is important to stress that our business opportunities are based on currently available technologies where there is an existing model in operation in some part of the world,” Thompson said. “We deliberately took this approach to ensure that the insights from the report were feasible for business.”

According to the report, these global shifts would have the bulk of their impact in developing countries, over 90% of the forecast job creation would take place on the continents of Africa and Asia due to the large share of arable land and high future consumption growth, Thompson said.

But there are significant opportunities for the U.S. to seize as well.

The three top areas for possible economic growth tied to a more sustainable food system in the U.S. are largely focused on the consumption side of the food value chain, reducing consumer food waste, reformulating food products to be healthier, and helping consumers switch their diets away from resource-intensive products like beef and toward other proteins like poultry, pork, fish and vegetarian diets.

There are already promising examples of the sort of sustainable practices the Commission would like to see other industry leaders emulate in play throughout the world.

One of them Thompson named is Winnow, a London-based startup that is battling food waste through a “smart meter” that connects commercial kitchen operations to the cloud and allows chefs to record and analyze all the food that doesn’t get put to use. Chefs then use that information to tweak their production practices and reduce their kitchens’ food waste by 50% or more. The company’s work was recognized with a Guardian Sustainable Business award earlier this year.

The key, Thompson argues, to harnessing the impressive windfall they’ve forecast will simply be scaling up ideas like Winnow’s kitchen meter. That will require buy-in from a broad swath of businesses and consumers alike.

BSDC Chair Lord Mark Malloch-Brown said he is hopeful the research presented in the report should help industry players connect the dots. “It will require hard work by individual entrepreneurs and companies to translate this into specific businesses that earn financial returns in line with the economic opportunity we have identified,” Brown, former UN Deputy Secretary-General, wrote. “That’s hard long-term work but what we have sought to show is that the prize is worth the effort.”

Still, businesses have been slow to take action toward achieving the SDGs and consumers also appear skeptical, according to recent surveys.

According to Thompson, though, we don’t have much longer to wait before taking action toward meeting the world’s increasing food demands, which the UN has warned will grow by 60% in 2050. “The challenges facing the food system in a ‘business-as-usual’ scenario should not be underestimated,” Thompson added. “Addressing the current undernourished population and the rapid demand for food and feed – and competing demand for fuel – will require a radical rethink of past practices.”

CLICK HERE to red the report.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
Digg! StumbleUpon

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Could Donald Trump Legally Challenge Presidential Election?

Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump suggested Wednesday night that he might not accept the results of the November 8th Presidential election, and that he would "look at it at the time."

Some of Trump's defenders compared his remarks to the aftermath of the 2000 Presidential Election, when challenges by Democratic nominee Al Gore to the results in Florida culminated in the Supreme Court's controversial decision in Bush v. Gore.

Critics blasted Trump for subverting perhaps the most basic principle of our Democratic system, that Election results, reflecting the will of the people, are sacred.

Can a Presidential candidate legally "contest" election results?

Yes, but not at the National level. U.S. Elections, even for President, are administered on a State-by-State basis. Every State has its own laws governing Elections, including laws that allow, and, in some circumstances, require, that the vote be recounted if the preliminary results show a very close outcome in that State, regardless of what happens elsewhere. State laws also identify other exceptionally narrow circumstances in which challenges can be brought. And in any event, every State also has procedures for counting Absentee and Provisional ballots, many of which are counted after Election Day.

What this means in practice is that the results that are reported on Election night are, both practically and legally, preliminary, and may very well be subject to change in the days and weeks to come depending upon the different ways each State finalizes its results and resolves close calls.

We all remember Florida in 2000 because the margin between Gore and George W. Bush was razor-thin and because whoever won Florida would cross the 270-vote threshold in the Electoral College, and thereby win the Election. Fewer folks remember New Mexico that year, in which the vote was even closer than it was in Florida, and in which it took 23 days to certify the final results, because the outcome wouldn't have tipped the scales Nationally either way, Gore won the State's five Electoral votes.

This is why, when Presidential Elections are not as close, for example, in 2008 and 2012, there's far less talk of challenges or recounts. Some states may still be decided by razor-thin margins, but not enough to make a difference in which candidate received 270 or more Electoral votes.

Thus, the larger the apparent margin in the Electoral College on Election night, the harder it would be for the losing candidate to legally challenge the Election, since he or she would have to succeed in overturning the results in enough states to change the outcome in the Electoral College.

Every State's Election laws are different. At the risk of oversimplifying, there are usually two different sets of issues: Whether State Law requires the State to conduct a recount and whether State law allows one of the candidates to request a recount or some other kind of relief (e.g., whether Absentee ballots without postmarks should or should not be counted).

Either way, most States' laws impose a statewide deadline for certification of the final State-wide results, and a Federal statute, the Electoral Count Act of 1887, imposes a pair of deadlines that tend to drive the timing: a "safe harbor" deadline that guarantees that a State's chosen slate of electors will be recognized by Congress only if the State's results are certified within 35 days of the Election and a requirement that the electors, the State's Representatives to the Electoral College, be appointed 41 days after the Election.

In a nutshell, then, States usually have five weeks to resolve any challenges to the preliminary results. They can take longer, but they then run the risk that Congress would not recognize the State's reported results, and would instead decide for itself who won the state.

Unless the challenging Party can show some kind of Federal Constitutional violation, which is exceptionally rare, almost every challenge to preliminary Election results is resolved under the relevant State's law. And in every State, the authoritative meaning of State law is up to the State Supreme Court, which will usually have the last word in any dispute over the mechanics, or result, of any post-Election challenges.

Of course, the final arbiter of Presidential Elections under the Constitution is the U.S. Congress, which, by law, meets to count the Electoral votes in a joint session on January 6th.

One of the purposes of the Electoral Count Act of 1887 is to make this joint session a formality, but if there are lingering disputes arising out of States that did not meet the safe harbor deadline, it is up to Congress to settle them. And if, upon counting the Electoral votes, Congress determines that no candidate has received a majority, which has happened three times: in 1801, 1825, and 1877, the Constitution provides that the matter will be resolved by the House of Representatives, with each State casting one vote for President and the Senate choices the Vice President.

Most of the legal questions that could arise in States with contested results are State law issues that are beyond the Supreme Court's jurisdiction.

What made Florida different in 2000 was the Supreme Court's determination that the unique manner in which the Florida State Courts had ordered a manual recount violated the U.S. Constitution, the Equal Protection Clause. Because the Supreme Court thereby prevented the recount from going forward, and because the "safe harbor" deadline was the same day as the Justices' ruling, the decision had the practical effect of ending Gore's ongoing challenge to the results.

But because of both the uniqueness of the Constitutional violation in 2000 and the controversy surrounding the Supreme Court's role in the Election, it seems highly unlikely, all the more so with the Court operating with only eight Justices, that what happened in that year could repeat next month.

A Presidential candidate can challenge the preliminary results announced on Election night, they are under no obligation to "accept" those results if the margin in a large enough number of States is close enough that recounts might somehow change the National outcome. Indeed, as noted above, some State's laws might automatically require a recount if the results are sufficiently close.

But if he or she means that they might not accept the Final results as certified by each of the States, as voted upon by the Electoral College, and as confirmed by Congress, that would be unprecedented in American history.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
Digg! StumbleUpon