Focus On Democracy is dedicated to highlighting issues related to electoral reform and justice. Our democracy itself, as well as numerous issues needing our attention, from economic and environmental concerns to racial and social justice, etc., cannot make any real lasting progress until we first come together as a nation and address our broken electoral system.

Nine Month Wait for DHS Review of States’ Election Systems

Politico is reporting that there is currently a nine month waiting period for the Department of Homeland Security to get around to reviewing individual state’s election systems. That means any state already in line for a review process will not get one until the week or two before the 2018 midterms, meaning that any pertinent information gleaned or offered solutions will not have time to be implemented.

Here’s more, from Tim Starks’ piece (bolded text below is my highlight):

The scanning, known as a “risk and vulnerability assessment,” is the crème de la crème of security exams: DHS personnel come in person to do an intensive, multiweek probing of the entire system required to run an election. But department officials acknowledge that it’s of limited use if it doesn’t come soon enough for states to correct their flaws before voters go to the polls.

(…snip…)

Congress has yet to pass any bill that specifically addresses election security, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions caused consternation when he admitted in a hearing that “we’re not” doing enough to block hackers from meddling in the 2018 elections. “The matter is so complex that — for most of us — we’re not able to fully grasp the technical dangers that are out there,” he said.

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Congrats, Alabama Voters!

Congratulations to all those who turned out so hopefully in the race against Roy Moore!!! We all won because of your efforts to vote!!! Was that so difficult? It never would have happened without you, and just imagine how many of your neighbors votes were suppressed.

Democracy is on the move in America today. You are part of the vanguard. Keep pushing for the voting participation of all eligible citizens. Join the American movement for a strong democracy across the full spectrum of issues, from the right to vote for prior felons, to making voter Tuesday a national holiday, to getting big money out of politics and ending gerrymandering. There are a dozen other issues in between and we need your help in fixing them all.

-George Ripley, Focus On Democracy founder

Mis-representational Democracy: Coming to a Courthouse Near You!

Even though Pennsylvania Democratic and Republican voters are almost evenly split, gerrymandering consistently allows the GOP to get over two-thirds (13 of 18) of the state’s seats.

The Post Gazette has more:

Republican lawmakers used detailed data on the partisan leanings of voters when they created the current Pennsylvania congressional map, according to documents federal judges had ordered them to turn over in a trial that began this week.

Lawyers for House Speaker Mike Turzai and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati had fought to keep private a trove of documents as they prepared for the trial, which began Monday in Philadelphia. They also sought to block the documents in a separate, state gerrymandering trial that begins next week in Harrisburg.

After the judges ordered the documents turned over, lawyers for the Republicans asked that anything not used as evidence in the trial — the data were not introduced, although analysis of it was — be destroyed within 24 hours of the trial’s conclusion….

…similar datasets have become key pieces of evidence in other gerrymandering challenges across the country, including in North Carolina and in a case out of Wisconsin now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Pennsylvania’s map is considered one of the most extreme congressional gerrymanders in the country.”

This type of skewered result has been occurring in numerous states across the nation with more frequency since the 2010 census. Voters shouldn’t tolerate this form of “misrepresentational” democracy from either party any longer.

Urgency in Alabama

Urgency in Alabama!

Spread the word: Alabama Ex-felons, if you have done your time and paid your fine, register to vote by Nov. 27, and then vote on Dec 12th!

Alabama is the state that passed a law requiring a state photo ID for voting and then closed almost half of DMV offices in the state, those in 75% majority black counties.

The new story is that last May the state was required to clarify “moral turpitude” laws that made it possible for counties to prevent all former felons from voting. The new ruling clearly established which felonies were “crimes of moral turpitude”. By defining which crimes are in this category, voting rights can be restored for an estimated 90-140,000 former felons living in the state. The problem is that no effort at all has been made by the state to spread the word of this decision, so tens of thousands of qualified voters remain unregistered.

Here is the urgency! They have one week left during which to register and we need to get the word out that they need to be registered by Nov 27th.

-George Ripley, Focus on Democracy founder

Unite the Electoral Reform Movement

It is time to create a United Front, a unified national movement for comprehensive electoral reform which addresses the full spectrum of issues and is based upon prioritized best practices.

All of the institutions working for electoral reform, both major and minor, must join together in agreement upon the priorities which must be addressed and the best practices which must be demanded in omnibus legislation. We must fight together for our democracy until we have achieved legislative remedies for all the many problems with our elections.

Only if we unite and agree to sing off the same sheet of music, making the same demands, can we hope to achieve the promise of democracy. Until we show our transparent intent and our strength in numbers, we will never get the participation of those eligible voters, 50% of whom have given up and don’t even bother to vote anymore.

Labor, the environment, healthcare, education, racial injustice, economic disparity, etc. all have recognized and powerful movements known throughout the nation. (And all of them would benefit from a more vibrant democracy strengthened through comprehensive electoral reform.) But have you ever heard of a powerful Democracy movement? No, because we haven’t united across the spectrum of issues. Groups are still working separately.

We need to Unite the Electoral Reform movement if we ever hope to win change from the people who like things just the way they are.

-George Ripley, Focus on Democracy founder

ACLU’s Let People Vote Event

From the ACLU’s website:

LAWRENCE, Kan. – At a launch event livestreamed from the University of Kansas, staff and volunteers with The American Civil Liberties Union launched a new grassroots campaign in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to restore and expand Americans’ voting rights. Driven by the organization’s People Power organizing platform, the new campaign will connect thousands of volunteers across the country with localized opportunities to advocate for state and local policies that make it easier for people to vote. The live-streamed event was broadcast in front of a live audience of 800 to more than 500 viewing parties in every state, for a total of 100,000 viewers across the nation.

The campaign will involve initiatives individually tailored to each state and taken up by grassroots activists, working in concert with ACLU state affiliate offices. Highlights of the campaign include:

  • Supporting a ballot initiative to restore coring rights to 1.6 million Floridians who have been convicted of crimes and have served their time;
  • Working with allies in Georgia to push for an independent redistricting commission;
  • Pushing back against attempts in West Virginia to narrow the types of identification voters can use at polling locations; and
  • Working with Kansans to fight for Election Day voter registration.

Read more on the ACLU website.

Crosscheck in MI, AZ and NC

While the final numbers of voters disenfranchised in the 2016 election by various means are still being investigated, we do at least have the numbers now for how many voters in Michigan, Arizona and North Carolina were initially targeted by Kris Kobach’s Crosscheck list as being voters who were suspected of voting in two states and thus whose votes should be discounted.

The trouble is, voter fraud is a crime, and Crosscheck alleged that over a million voters in MI, AZ and NC were criminals but not one single person from the list has been charged with a felony for voting in two states. But how many thousands and thousands on this list were purged from the voter rolls or given provisional ballots that then were not counted? The stats from the 2016 election continue to support the suspicion that the election was stolen. And if the election was stolen at the presidential level, how many illegitimate down-ballot officeholders do we have in states now?