Two Bills to Improve Voter Participation in CA

By the Indivisible East Bay Voter Rights and Election Integrity team

Updated May 26, 2018

Our democracy is fundamental to who we are as a nation, and our right to vote is the foundation of our democracy. Two bills pending in the California legislature offer different paths to reach a common goal: facilitating and increasing voter participation in communities with low voter turnout — workers, students, and the incarcerated.

Election Day Holiday – AB 2165

AB 2165 – Election Day Holiday, was introduced by two Bay Area assembly members, Rob Bonta (Oakland) and Evan Low (San Jose). In April the Indivisible East Bay Governance Committee voted to submit a letter supporting AB 2165 to the California Assembly Committee on Governmental Organization. The bill passed that committee and is now in the Appropriations Committee.

California state law lets workers take two hours off without losing pay to cast a ballot, so why make Election Day a holiday? The bill expands the current law, making it easier for students and school and state employees to vote, for schools to serve as easily accessible polling places, and for students to serve as poll workers.

This is far from being a solution in search of a problem: in 2014 California voters turned out in historically low numbers — only 42% of those registered participated in the general election and a dismal 25% participated in the primary. Nationally, turnout for the 2014 election was below 37%. According to the Pew Research Center, work and school conflicts were the most common reason that eligible voters did not vote in 2014: 35% of respondents said scheduling conflicts with work or school kept them from getting to the polls. Overall voter turnout in the US rarely breaks 60%; we rank 120th out of 169 countries for average turnout. Countries that outperform the US have different methods to elect officials, but many have one thing in common: they have Election Day off.

All Californians should have unfettered access to the polls and should be able to cast their vote in a neighborhood precinct on Election Day. We must do everything possible to make it easier for people in all communities to vote, including removing barriers that prevent those who want to vote from doing so. Assembly member Low hopes that making Election Day a legal holiday will help low-income communities participate in elections.

An Election Day holiday would expand access to voter participation and draw attention to often-overlooked midterm elections. It would commit the state to civic engagement and education by making clear that not only is voting a right and a responsibility, it’s one we take seriously enough to set aside our work obligations so we can all carry it out. It should not be “at the discretion of an employer” whether someone has time to vote, nor should anyone be concerned about their standing at their job, or of lost income because they vote.

We can help make Election Day a holiday and a celebration of our voting rights in California. AB 2165 is now awaiting fiscal analysis in the Appropriations Committee, which must act on the bill by May 24 in order for it to pass. California Senate and Assembly committees represent all Californians, and the Appropriations committee needs to hear from us in order for the bill to pass.

We can help make Election Day a holiday and a celebration of our voting rights in California. Though AB 2165 has successfully passed every Assembly committee hearing thus far, it is now being held in committee under submission.

We need to really turn up the heat so please call your Assemblymember right away! What to say:

My name is ______, and my zip code is _____. I’m a constituent, and a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to ask Assemblymember ______ to throw [his/her] support behind AB 2165, which is being held under submission. Neighborhood polling places are crucial to maintaining access for the elderly, single parents, for those without transportation or time to vote. An Election Day holiday will help all around by increasing polling locations, numbers of poll workers, overall excitement and participation in voting. Election Day should be a public celebration! AB 2165 will make explicit that the State of California upholds the foundation of our democracy. I urge your support and ask for your help in moving this bill forward.

Also, please spread the word to anyone you know in districts AD 18 (Bonta, Oakland), AD 20 (Quirk, Hayward), who are on the Appropriations Committee where AB 2165 is being held, and anyone in the San Diego area which is Appropriations Committee Chair Fletcher’s district.

 

Jails: Voter Education Program – AB 3115

AB 3115 – Jails: Voter Education Program addresses a need many don’t even know exists. While working people and students grapple with finding time to get to the polls, at least they’re usually aware they are eligible to vote. Many Californians with criminal convictions don’t know that they have that right, or don’t know how to exercise it. In fact, only felons serving their sentences and those on parole are barred from voting, but detainees, including those charged with misdemeanors and those awaiting trial, often think they can’t vote. Some jail officials also believe, incorrectly, that detainees can’t vote. And logistics often make it difficult or impossible for prisoners to register and/or vote. Many formerly incarcerated people are also unclear about their rights.

No eligible voter should be kept from exercising their right to vote for lack of understanding or access. California enacted AB 2466 in 2016 to clarify who can and cannot vote, but confusion persists, particularly when it comes to prisoners. AB 3115 would require county jails to allow at least one outside organization to provide voter education to prisoners to help them understand and exercise their rights. If passed, the bill would help remove the obstacles volunteers encounter coordinating with authorities and gaining access to prisoners.

Studies show that access to voting is strongly linked to lower recidivism. Access to voting has also been shown to re-ignite a sense of participation and citizenship that many people with criminal convictions feel they’ve lost. When people feel more connected to their community, they’re more likely to become contributing, productive citizens when they re-enter their communities. This means that improving prisoner education and access to voting will improve public safety. Because we in Indivisible East Bay know that by educating disenfranchised communities we can increase voting access to tens of thousands inside California jails who have historically been denied their right to register or cast a ballot, the IEB Governance Committee submitted a letter in support of this bill to the Assembly Public Safety Committee on April 9.

Updated May 26, 2018: 

Voter education is just as important as voter registration! AB 3115 awaits a critical vote on the floor of  the Assembly. Please call your Assemblymember before the end of May. What to say:

My name is ______, and my zip code is _____. I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay and a constituent of Assemblymember ______, I’m calling in support of AB 3115, which requires county jails to allow an outside group to provide voter education and help those eligible with registration. Voting is our fundamental right as Americans. If a person is eligible to vote, whether confined to jail or not, this right must be honored, not suppressed. I urge ______ to help by supporting AB 3115.

 

Are you interested in working with the IEB Voter Rights and Election Integrity team? Send us an email or join the voting-issues channel on IEB’s Slack.

 

Nobody Is Above the Law

Update 5/1/18:  On April 26, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed Senate bill 2644 , the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, which would protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation. Senator Grassley, chair of the committee, asked for a prompt vote by the full Senate. Majority Leader McConnell has previously said he would not bring a bill to protect the Mueller investigation to the Senate floor for a vote, however if 51 senators want to receive a vote, they can force one over McConnell’s obstruction. Please call your Senators to urge that they demand a floor vote on S. 2644.

Use Stand Up America’s resource to plan a visit to your Senator’s office, to speak to them or their staff in person.

Indivisible Guide is on high alert, and has prepared this updated page to guide us through what we need to do if Trump fires Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. As they explain, “By firing Rosenstein—Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s boss, the person overseeing the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election—Trump is obstructing justice. This means we are facing a full-on threat to our democracy and a constitutional crisis.”

MoveOn, Indivisible, and many other groups are using these basic “red lines,” which would trigger mass protest if Trump crosses one:

  • If Trump fires Mueller
  • If Trump issues pardons of key witnesses
  • If Trump takes another action that would prevent the investigation from being conducted freely, such as replacing Mueller’s current supervisor, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, or repealing the regulations establishing the office

What you can do now:

  • Read the Indivisible Guide toolkit
  • See MoveOn’s Mueller’s Firing Rapid Response – The Plan. It includes the general plan, and also addresses something that we’re all wondering — what happens AFTER we hit the streets?
  • Find and RSVP to attend a Nobody Is Above the Law rapid response rally near you (800 events as of April 10, 2018)
  • No local rally? Sign up to host one
  • Spread the word by sending the link to everyone who’d be interested
  • Call your Members of Congress, and urge them to do all they can to protect the Special Counsel.
    • Updated 4/30/18: call your Senators to ask them to demand a vote on and support the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act (S. 2644) to protect Mueller and the Russia investigation.
    • This is a historical overview of the bills introduced to protect the investigation, none of which have progressed:
      • As of April 11, 2018, the Senate Judiciary Committee moved forward with legislation to limit Trump‘s ability to fire Mueller. The bill merged S. 1735 and S. 1741 (see below). 
      • Senate: S. 1735 led by Senators Graham and Booker
      • Senate: S. 1741 led by Senators Coons and Tillis
      • House: H.R. 3654, led by Representative Jackson Lee –thank Reps Lee, DeSaulnier and Swalwell for co-sponsoring,
      • House: H.R. 4669, Discharge Petition to Require Speaker to Call a Vote on Special Counsel Integrity Act. Info here.
  • See Indivisible’s earlier article with info and a great call script.
  • See the Wall of Us action
  • Read background info at our original article, and our updated article
  • Read the Lawyers for Good Government 33-year timeline of Trump-Russia connections here

And prepare if we need to hit the streets:

  • Read the ACLU’s article Know Your Rights: Free Speech, Protests & Demonstrations
  • Download the ACLU’s Mobile Justice app to record police activity and send it immediately to the ACLU affiliate nearest you. Get the California app, MobileJusticeCA
  • Put the National Lawyers Guild hotline numbers into your phone, and write them on your arm in ink:
    • to call from local jails ONLY: 415-285-1011
    • outside of jail calls, call NLG hotline volunteers: 415-909-4NLG (4654)
    • if no answer, send an email to the NLG Demonstrations Committee at nlgsfhotline@protonmail.com
  • Prepare a go-bag with:
    • charged cell phone and portable power if you have
    • water bottle and energy bars or other portable food
    • layers of clothing to add if it gets cold
    • a sign with your message

Resistance go bag

Here’s some background: John Oliver dubbed it “Stupid Watergate,” but many believe the lies and smear campaigns Trump and many Republicans are flinging to discredit the FBI and derail investigations by Special Counsel Mueller and Congressional committees into Trump/Russia have already done more damage to our democracy than the GOP’s bungled break-in, attempted cover-up, and Saturday Night Massacre did back in 1973.

As Mueller’s investigation into collusion and obstruction of justice allegations closes in on the Current Occupant of the White House, fears of a constitutional crisis mount. Initially, the triggering event for a crisis was seen as Trump firing Mueller, mirroring Nixon’s orders to fire independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox. But in what is more like “Evil Watergate” the strategy has morphed into escalating assaults on the FBI, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and others. The Current Occupant, several GOP toadies, and right-wing media are sowing chaos, pushing fake scandals, and besmirching reputations, in not-even-thinly veiled attempts to divert, curtail, or shut down the investigations.

 

Keep Calm and Postcard On

BREAKING NEWS! IEB’s next postcard party & social meetup will be held on Sunday June 9 from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm, at Caffe Trieste (aka Caffe San Pablo), 2500 San Pablo Ave. Berkeley.  RSVP (not required, but it’ll help us know what supplies to bring for you). Please join us!

How to follow up your Cinco de Mayo Saturday? Come to Indivisible East Bay’s second postcard party on Sunday, May 6, from noon to 2 PM. Our first postcard party in March was a huge success, with 50 IEB members & friends coming together to write 300 postcards:

  • 60 for Emily Antul (local MA race) – won on 4/4/18!
  • 62 for Rebecca Dallet (WI Supreme Court) – won on 4/4/18!
  • 164 for Dr. Hiral Tipirneni (US Congress AZ) – election is 4/24/18

This is what a pile o’ 300 postcards looks like:

Postcard party

Perfect for blue state activists, postcards are a fun and effective way to help get the message out to faraway red districts and states. Postcard resisters meet in cafes and living rooms, around tables full of snacks and a rainbow assortment of pens and markers that make even the most artsy-challenged among us grin.

All are welcome — from the postcard-curious to committed carders. Bring a friend, and make some new ones there! We’ll explain everything and have newbies up and writing in a few minutes. We provide addresses and samples of what to write for each campaign — most from Postcards to Voters, and we can also give you the lowdown on other options.

  • You can bring your own postcards (if there’s an image or text it should be content-neutral) or we’ll have some there for you to use – designed and donated by IEB’s super postcard party organizer Michael.
  • If you have postcard stamps (.35 ea for cards a max of 6″ x 4.25″) please bring them, or we’ll have stamps for you (not donated, so we’ll just ask you to reimburse us for the cost).
  • We’ll also have pens, markers, stickers, washi tape, and most importantly – snacks and friendly chat as we write to resist!

Already a verified postcard writer? Bring your own addresses if you want. Like to learn more about activist postcard-ing? See our article “The Pen (plus .35 stamp) Is Mightier Than Yelling At Your TV.” 

The El Cerrito Royale is a short walk from El Cerrito Del Norte BART station and is wheelchair accessible. Free parking.

Postcard parties
Postcard parties, photo by Heidi Rand

Want to get started writing on your own? Go to Postcards to Voters or the P2V Facebook page: volunteers in every state have collectively written over half a million postcards to voters in dozens of key, close elections. After you sign up you have to get verified: follow the directions to write your first postcard, take a photo and send it to be checked. Get started using one of these options:

  • Click here to fill out a volunteer form, or
  • Send an email to join@TonyTheDemocrat.org or
  • Text HELLO to ABBY The Address Bot at 1-484-ASK-ABBY (1-484-275-2229)

Once you’re verified, request the number of addresses you’d like:

  • Click here, or
  • Send an email to postcards@TonyTheDemocrat.org, including the number of addresses you want, or
  • Text ABBY The Address Bot at 1-484-ASK-ABBY (1-484-275-2229), or
  • New! Use Facebook Messenger to send a direct message to Abby the Address Bot (it’s free for Postcards to Voters, whereas they pay for texting). You must provide a texting phone number even if you’re using the FB Messenger feature because Abby is a texting robot. Click here for more info about Abby.

Or you can use another great group to write about specific issues. At Postcards for America and its main Facebook group and state sub-groups — ours is Postcards for America / California — people write postcards to their own federal and state elected officials, or other targeted parties, on issues that concern them. Search the master issues list at Postcarder Calls to Action,

Read our original article for more complete info about postcard activism.

Interested? Want to let us know about your own postcard parties? Email us or contact @heidirand on Slack.  

Are You Watching Big Brother TV?

Never heard of Sinclair Broadcast Group before? The largest owner of television stations in the country, Sinclair currently owns or operates more than 170 stations in nearly 80 markets, with affiliate stations on networks including ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox. Sinclair, which struck a deal in 2016 with the Trump campaign to give it better coverage, has a strong right-wing slant.

If you didn’t already know about Sinclair, we bet you got a rude intro on March 31, when a video by Timothy Burke of Deadspin went viral — the blood-curdling Orwellian mashup shows dozens of local Sinclair affiliate “news” anchors reading in lock-step a promotional campaign condemning national news outlets for pushing “fake stories,” an obvious echo of Current Occupant’s inflammatory tweets and remarks about “fake news.” John Oliver lambasted the move, calling the anchors “members of a brainwashed cult.”

This list of Sinclair stations shows that many are in rural areas which often have no alternative stations for people to choose. And as Media Matters’ Pamela Vogel pointed out in an April 2, 2018 video interview:

For poor, working class folks or black and Latino communities specifically, they’re less likely to have cable which means that the choices for trusted news are very limited to the local stations for the most part, if you’re still using TV to get your news. It really just sort of magnifies the exploitation level, in my opinion, of what’s going on here. And I think what’s also interesting when you tune into– if you’re somebody who watches cable news and you tune into CNN, or Fox, or MSNBC you kind of know what you’re getting yourself into, you know what you want to watch.

Not content with its current monopoly, Sinclair is trying to buy Tribune Media, a merger that would put Sinclair’s right-wing programming, including must-run stories, in front of more than 70 percent of households. Tribune owns 42 stations in many of the country’s largest cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, and Denver, and reaches more than 50 million households. Their application is currently pending before the Federal Communications Commission. 

House Resolution 3478, introduced in July 2017 by Representatives Jared Huffman (D-CA 2) and David Price (D-NC) “would protect local television markets across the country from corporate consolidation by permanently ending the so-called ‘UHF discount,’ an obsolete FCC loophole that the Trump administration wants to revive to benefit right-wing media conglomerates. If the UHF discount is allowed to go into effect, a series of pending corporate mergers, including one with the Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Media, would dramatically reduce competition among local TV stations across the country.” Representative Mark DeSaulnier (CA 11) was an early co-sponsor of H.R. 3478, but Reps Lee and Swalwell have not yet co-sponsored.

There are many ways you can help preserve independent media. What you can do:

Call your Members of Congress and urge them to prevent the Sinclair-Tribune merger. Thank Rep DeSaulnier for co-sponsoring H.R. 3478, and ask Reps Lee and Swalwell to co-sponsor it.

My name is _______ and my zip code is ________. I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to urge the Senator/Representative to oppose the merger of Sinclair Broadcasting and Tribune Media. The merger would expand Sinclair’s reach to a massive 72% of US households, and threatens the fundamental principles of local broadcasting and independent media. Thank you.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065

Or send your MoCs the same message through Countable or the Coalition to Save Local Media. They both have great info and talking points, and you can also tweet or post to FB at the Coalition’s page.

File a public comment opposing the merger on the Federal Communication Commission’s website. The proceeding number is 17-179. You can also call the FCC at (888) 225-5322, but you may be directed to the website.

And there’s more!

Read Media Matters‘ Short History of the Right-wing Politics of Sinclair Broadcasting.

Use the cool Sinclair Finder app to find and contact your nearby Sinclair stations: just enter a location and the app gives you the closest stations, their phone numbers, and a suggested script. Pass it on to your friends and family!

We don’t usually include signing petitions in our calls to action, but this Credo Action page gives valuable info and shows the petition it previously delivered to the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice Antitrust Division. Credo Action told us it hopes to update the petition, but their script is a good concise summary that still works as a quick talking point:

Block Sinclair Broadcast Group’s proposed purchase of Tribune Media, which would create ‘the largest TV broadcast company in the nation’ and result in unacceptable levels of media concentration.

Listen, watch, support, and donate to progressive media:

  • Progressive Voices provides politically progressive content to consumers via mobile device and online.
  • Free Speech TV is a national, independent news network committed to advancing progressive social change.

Graphic copyright Timothy Burke, Deadspin

Racial Justice Task Force Forums

Racial justice community forums

The Contra Costa County Racial Justice Task Force was created by the Board of Supervisors in April 2016, and given a mandate to:

  • Research and identify consensus measures within the County to reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system;
  • Plan and oversee implementation of the measures once identified; and
  • Report back to the Board of Supervisors on progress made toward reducing racial disparities within the criminal justice system.

The Task Force has developed draft recommendations for the County to reduce racial disparities in the justice system, and it will host three community Forums in May 2018 to present the recommendations and solicit community input and feedback before it takes them to Board of Supervisors in June 2018.

  • Monday, May 7, 6-8 PM: Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church 55 Eckley Ln, Walnut Creek
  • Tuesday, May 8, 6-8 PM: Delta Bay Church of Christ 13 Sunset Dr, Antioch
  • Wednesday, May 9, 6-8 PM: Catholic Charities, West County Service Center, 217 Harbour Way Richmond

You can also provide input to the Task Force online at this link. Click here to see a list of the Task Force’s 17 members, and meeting locations and agendas for each monthly meeting, held the first Wednesday of every month at 1 PM.

CoCo Sheriff Retaliates Against Advocates Helping Detainees

The Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office, under investigation for mistreatment of ICE detainees, has retaliated against the group that helped the detainees and helped spark the investigation.

On March 6, 2018, the office of Sheriff Livingston terminated the visitation program at the West County Detention Facility (WCDF) that the non-profit advocacy group Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) had operated to assist detainees and their families. Since 2011, CIVIC volunteers have been providing services to the families of detainees and post-release support to those who are released or deported. They are sometimes the only people the detainees can talk to about their cases, or their only contact with the outside world if their family is far away or can’t visit.

The Sheriff claimed that volunteers violated policy, but CIVIC asserts that the revocation was in retaliation for its part in bringing immigrants’ allegations of abuse at the facility to the light of day, which led to investigations by state and federal officials.

While CIVIC works with the ACLU to contest the revocation, here are several things we can do to help CIVIC and the detainees and their families:

  • Learn more about CIVIC here and sign up here to get updates and alerts from the Friends of CIVIC about how you can help.
  • Read the ACLU’s letter to the Sheriff’s office.
  • Attend events to support the detainees held at WCDF, 5555 Giant Highway, Richmond. The Interfaith Coalition for Human Rights holds a monthly vigil there, usually on the first Saturday of every month – check their calendar for exact date and time. Kehilla Community Synagogue’s Immigration Committee holds a protest at WCDF the second Sunday of each month, from 11 AM to 12 PM.
  • Call the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office at (925) 335-1500 to express your concern about the Sheriff’s current action, and urge them to restore CIVIC’s visitation program.
  • Please sign petitions that Together We Will Contra Costa launched, and which IEB and many other groups have co-sponsored, to ask local Democratic representatives who have endorsed Sheriff Livingston to rescind their endorsements.

Are you a constituent of Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11)? If so, please thank him for his hard work in support of immigrants, as reported in the San Francisco Chronicle on March 9:

U.S. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier says it’s time for Contra Costa County to end its relationship with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The Democratic congressman from Concord, who recently toured the Richmond jail that the county leases to the federal government for detention of undocumented immigrants, said that the Contra Costa County sheriff’s office’s move this week to ban volunteers from visiting immigrants inside the jail — to check on their well-being — was the last straw.

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095

Read our article about the statement released by the ICE Out of California Coalition, signed by IEB and other groups.

Photograph by Boardhead (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

The Pen (plus .35 stamp) Is Mightier Than Yelling At Your TV

BREAKING NEWS! We’re having our May postcard party this weekend! Sunday May 6 from noon to 2 PM at the El Cerrito Royale, please let us know you’re interested by RSVP’ing here (so we know how many cards/stamps to bring, plus… snacks!)  And see more information here.

Can’t canvass? Phone phobic? Tired of texting? Or just want a new tool to add to your activism kit? The grassroots resistance is made stronger when we all contribute our diverse skills and interests, and apply our ingenuity to use new and old techniques and technology to reach out to get people informed and motivated.

So – think postcards! Old-school analog paper and pen, sent anywhere in the USA for a mere thirty-five cents. Perfect for blue state activists, postcards are a fun and effective way to help flip faraway red districts and states. You can do it alone while you watch the news (gah…), or come out and join one of the many postcard parties popping up all over. Postcard resisters meet in cafes and living rooms, around tables full of snacks and a rainbow assortment of pens and markers that make even the most artsy-challenged among us grin.

Postcard parties
Postcard parties, photo by Heidi Rand

A few basics:

  • Some groups write postcards directly to other voters, others write to Members of Congress or other officials and groups about specific issues. If you’re postcard-ing on your own, decide which most suits your interest, and if you want to attend a party, check in advance what they have planned.
  • Before you go to a postcard party, check whether you need to bring your own stamps and postcards. Most parties will have stamps and/or cards for you to purchase at their cost, or will ask for a donation. At minimum the organizer will provide addresses and what you will write on each card for the specific campaign.
  • Currently stamps cost 35 cents for postcards sized a maximum of 6″ x 4.25″. If your postcard is larger than that, you must use a first-class letter stamp (currently .50). Is your local PO out? You can order online for a small delivery fee: pre-stamped postcards for .39 each, or the current forever seashell postcard stamps.
  • You can buy postcards specifically designed to send to voters, use appropriate postcards you already have (nothing controversial, please), or download and print professionally designed cards from Postcards From the People and the Postcards For the Resistance tumblr page, which also has a helpful summary about how to print postcards at home.
  • Or you can make your own postcards! Cut up stiff card-stock sized to a max of 6″ x 4.25″. Cut up a piece of letter-sized card-stock (8.5″ x 11″) to make four perfectly good postcards! USPS regs specify the minimum thickness for a postcard; since most of us don’t have a ruler to measure that small, your best bet is to feel whether the paper resembles the heft of commercial postcards. Most construction paper is not thick enough.
Original artwork by Raelene Coburn
Original postcard artwork by Raelene Coburn

And now, for the meat and potatoes, check out the two main groups. 

First, Postcards to Voters and its Postcards to Voters Facebook page: volunteers in every state have collectively written over half a million postcards to voters in dozens of key, close elections. After you sign up you have to get verified: follow the directions to write your first postcard, take a photo and send it to be checked. Get started using one of these options:

  • Click here to fill out a volunteer form, or
  • Send an email to join@TonyTheDemocrat.org or
  • Text HELLO to ABBY The Address Bot at 1-484-ASK-ABBY (1-484-275-2229)

Once you’re verified, request the number of addresses you’d like:

  • Click here, or
  • Send an email to postcards@TonyTheDemocrat.org, including the number of addresses you want, or
  • Text ABBY The Address Bot at 1-484-ASK-ABBY (1-484-275-2229), or
  • New! Use Facebook Messenger to send a direct message to Abby the Address Bot (it’s free for Postcards to Voters, whereas they pay for texting). You must provide a texting phone number even if you’re using the FB Messenger feature because Abby is a texting robot. Click here for more info about Abby.

Second, through Postcards for America and its main Facebook group and state sub-groups — ours is Postcards for America / California — people write postcards to their own federal and state elected officials on issues that concern them. Search the master issues list at Postcarder Calls to Action,

And breaking news! Indivisible East Bay is throwing postcard parties — save the date for our first: Sunday March 18 from noon to 2 PM at Sports Basement in Berkeley.  All info, a map, and register (free) here.

Interested? Want to let us know about your own postcard parties? Email us or contact @heidirand on Slack.  

Postcard parties
Photo by Heidi Rand

Destroying Democracy: Worse than Watergate, More than Mueller

This article is current as of April 12, 2018, and includes background information (below). For latest developments, please see our updated article at: https://indivisibleeb.org/2018/04/12/nobody-is-above-the-law

On April 9, the FBI served a no-knock warrant on the office and hotel room of Trump’s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen, who paid $130,000 to hush up Stormy Daniels. Hours later an enraged Trump spoke about firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at a White House briefing on April 10 that Trump believes he has the power to fire Mueller. If you’re not up to speed, see our “background” section below.

MoveOn, Indivisible, and many other groups are calling for all of us to flood the streets if Trump fires Mueller, or if another “red line” is crossed:

  • If Trump fires Mueller
  • If Trump issues pardons of key witnesses
  • If Trump takes another action that would prevent the investigation from being conducted freely, such as replacing Mueller’s current supervisor, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, or repealing the regulations establishing the office

What you can do now:

  • See MoveOn’s Mueller’s Firing Rapid Response – The Plan. It includes the general plan, and also addresses something that we’re all wondering — what happens AFTER we hit the streets?
  • Find and RSVP to attend a Nobody Is Above the Law rapid response rally near you (800 events as of April 10, 2018)
  • No local rally? Sign up to host one
  • Spread the word by sending the link to everyone who’d be interested
  • Call your Members of Congress, and urge them to do all they can to protect the Special Counsel. This is a list of legislation pending in the Senate and House:
    • As of April 11, 2018, the Senate Judiciary Committee is moving forward with legislation to limit Trump‘s ability to fire Mueller. The bill merges S. 1735 and S. 1741 (see below). Ask Senators Feinstein and Harris to back this merged bill.
    • Senate: S. 1735 led by Senators Graham and Booker — ask Senators Feinstein and Harris to co-sponsor,
    • Senate: S. 1741 led by Senators Coons and Tillis — ask Senators Feinstein and Harris to co-sponsor,
    • House: H.R. 3654, led by Representative Jackson Lee –thank Reps Lee, DeSaulnier and Swalwell for co-sponsoring,
    • House: H.R. 4669, Discharge Petition to Require Speaker to Call a Vote on Special Counsel Integrity Act. Info here. Ask Reps Lee, DeSaulnier, and Swalwell to sign the Discharge Petition.
  • See Indivisible’s article with info and a great call script.
  • See the Wall of Us action
  • Read background info at our original article, and our updated article
  • Read the Lawyers for Good Government 33-year timeline of Trump-Russia connections here

And prepare if we need to hit the streets:

  • Read the ACLU’s article Know Your Rights: Free Speech, Protests & Demonstrations
  • Download the ACLU’s Mobile Justice app to record police activity and send it immediately to the ACLU affiliate nearest you. Get the California app, MobileJusticeCA
  • Put the National Lawyers Guild hotline numbers into your phone, and write them on your arm in ink:
    • to call from local jails ONLY: 415-285-1011
    • outside of jail calls, call NLG hotline volunteers: 415-909-4NLG (4654)
    • if no answer, send an email to the NLG Demonstrations Committee at nlgsfhotline@protonmail.com
  • Prepare a go-bag with:
    • charged cell phone and portable power if you have
    • water bottle and energy bars or other portable food
    • layers of clothing to add if it gets cold
    • a sign with your message

Resistance go bag

Here’s some background: John Oliver dubbed it “Stupid Watergate,” but many believe the lies and smear campaigns Trump and many Republicans are flinging to discredit the FBI and derail investigations by Special Counsel Mueller and Congressional committees into Trump/Russia have already done more damage to our democracy than the GOP’s bungled break-in, attempted cover-up, and Saturday Night Massacre did back in 1973.

As Mueller’s investigation into collusion and obstruction of justice allegations closes in on the Current Occupant of the White House, fears of a constitutional crisis mount. Initially, the triggering event for a crisis was seen as Trump firing Mueller, mirroring Nixon’s orders to fire independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox. But in what is more like “Evil Watergate” the strategy has morphed into escalating assaults on the FBI, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and others. The Current Occupant, several GOP toadies, and right-wing media are sowing chaos, pushing fake scandals, and besmirching reputations, in not-even-thinly veiled attempts to divert, curtail, or shut down the investigations.

See our previous articles here and here.

 

No Taxation Without Representation

More than 6 million American citizens are not permitted to vote because they have a past criminal conviction. California is better than many states in allowing formerly incarcerated people to vote once they have successfully finished probation, but nearly 180,000 California citizens, most of them people of color, are prohibited from voting only because they’re in state prison or on parole. Initiate Justice, which advocates for “people directly impacted by incarceration, inside and outside prison walls,” believes this is a wrong that can be righted; the Voting Restoration and Democracy Act of 2018 (VRDA), their statewide ballot initiative, would restore voting rights to these citizens and prohibit the disenfranchisement of voters because they are imprisoned or on parole for a felony conviction.

Help California join Maine and Vermont, currently the only states that don’t deprive felons of their right to vote even while they’re incarcerated. For more information see this article about states’ varied approaches to voting rights for felons; and read Restoring the Right to Vote, a pdf booklet by the Brennan Center for Justice.

In order to get the VRDA initiative on the November 2018 California ballot, Initiate Justice needs to get more than 550,000 signatures from registered CA voters by April 17, 2018. You can help:

  • Before you begin, read complete talking points; and watch the video at this page
  • This page on the Initiate Justice website has complete instructions and links for you to download and print signature-gathering petitions, or have them mailed to you
  • Want to help more? Email IEB’s voting team, or join the voting-issues channel on Slack (email info@indivisibleeb.org for an invite to IEB’s Slack platform).

And while we’re on the subject — all of you who ARE eligible to vote, don’t squander that precious right! Please, right now:

  • Are you eligible and not registered? Register online to vote in California
  • Do you have to re-register? Check when you must, here, and if so, re-register!
  • Haven’t checked your registration? Check it now!
  • Do you know any 16- or 17- year olds? Check their eligibility, and help them pre-register online, to vote at 18!
  • Then: ask everyone you know the above questions, and if they’re eligible to vote, help them follow the same steps.

Here are some other very helpful sites which can be used for people in states other than California.

  • Vote.org offers lots of information, and it’s easy to remember (note that it requires you to provide an email address)
  • Indivisible has partnered with TurboVote to help you sign up to receive election reminders, get registered to vote, apply for your absentee ballot, and more
  • The National Association of Secretaries of States’ website helps eligible voters figure out how and where to vote
 Graphic by Democracy Chronicles / Creative Commons

Liberty and Justice For All

“Liberty and Justice for All” – these are words we don’t always associate with this administration’s immigration policy. But Contra Costa Deputy Public Defender Immigration Attorney Ali Saidi informed and inspired a large crowd in El Sobrante on January 27 about “Immigration Realities” and the new, innovative Stand Together CoCo immigrant rapid-response program. Courageous Resistance / Indivisible El Sobrante – Richmond hosted the talk, which was attended by local political leaders, community members, and representatives of progressive groups including Indivisible East Bay and CA-11 Team United.

Saidi outlined Stand Together CoCo, which will officially begin on March 1 and will provide wide-ranging education and support services and some legal consultation and services. Among these services:

  • Paid community responders will staff a 24/7 hotline to verify and provide accurate information about immigration-related activities reported in the community.
  • Team members will be dispatched when necessary to respond to reports of ICE raids.
  • Legal observers will document and collect data.
  • Community Supporters will provide immediate support to families and individuals who have been targeted or detained.
  • When possible, lawyers will meet with detainees (at present, there is funding for only three lawyers).

The program will also hold education and support events all over the county, including Know Your Rights, legal consultation and services, workshops for people detained in the West County Detention Facility, clinical consultations, and training for trainers/leadership development.

The audience was eager to hear how it could help, and Saidi provided a Volunteer Interest Form with a variety of ways community members can step up to support  immigrant neighbors and friends. The volunteer program, which is being administered primarily by Catholic Charities of the East Bay, is looking for people interested in conducting Know Your Rights presentations or helping with outreach to spread the word about immigrant rights and the hotline; presenters to assist at community meetings; supporters who can accompany people to ICE appointments or help them find resources; and more.

If you want to volunteer to help, please fill out the online volunteer application. Have questions? You can email Joseline Gonzalez Soriano, Stand Together CoCo’s Interim Coordinator, for information. More info will be posted soon on the Catholic Charities’ website.

You can also help by spreading the word about Stand Together CoCo and other rapid response networks. See this list of networks in California to report ICE activity and enforcement. To report ICE action in Contra Costa before March 1, contact Alameda County’s rapid response program, ACILEP, at 510-241-4011.  

Saidi, whose family moved from Tehran, Iran, to Los Angeles when he was five years old, recalled that he didn’t really understand the Pledge of Allegiance when he said it in school for the first time, but he liked the sound of the final words: “Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Saidi encouraged the audience to work for “liberty and justice for all,” and emphasized that the words are not a description of what America is but of what it might be – and that “pledge” means committing to putting in the work to reach the goal. We at Indivisible East Bay could not agree more.

Photograph of Ali Saidi by Judy Weatherly,  Courageous Resistance / Indivisible El Sobrante – Richmond 
Judith Tannenbaum contributed to this article. Judith is a writer and teacher. Her books include Disguised as a Poem: My Years Teaching Poetry at San Quentin.