H.R. 1 is Priority One

By Ion Yannopoulos and Ann Daniels

Even little kids know how voting works: you vote, your vote gets counted, everyone else’s vote gets counted, the totals are added up, and the winner is the one who gets the most votes. Simple.

Or not. In real-life elections, there are so many ways this goes wrong. Let’s look at “your vote gets counted” – how do you know? And how do you know that the total of votes they announce is actually the same as the number of people who voted? There could be cheating or tampering. Even in honest elections, people can make mistakes all along the line. Bottom line: it’s so easy for there to be lost votes, miscounted votes. So how can you trust election results?

That’s why one of the first (if not the first) priorities of the new Democratic House of Representatives is H.R. 1, the For the People Act, which among other things lays the foundation for (more) secure elections. And that’s why we need you to tell your Member of Congress that you want them to support H.R. 1. Read on for more info and what to say.

Background

There are a lot of reasons why voting machines can be vulnerable to problems – and unfortunately, voting machines in the U.S. are subject to most of them. But there’s good news: it’s possible to count votes to a very high degree of accuracy, detect interference in elections, and prevent election tampering, all by using paper ballots and something called a risk-limiting audit – essentially, double-checking the election by using a specific statistical method of analyzing the votes cast.

H.R. 1 requires, among many other things, that new voting machines always start with paper ballots, and that those ballots be retained until the election is over. Why paper ballots? Digital data is cheap, fast, and very flexible – but it has a fatal flaw, because it can be changed nearly undetectably. The only way an audit can tell if there’s been tampering is if there’s a trusted source to verify the electronic vote against: namely, the voter’s original ballot. There are electronic voting machines that produce a paper ballot, but if they are hacked, the paper part produced by the electronic voting machine is just as tainted as the electronic part. In fact, there are even ways that the votes can be hacked based on the paper record produced by the electronic machine! Experts agree: Paper ballots are an indispensible part of election security.

What you can do:

1. Contact your Member of Congress. Let them know you support H.R. 1. All three of our East Bay Representatives have cosponsored the bill; thank them. Barbara Lee is on the House Appropriations Committee, which will have to come up with the money to address the funding needed for the states to agree.

What to say:

My name is _____, my zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to thank ______ for cosponsoring H.R. 1 to make our elections trustworthy by making them secure. Please make sure other Members of Congress understand how dangerously insecure our current voting machines really are, and convince them to support H.R. 1. Thank you.

For Barbara Lee, who is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, you can add:

I’m also asking you to make sure the provisions for funding voting machines with paper ballots are rock solid, to resist criticisms about “unfunded mandates.”

  • 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

2. Contact the California Secretary of State. The Secretary of State oversees elections. The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) is having a conference in Washington from Feb. 1-4, 2019, and one of the topics they will address is voting on a resolution opposing any federal attempts to decide how state money is spent on elections – essentially leaving decisions about election machines in the hands of the states. Tell Secretary of State Alex Padilla that we don’t believe our elections can be safe nationally if any states are vulnerable, and that a minimum standard needs to be set for all elections.

What to say:

My name is ______, my zip code is _____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to thank Secretary of State Padilla for speaking out about the need to defend election integrity, and I want to ask him to speak against the NASS Interim Position on Potential Federal Election Funding. Our elections can’t be safe nationally if any states are vulnerable. For us to be secure and for our elections to be trusted they need to be verified by audit, and we need both paper ballots and risk-limiting audits in order to make that happen.

Secretary of State Alex Padilla: email; Main phone (916) 657-2166; Legislative Office: (916) 653-6774

3. Help work on these critical issues with the Indivisible East Bay Voter Rights & Election Integrity team — email heidi@IndivisibleEB.org, or join the #voting-issues channel on IEB’s Slack. Want an invitation to join Slack? Email info@IndivisibleEB.org

4. Find out more: For more information, read our past articles about election security and risk-limiting audits:

Bar Barr – Tell Senators to vote against AG nominee

Deadline: ASAP and until the vote – Here we go again: another nominee for Attorney General who thinks the president has unfettered powers, that religion trumps (sorry not sorry) law and that it certainly is more important than the rights of LGBTQ folk, that the Muslim ban is good but abortion rights and criminal defendants’ and prisoners’ rights are not … Ladies and gentlemen and resisters of all ages, the Current Occupant presents: William Barr!

The vote on Barr’s nomination is fast approaching. Senator Kamala Harris has said she will oppose his nomination because “he won’t defend independent investigations from attacks and ensure equal protection under the law for all Americans.” She’s also said she opposes him because he doesn’t “embrace a smart on crime approach to public safety.” We agree. Please thank her, and ask Senator Dianne Feinstein to say the same – and to commit to vote against the nomination. See below for call scripts and contact info.

Some scary facts about Barr:

  • He has publicly criticized Robert Mueller’s investigation, yet during his Senate hearing, he refused to commit to recuse himself from overseeing Mueller’s investigation. He also refused to commit to make Mueller’s findings public. Biased and secret – the exact opposite of what an Attorney General should be.
  • As organizations concerned with the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of and from religion have pointed out, he has called for constitutional U.S. law to be replaced with “God’s law.”
  • “He believes that Trump cannot be questioned for firing [FBI Director James] Comey in a criminal obstruction probe because presidents always have the discretion to fire an FBI director” – People for the American Way
  • Barr believes in being tough on minor drug offenders and opposes sentencing reform. He’s a big fan of mass incarceration.
  • He recently praised former Attorney General Jeff Sessions as “an outstanding attorney general.”
  • Read an excellent summary of his disturbing positions on justice reform, LGBTQ rights, immigrant rights, reproductive freedom, and more, in this article.

What you can do:

Call your Senators. They are the ones who will vote on the nomination.

Senator Harris has already spoken out against Barr and said she will vote against him. What to say:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for speaking out against Attorney General nominee William Barr and saying you’ll vote against him. He’s the wrong person for the job, for all the reasons you’ve said – he won’t uphold the law in a way to protect us.

Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553

Senator Feinstein has made statements indicating that she doesn’t favor Barr, but as of January 17 she hasn’t said so explicitly and also hasn’t said how she’ll vote. What to say:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Please speak out and commit to vote against Attorney General nominee William Barr and saying you’ll vote against him. He’s the wrong person for the job. He won’t uphold the law in a way to protect us.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841

Spread the word to everyone you know, send them the link to this article, and if they don’t have their Senators’ numbers on speed dial, give them this link.

Time to Help the Coast Guard

It’s mid-January 2019, and the Shutdown has reached its fourth week. We reported last week on how the Tantrum Over the Wall was affecting people nationwide, including some of the hundreds of thousands of federal employees who have been furloughed or must work without pay. This week, we’re looking closer to home: some federal employees you may never think about, right here in Alameda County, are being required to work without pay, and may be heading for dire financial straits.

Close to 1,000 uniformed men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard live in Alameda County. Coast Guard Base Alameda is a major homeport of four Legend class cutters that go on months-long patrols: USCGC Bertholf, Waesche, Munro, and Dorothy Stratton. Each holds over 113 personnel, and some are on patrol now while their families are left behind to deal with the financial stresses of this shutdown.

The 41,000 women and men of the U.S Coast Guard were paid once before January 1, and have missed their first bi-weekly paycheck in January. However, since Coast Guard members are considered critical personnel, they must work without pay during the shutdown. Of course, their expenses aren’t put on hold; nor are the literally life-or-death nature of the responsibilities some of them have, such as those at Station Golden Gate who participate in search-and-rescue.

The government has responded to the situation by adding insult to fiscal injury, telling Coast Guard members to see themselves through the hard financial times brought on by the Current Occupant’s wall-inspired tantrum: Have a garage sale! Be a dog-walker! Be a mystery shopper! says a Coast Guard support tip sheet. “Yes, your credit score may suffer during this time,” it helpfully notes. “Bankruptcy is a last option.” Former Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad W. Allen has decried this shutdown as unnecessary political theater. Perhaps we should talk about moral bankruptcy of a government that refuses to pay the men and women who serve their country because one man insists on a so-called defense system that experts repudiate?

No paychecks for government workers like our Coasties doesn’t just harm them and their families: it also means immediate economic impacts to their local communities and threats to the well-being of local businesses. Based on previous shutdowns of similar length (although this is now the longest government shutdown in US history), one study concluded that “the shutdown led to an immediate decline in average household spending of almost 10 percent” and “households with a member who was furloughed and required to stay home from work slashed their spending more dramatically – by 15 percent to 20 percent.” Some small businesses in the area are already reporting dramatic losses because the federal workers who are their frequent customers aren’t getting paychecks.

IEB Governance Committee member Ted Lam says:

People often ask me what I miss most as a retired Coast Guard officer: the service? Or the work? I always say: I miss the people. They are the most patriotic, inspiring, and unselfish people I have ever worked with. So during this difficult time for the Coast Guard, I’m looking for ways to help my old shipmates, and I can tell you there’s a great way to help. It’s the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance. I’ve seen first hand the amazing results of Mutual Assistance’s work to help the youngest and most vulnerable in the CG. I hope you’ll join me.

You can donate to help a member of the Coast Guard on the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance website.

You can also call our Senators and tell them you want them to insist on reopening the government without money for the border wall. Please call Sen. Feinstein at 202-224-3841, and Sen. Harris at 202-224-3553 to thank them for their support, and tell them:

My name is ____, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. The government shutdown is hurting people and communities, all because of a wall that’s a terrible idea to begin with. I want to thank Senator Feinstein/Harris for voting against advancing legislation that wouldn’t have reopened the government without funding for the Wall. Please do everything you can to reopen the government without funding for the Wall.

For more information and other call scripts, read our articles here and here.

 

Ted Lam and Elizabeth Douglas contributed to this article.

Photo of Coast Guard Island in Oakland Estuary between Oakland and Alameda United States Coast Guard, by Petty Officer 3rd Class Erik Swanson.

Join us at the Women’s March 2019

Flaunt your Indivisible East Bay pride by marching with us and our Indivisible Berkeley friends in the third annual Women’s March Oakland, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, January 19. This year’s march is co-hosted by Women’s March Oakland and Black Women Organized for Political Action.

Register here (free) to get updates and so organizers can estimate attendance. To march with IEB and IB, people will meet up at 10 AM outside the Oakland Public Library on Oak Street between 13th and 14th Streets (at Lake Merritt). Look for the red, white and blue balloons! Or find us once the contingents line up — look for us wearing our IEB t-shirts (and wear yours if you have one!), and for the IEB banner or signs.

Women's March Oakland, photo by Heidi Rand
Women’s March Oakland 2018, photo by Heidi Rand

At the end of the march — or if you can’t march but want to join in the festivities — come by our booth at the “Call to Action Alley” at Frank Ogawa Plaza!

Women's March Oakland, photo by Heidi Rand
IEB booth at Women’s March Oakland 2018, photo by Heidi Rand

These other Bay Area Women’s Marches will also be held on January 19:

And spread the Women’s March search link so people all over the country can find a march near them!

Read IEB’s statement about why we’re participating in the Women’s March Oakland, and why we encourage you to join us.

Featured photograph: Women’s March Oakland 2018 © Photography by Rex

Secrets and Lies: Comment NOW against proposed FOIA Regs

Do you want to know a secret? FOIA, the Freedom of Information Act, gives private citizens the right to get information from federal agencies. It exists to promote transparency, accountability, and prompt access to a wide range of information. But under proposed revised regulations, the Department of the Interior (DOI) would be able to decide for itself whether it felt like giving out information – even information on whether the government was involved in possible criminal behavior. You have until January 28 to comment opposing these proposed regulations and preserve our right to get crucial information … [January 17: note that due to the shutdown the link may not be working, please keep trying if you get an outage message].

For example, information about government officials who have misused their positions … such as Ryan Zinke, Trump’s recently departed Secretary of the Interior. The Department of the Interior, rather like the interior of the country itself, is grand in scope, including the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and half a dozen other major departments. Zinke resigned at the end of 2018, after an unprecedented 18 separate investigations were launched into his misconduct. Some of these investigations are still pending at the time of this writing; ominously, several were closed only because of lack of cooperation by the DOI or failure to keep records.

In an amazing coincidence, just days before Zinke’s resignation, the DOI proposed revised regulations giving it broad discretion to avoid providing answers to FOIA requests for information — particularly from journalists and public interest organizations. Under these proposed regulations, the Department would be able to:

  • decide which media organizations “serve the public interest” and are therefore entitled to information, and
  • limit the number of requests media and other organizations can make during a month.

Extensive case law under FOIA governs what records must be produced. These proposed regulations are unnecessary, contrary to the statute and that case law, and inconsistent with the clear intent of Congress. They impede accountability and make further misconduct more likely.

The comment period for these proposed regulations ends January 28. Go to https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOI_FRDOC_0001-0094 and click the “comment now” button at the upper right to leave an objection. Be sure to mention that you are commenting on Docket No. DOI-2018-0017.

You can use these points as a guide, but please use your own language; comments that are too similar may be grouped together and not considered individually.

  • The proposed changes to the Department of the Interior’s handling of FOIA requests are contrary to goals of the FOIA statute: transparency, accountability, and prompt access to information.
  • The proposed changes are contrary to the FOIA statute, 5 U.S.C. section 522, which allows “any person” to seek information. The proposed regulations allow Interior to deny access to a media organization or other organization that has recently asked for other information. Under this change, Interior could withhold information from media outlets it didn’t like, or anyone who asked numerous or embarrassing questions – the exact situation FOIA was intended to provide against.
  • The purported reason for the changes – an increase in FOIA requests – is the result of the conduct of the DOI itself: As reported by Outside Magazine (January 17, 2019) and Nada Culver, senior counsel with the Wilderness Society, FOIA requests at Interior are up because Interior stopped sharing information voluntarily that was routinely provided by prior administrations.
  • Other changes include stretching time “limits” into “frames,” making it easier to deny requests, and giving Interior discretion to decide whether media organizations are operating primarily “in a commercial interest.” These go directly against the intent of FOIA – to allow access to information and to prevent the government from prohibiting access.
  • Submitting these proposed regulations during a holiday week, in the midst of a government shutdown, just days before Director Ryan Zinke resigned while the subject of numerous investigations, is an outrageous effort by the government to keep the public from exercising their democratic rights.

Dean Gloster is a former clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court who now writes novels. His debut YA, DESSERT FIRST, is out now.

 

Statement on the Women’s March 2019

As many of you know, there has been a controversy surrounding the national leadership of the Women’s March and allegations concerning their affiliations with people and organizations that have expressed anti-Semitic sentiments. Some of you have asked whether, in light of this, Indivisible East Bay will be participating in the local Women’s March.

The short answer to this question is yes. As we did last year, we will be joining with Indivisible Berkeley and other allies to march, and we’ll have an informational table.

The longer answer is that the Women’s March Oakland is an independent entity, with its own leadership; although the marches all over the country are coordinated to the extent that they take place on the same day, use the same logo, operate under the same name, and more, the national organization and national leadership are separate from the local marches. Women’s March Oakland responded to the allegations of anti-Semitism, as soon as they broke, by organizing a training on dealing with “antisemitism and other kinds of hate.” Their homepage states: “We categorically denounce and reject all forms of bigotry and hate, including racism, sexism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, classism, xenophobia and ableism.” Their leadership has never, to our knowledge, broken this vow. We at IEB believe that this is the right message and that it’s appropriate to continue to participate in an event run by a group operating under these principles.

Beyond this, we urge you to read this powerful Jewish Women of Color Open Letter for important and too rarely-heard views on how we can fight against anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred, and fight for women’s rights and human rights, together, without seeking or giving into forces that seek division. Without minimizing or glossing over problems, we also note that Women’s March national has stated as a Unity Principle: “We must create a society in which all women – including Black women, Indigenous women, poor women, immigrant women, disabled women, Jewish women, Muslim women, Latinx women, Asian and Pacific Islander women, lesbian, bi, queer and trans women – are free and able to care for and nurture themselves and their families, however they are formed, in safe and healthy environments free from structural impediments.”

If you plan to attend the Women’s March Oakland, we encourage you to join us; look for our banner with our distinctive logo. If you prefer not to attend the March, we respect that decision, and we hope that you understand and respect our reasons to participate.

You need to call: No Wall, No Way!

Deadline: today and every day –

The Current Occupant told his supporters to call their elected representatives and say build that wall. An Indivisible East Bay member who was in Senator Feinstein’s D.C. office last week heard interns taking calls from people doing just that. What she didn’t hear: people calling to say No Wall!

Our Senators have spoken out against the wall, but they need our support when some of their constituents overwhelmingly demand this crime against decency … You know what to do. Do it, today and every day!

What you can say:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to thank Senator Feinstein/Harris for opposing the idea of building a border wall. The Wall is anti-humanitarian, anti-environmental, and a terrible waste of resources. Please don’t give in. No wall!

Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841

Sen. Kamala Harris: (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553

For more information, here are some things we’ve written in the past about why the Wall is such a disastrously bad idea:

 

 

 

 

No More Likability BS

Oh, those women politicians. So smart. So accomplished. Why can’t they just be more … likable?

We’re calling BS. In fact, we’re calling it #LikabilityBS. And if you’re already as tired as we are of this everything-old-is-new-again campaign, we invite you to join us in calling out the media when we see them trivializing women elected officials, women candidates, or any powerful women by focusing on their supposed personality defects – or supposed problems with their dancing, their hair, their wardrobes, their unladylike language, or anything else that anyone thinks they need to make over to please the boys.

Here are some great ways to say: you don’t have to like them; you don’t have to like me; but you do have to take women seriously, and you do have to start covering our substantive positions and issues.

What you can do:

  • Call out the BS on social media. It’s easy to re-post and collect frowny faces, but the point is to educate and mobilize:
    • Educate by posting and showing people the BS going on;
      • Beyond posting on your own social media pages, amplify your message by writing comments on the Facebook page, Twitter or Instagram accounts for the media channel, reporter, pundit, etc., that you want to call out;
    • Mobilize by telling people what they can do: for example, sharing a letter to the editor that you’ve written (see below for how-to), or linking people to this page telling them how they can fight the #likabilityBS
      • Ask people to retweet or share your social media posts and comments
  • Write a letter to the editor: Most print and online media have a “letters to the editor” section, and this is a great way to reach the public. Criticize a publication for engaging in #likabilityBS or praise it for giving good coverage, or take it to task for not talking about substantive issues – you choose how to frame the discussion. Some newspapers have specific requirements: for example, that letter writers must be local to their distribution area or be subscribers – so be sure to check their rules! In general, letters to the editor are most likely to be printed if they are:
    • short – aim for 250 words or shorter
    • from you as an individual, not as a representative of a group
    • clear – let people know exactly what you’re talking about. If you’re responding to something the newspaper published (as opposed to something going on in society in general), refer to it specifically by the title and date of the article.
    • to the point – talk about one thing, not everything that’s on your mind.
    • written in a reasonable tone – avoid nastiness and DON’T YELL!!!!
    • written with proper grammar, syntax, spelling and punctuation – use your computer’s editing functions, ask a friend to read it over. Newspapers have editors, but they’re far more likely to print something that’s accurate to begin with.
  • Use the same tools and techniques to thank and compliment the media when they get it right!
  • Follow and support independent media and voices and spread the word:
    • 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
    • Media Matters for America is a progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media
    • ResistanceLive is a daily broadcast on Facebook, YouTube and iTunes that provides political updates for the Resistance, brought to you by Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin
    • Local AM radio station Real Talk 910 broadcasts forward-thinking political talk and opinions featuring Stephanie Miller, Thom Hartmann and Norman Goldman.

Graphic © Walt Disney’s Cinderella, Little Golden Book adapted by Campbell Grant

The shutdown is our national emergency

It’s obvious to anyone who thinks before talking (or tweeting) that the government shutdown harms everyone, not just Democrats. But when pants are on fire, we need more than what’s obvious – we all need to be able to stand up and tell the truth. No, the people who long for this administration to fulfill prophecies of the end of the world won’t care, but there are millions of people who do. And so we offer this short collection of info about how the government shutdown is harming real people and the real world:

Who’s not getting paid?

  • When people think of federal employees, they may think of elected officials or high-paid white collar jobs. But federal workers as a whole make just slightly over the national average and include workers like food preparers, who make under $12/hour. These aren’t people who can afford to go without their paychecks.
  • From a National Park Service employee: “Our HR folks managed to get our Dec. 31 payroll in but who knows what’s next. It’s the lower graded employees who REALLY suffer. Some are seeking out temp jobs to fill the gap!”
  • A federal court employee reports that court employees have not been guaranteed that they’ll get paid for work beyond January 11, although they will be required to report to work as usual with or without pay. “I know several coworkers off the top of my head that can’t live without a paycheck. What are they supposed to do? I read today that some federal employees are applying for unemployment and can receive up to $450 a week but will have to return the funds once they get paid from the government. This shutdown has us scared and sick, not knowing the impact it will have on us personally and as a nation.”
  • Another federal worker: “I was planning to retire later this year but I can’t even get the paperwork going on that during the shutdown.”
  • The shutdown affects people who aren’t federal workers, too. The office that handles food stamps is staffed by federal workers, and although food stamps are essential to the people who get them, these workers aren’t considered “essential” – meaning that they aren’t coming to work and people aren’t getting the aid they need in order to eat.
  • Money and aid get held up in all kinds of ways: first-year students at a PA medical school received an e-mail saying they would get their student loan money for the upcoming term, but the funds were already late by the time the email arrived. For many people, getting money late can have serious repercussions.
  • See more personal stories here.

Health and Safety

The Environment

  • National Parks are basically semi-closed. The bathrooms are completely closed. People are driving off-road, doing what bears do in the woods, and more.
  • A park service employee reports “loss of control over schedules. … we are working on a tight timeline that is tied to many other events in the park with locked in dates. And of course, with skeleton staffs, there are serious negative impacts to delicate natural and cultural (not to mention HUMAN) resources that are being put at unnecessary risk.”
  • Wildfire prevention on federal lands – yes, the kind of thing needed to avoid huge loss of property and resources and life, especially in states like California and Nevada which are at least half federal land – has come to a halt. Of course, this is a health and safety issue as well.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency is running on skeleton staffing and little to no funding as a result of the shutdown. (Let’s not even go into how that fits into this administration’s view of that agency …)

What you can do:

Call Our Senators: The House of Representatives has a bill to reopen the government without money for the Wall; we want the Senate to refuse to advance any legislation except that bill. And just before Trump gave his speech and Stormy Daniels folded her laundry on January 8, our Senators did just that. Please call Sen. Feinstein at 202-224-3841, and Sen. Harris at 202-224-3553 to say thanks, and tell them:

My name is ____, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank Senator Feinstein/Harris for voting against advancing legislation that wouldn’t have reopened the government without funding for the Wall. Please keep it up: vote NO on everything that isn’t the House bill to reopen the government without money for the Wall.

Help those in need: In times of trouble, people always need food. Donate or volunteer at these worthy organizations:

Photograph “Open Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry” by Alan Levine 

Don’t Let DeVos Gut Title IX

Deadline for public comments: January 28, 2019 – 

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has proposed regulations that would modify the implementation of Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs. Well, let’s call it what it is – Betsy DeVos has proposed a scheme to destroy an important part of Title IX. We have a chance to say NO.

The proposed regs, which have the outrageously misleading title “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance” would gut Obama-era Title IX guidance for how schools address sexual violence. Among other changes, DeVos’s proposed regulations would specify how institutions covered by Title IX must respond to sexual harassment incidents, and would also revise the availability of remedies for violations. Hint: all the changes remove protections for women …

You have until Monday January 28 to protest the proposed changes by submitting a public comment. Go to this link and click the “COMMENT NOW” button in the upper right. If that doesn’t work, go to www.regulations.gov and click on “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex…” under “What’s Trending” and follow the instructions to submit a comment. Be sure to reference Docket ID No. Docket ID ED-2018-OCR-0064. See below for suggested language and alternative methods to submit comments.

What to write:

Here are some suggested comments (personalize the language because copied & pasted comments or overly similar comments may be grouped together and not counted separately). Several of these are adapted from the Equal Rights Advocates’ excellent comment guide. Submit your comments by the end of day January 28:

My name is _____ and I am [fill in relevant identifying info, if appropriate – such as teacher, student, advocate, sexual assault survivor, etc.] I am writing in reference to Docket ID ED-2018-OCR-0064.

I oppose the proposed regulations for the following reasons:

  • General:
    • They would allow schools to refuse to investigate online sexual harassment.
    • They provide for dramatically reduced liability for schools, allowing them to turn a blind eye to sexual assault or harassment and shielding them from responsibility if they ignore or cover up sexual misconduct.
    • They would drastically reduce the number of school employees responsible for addressing or reporting sexual harassment.
    • They would encourage schools to reinstate an antiquated mediation process rather than investigating.
    • They would narrow the definition of sexual harassment, requiring schools to investigate only the most “serious forms of harassment and assault,” and only act when the sexual violence or harassment completely denies a student access to education, forcing students to endure repeated and escalating levels of abuse without being able to ask their schools for help.
  • Duty to Report:
    • I am concerned about how the proposed regulations narrow which school employees are required to act on reports of sexual harassment and misconduct in higher education settings (§§ 106.44(a), 106.30), as well as the regulations’ requirement of schools to dismiss reports of sexual violence that happen between students off campus (§§ 106.30, 106.45(b)(3)).
    • These rules would not balance the scales of justice between student complainants and student respondents, but would rather result in students’ reports and complaints being dismissed or ignored, which will very likely decrease reporting overall.
  • Burden of Proof:
    • Proposed regulation 106.45(b)(4)(i) requires schools to apply the higher standard of evidence to Title IX cases – Clear and Convincing Evidence. Application of this standard of evidence is inequitable and impractical, and contradicts decades of legal practice.
    •  The Department fails to consider and address the grave consequences to the victim of sexual assault when compared to other crimes. It is unfair for the Department to apply a higher standard of evidence based on its conclusion that the consequences to the respondent are “grave” without consideration of the grave consequences to the victim, whom the provisions of Title IX were designed to protect.
    • Application of this higher standard is impractical and seems intentionally designed to reduce the overall number of findings of sexual assault.
  • Deadline for comment period:
    • Please extend the comment period for these regulations for a minimum of 60 days beyond the currently scheduled public comment deadline. The proposed 60-day comment period is insufficient to receive meaningful public participation in the rulemaking process.
    • Please schedule public hearings at schools and colleges campuses throughout the country to encourage additional input from students, teachers, administrators, and advocates.

For more information, read the Equal Rights Advocates’ article. Also, this letter from the National Women’s Law Center, joined by more than 100 groups and 200 individuals, points out that the proposed changes are extensive and far-reaching and would drastically alter students’ rights and affect almost every aspect of schools’ obligations to respond to sexual harassment against students, and requests that the Department of Education extend the brief comment period.

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