Act now to protect Mueller

Deadline: today and every day –

Hundreds of thousands of us took to the streets nationwide on November 8th to stand up for the rule of law and protect the independence of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation. 

By forcing out Jeff Sessions, and illegally installing* the unqualified Matthew Whitaker as Acting Attorney General to oversee the Mueller investigation, Trump is blatantly moving to shut down the investigation into his own crimes and corruption. Whitaker has frequently criticized the Mueller investigation, echoing Trump’s “witch hunt” smear and proposed cutting Mueller’s budget. 

What to do NOW:

Contact your Members of Congress! Senators Feinstein and Harris have already spoken out, as have Representatives DeSaulnier, Lee, and Swalwell. Thank them and urge them to do everything they can to protect the independence of the investigation.

What to say:

My name is ______________, my zip code is ______, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker has a profound conflict and must be removed from overseeing the Mueller investigation. Please do all you can in Congress to hold Trump accountable and protect the Mueller investigation.

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

What else you can do:

 

Indivisible East Bay members flooded the streets with their friends and fellow progressives in the several Bay Area Nobody Is Above the Law protests! Here are some photos from the El Cerrito event, which many IEB members helped organize.

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Photographs © Heidi Rand

*We don’t normally cite to news sources with paywalls, but in this case the linked article is an opinion piece in the New York Times, so we are citing to the original source

Scary times at IEB’s October All Members Meeting

Halloween arrived early at the Indivisible East Bay All Members Meeting on October 28, with many of us showing up in costume. Even the infamous Trump Chicken joined the festivities.

Unfortunately, the real scares are coming from recent news. From the deadly violence at the Synagogue in Pittsburgh to Trump’s avalanche of incendiary rhetoric — the stakes for the November 6 midterms are higher now, if that’s possible, than they’ve ever been.

Before we got down to national politics, Jodi Reid, Executive Director of CARA, the California Alliance for Retired Americans, led an informative discussion about some of the statewide propositions on the ballot. CARA has posted recommendations on all eleven props, including fact sheets for Props 1, 2, 8, and 10. Jodi walked us through the list and took our questions. In brief:

  • Yes on Prop 1. Passing Prop 1 would authorize $4 billion in bonds for housing related programs for low income residents, veterans, and other specialized populations. California has not had funds for housing in some time and local communities don’t have the resources to build housing themselves.
  • Yes on Prop 2. This would allow funding from Prop 63 to be utilized for mental health services in concert with homeless assistance. The two are needed in order for housing to succeed for the homeless. A “yes” on Prop 2 would  authorize funding already allocated to be used in this context and would not require new funding.
  • Yes on Prop 8. Authorizes state regulation of kidney dialysis clinics and limits charges for patient care. As of now, CARA stated that two major corporations provide all the kidney dialysis services, overcharging $150K more per patient than needed without the funds going to patient care. The proposition would set profits to a 115% cap above revenue.
  • Yes on Prop 10. This would allow local cities to adopt rent control and repeal the Costa-Hawkins rental housing act (1995). CARA points out that tens of thousands of housing units have been created since ’95 that have not fallen under rent control. In response to a question, Jodi noted that passage of Prop 10 would not establish vacancy control.
  • Several of the ballot proposals are controversial even among progressive groups that are usually allies. For example, CARA supports Prop 3, which authorizes almost $9 billion in bonds to fund various water and environmental projects, citing the need for safe drinking water to all areas of the state. However, the Sierra Club opposes the measure on the ground that it will mean building more dams, harming the environment; they also have concerns about the (lack of) oversight for how the funds are spent. At the Propositions breakout session (see more below), Governance Committee (GC) member Ted noted that Prop 3 affects only state-regulated water systems, and said that it won’t directly affect the East Bay’s water supply because we get our water from EBMUD.
  • Finally, check out calmatters.org to see their one-minute videos summarizing the pros and cons of each Proposition. There’s no faster way to get up to speed.

Next up, GC member and senator teams co-lead Linh highlighted the critical importance of a “boring” (her word) topic: rules changes for federal agencies. In particular, “any executive agency seeking to change any existing regulation has to invite and review public comments.” Public means YOU! Making comments may be our only chance to prevent or slow down the administration’s attempts to roll back decades of environmental, workplace and safety protections. Linh urged members to take advantage of this opportunity. Some proposed changes are anything but boring: for example, one such proposal would allow for indefinite detention of immigrant families with children! You have until November 6 to voice your opposition to this change, so speak up!

GC member and outreach team co-lead Nick reminded us that the 2018 Get Out the Vote (GOTV) effort will likely not end on November 6, since that’s a primary day for one of the U.S. Senate seat in Mississippi. If no candidate receives a majority, which seems likely, a runoff will be held on November 27. Nick is lining up postcard events for the possible run-off.

Lastly, GC member Charlotte urged everyone to participate in one or more of the remaining GOTV events between now and next week’s midterms. The biggest is our  two-day all-day (9 AM to 9 PM) “The Last Weekend” Phone/Text Bank Extravaganza in Oakland. Whether you’ve already done tons of phone banking or have been quietly sitting on the sidelines, this is a must-do! Sign up here.

With the formal part of the meeting over, we enjoyed pizza courtesy of a generous donation from IEB member Nancy Olson. Three breakout sessions followed: Charlotte led people in writing postcards and also letters to voters through Vote Forward, GC members Ted and Toni engaged people in a more in-depth discussion about some of the state propositions, and GC member and volunteer team lead Andrea welcomed new members who wanted to know more about IEB and learn how to get involved.

Andrea with new members
Andrea at the new members breakout

Several of us came in costume! The clear Adorable & Clever winners:

NASA Space Force astronaut and assistant. Photo by Toby St John
NASA Kid & Dr. Horrible team up to save America! Photo by Toby St. John

Governance Committee members Ted and Ann (aka “Blue Wave”):

Ted and Ann aka Blue Wave

Henry the Indivisi-bulldog brought his family, IEB team co-leads Kristen and Tom!

Henry, Kristen and Tom

Scariest Costume winner was IEB and CA-11 team member George, who said: “Nnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnn”, which we translated as meaning: “Just because I’m a person of the undead persuasion doesn’t mean the electoral outcome isn’t important to me. A Blue vote is a smart vote. And smart brains taste better! Be a ZombiVoter! Vote Blue!”

Be a ZombiVoter! Vote Blue!

And finally: Blue Wave beats up Trump Chicken!

 

Andrea Lum contributed to this article.

 

IEB’s Last Meeting With Sean

On October 24, 2018 Indivisible East Bay had our last-ever meeting with Senator Feinstein’s State Director Sean Elsbernd. It was also our last office visit with the Senator’s staff before the 2018 midterm elections, so it could possibly also be our last-ever Feinstein meeting – but as of this writing, that’s unlikely given her lead in the polls. Feinstein has given no indication yet on who will replace Sean as state director.

Our first topic was immigration. We followed up on Sen. Feinstein’s recent commitment to visit the detention facilities in California where separated kids are being held; Sean said she plans to make that visit soon after the election. Feinstein has also said that a comprehensive immigration reform bill is one of her priorities for the next Congress, especially if the Democrats win. We gave a list of priorities for such a bill, including legal status for immigrants, protection for asylum seekers, and less leeway for the executive branch to make the system harsher and more restrictive. We also had in our group an advocate for help for a very specific population: adults who were adopted from foreign countries as children, but who never became citizens because something went wrong with their paperwork, meaning they are now technically unauthorized immigrants and could be subject to deportation. Our advocate was the wife of such a person, following up on a request she had made at a previous meeting for Sen. Feinstein to look into this issue. Sean assured us that she had, but that they had not been able to find a way to move legislation forward under this Congress. He confirmed that she will continue to try, and may include it in comprehensive reform.

We asked what we could do to help the senator fight the terrible judges that the president nominated for California seats on the 9th Circuit. Senator Chuck Grassley scheduled a so-called hearing for these nominees while the Senate is away on recess – a farce of an event attended by up to two Republican senators who asked approximately zero questions. Sean said that Sen. Feinstein is certain that the way this happened was intended as revenge for what Republicans perceive as her role in “ruining” the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh. As for what we can do to help, Sean said that Democrats on the Judiciary Committee are still strategizing, and that, of course, a lot depends on who wins the Senate in next week’s elections. He suggested raising awareness of the red flags in the judges’ records, writing letters to the editors of newspapers, and generally making it clear that California does not support these nominees.

We also discussed the United States’ shameful role in the war in Yemen and on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty; we found, not surprisingly, that we are on the same page as Sen. Feinstein, who has called abandoning the treaty a “strategic mistake.” Even if the administration tries to withdraw from the formal treaty, Sen. Feinstein is committed to enforcing its terms by way of her role on the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee.

And we talked about creating a fair economy and protecting our social services. A theme of that conversation was the GOP’s false promises about its economic policy, its lies about looking out for working people who are struggling to get ahead, and its double-talk about everything from Social Security to pre-existing conditions. We told Sean that sometimes Sen. Feinstein’s moderate tone and abiding belief that Republicans will be reasonable “when push comes to shove” make some of us worry that she is falling for their lies and will be fooled into making compromises in exchange for empty words.

We also asked that the senator take the administration’s recent attack on trans people as an opportunity for a renewed push to pass the Equality Act. This bill amends existing civil rights law and defines sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs or activities.

And we asked that Sen. Feinstein look at the evidence that has come out on SESTA-FOSTA, an anti-sex trafficking bill she and Sen. Harris voted for. Although the bill was intended to prevent human trafficking and forced sex work, there are serious concerns that it has actually further endangered the populations that are vulnerable to those threats.

IEB Feinstein office visit. Photo credit: Catya de Neergaard

If Sean was sorry to be seeing the last of what he has called the “most demanding Indivisible group in California,” he didn’t show it. As for us, while we may not have shed tears at parting either, we do think he has set a high for bar his replacement as a responsive and informative representative for Senator Feinstein.

Photographs by Catya de Neergaard

Rep. DeSaulnier’s Congressional Update Town Hall

By Ted Lam

Indivisible East Bay CA-11 team co-leads Kristen and Ted, and IEB member Tom, met with Congressperson Mark DeSaulnier and his D.C. Chief of Staff Betsy Marr before his Congressional Update Town Hall in Richmond on October 23. We updated DeSaulnier on CA-11 team members’ recent work helping elect Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton, our involvement in pushing Sheriff Livingston to cancel the ICE contract, and our various Get Out The Vote actions in CA-21, Northern Nevada, and Arizona. DeSaulnier was impressed and immensely grateful, and Marr encouraged us to keep at it. DeSaulnier shared his unvarnished summary of the “goings-on” in D.C. with us, and we had a great back-and-forth on that. 

Looking to the future, we asked about DeSaulnier’s priorities after the elections, and what he’d recommend for our post-midterm grassroots efforts. To our specific question about whether the Democrats would re-establish the Office of Technology Assessment that was killed by Newt Gingrich in the Clinton era, DeSaulnier agreed that it should be a priority. Wrapping up, DeSaulnier offered to meet with the CA-11 team after the midterms to check in and dive deeper into our post-election ideas. We will hold him to that!

About 70 people attended the 90-minute Town Hall. There was an underlying tone of optimism in the Representative’s presentation about the midterms. One of his post-election priorities is to work on overturning Citizens United, banning stock buybacks, strengthening anti-trust enforcement, and updating the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act (WARN). The WARN Act of 1988 is a US labor law that protects employees, their families, and communities by requiring most employers with 100 or more employees to provide 60 calendar-day advance notification of plant closings and mass layoffs of employees.

IEB and CA-11 team member Janis Hashe asked two questions on what can be done about coal rail shipments through Richmond, and whether the interstate commerce clause can be utilized to help. DeSaulnier’s response was supportive, and he gave some suggestions. Obviously fascinated with the second question, he said he’d give it further thought.

Janis Hashe & friend at Rep DeSaulnier Richmond Town Hall, photo by Ted Lam
Janis Hashe & friend at Rep. DeSaulnier Richmond Town Hall, photo by Ted Lam

It was satisfying to hear our Member of Congress espouse progressive values and be so responsive to his community. 

Missed the Town Hall? Watch the video here.

Photo of Representative DeSaulnier © Mark DeSaulnier

Ted Lam is retired from the USCG and currently works as a civil engineer. Ted is a member of the Indivisible East Bay Governance Committee and is co-lead of the Indivisible CA-11 team.

Desert Shame

This action appeared in the Indivisible East Bay newsletter on October 4, 2018.

Subscribe to the newsletter. See our newsletter archives.

Deadline: right now and ongoing – They gave the kids snacks, and that’s damn near all. They woke them in the middle of the night, put them on buses with backpacks, took them to tent jails in the West Texas desert. There are: no schools, not much legal representation or mental health services — it’s an emergency facility, doesn’t have to meet child welfare standards. The government says the kids won’t be there long, they’ll go to sponsor homes soon. We’ve heard that lie before!

Our Senators tell us calls on this national disgrace have fallen off while people call about Kavanaugh (we must multi-call!) Meanwhile, a ray of hope: a brand-new bill in the House of Representatives to prohibit ICE from arresting undocumented immigrants who offer to sponsor kids to get them out of baby jail. Tell your members of Congress: you want them to raise hell over kids in tent jails and you want them to support the “Prevent CHILD Harm Act of 2018.” Yes, even our good guys in DC need to hear from you. And the kids surely need help, ASAP.

What to say:

My name is ______________, my zip code is ____________ and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m ashamed that this country is jailing immigrant children in tents in the desert without even pretending that they’re trying to meet child welfare standards. I want to thank [Senator or Representative] _____________ for fighting against the administration’s attacks against immigrant children and families. Please fight against putting kids in tent jails and put an end to this disgrace! [For members of the House of Representatives: And I want to ask _____________ to cosponsor the “Prevent CHILD Harm Act of 2018.”]

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

 

9/27/18 IEB & ISF Sen Feinstein office visit

Seventeen Indivisibles from IEB and Indivisible San Francisco met with Sean Elsbernd, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s state director, on September 27 at her San Francisco office. Our almost two-hour meeting was jam-packed with questions and “asks.”

First on the agenda: a detailed back and forth on how the homeless count in San Francisco is conducted. It was further emphasized that more resources were needed to help the homeless, from outreach to affordable housing. Sean seemed particularly concerned about the estimate that 2,400 kids may be homeless.

For those of you not placing the date, September 27 was the day Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh testified in front of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. Of course, the hearings came up, and we stressed – as we have consistently done – that we are firmly against Kavanaugh being confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice. The group urged Senator Feinstein to continue what she’s doing and to look as well for other methods to stop his confirmation.

On a not-necessarily-unrelated note, the topic of reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act came up. Sean thinks that Congress will just extend the Act, at least for the short term.

Sean told us that on the important issue of immigrant family separation, their office is not getting phone calls, and that it’s crucial for people to keep this issue alive by contacting the Senator. He did acknowledge that the Kavanaugh hearings have diverted attention – but we should look for any opportunity to revive the issue.

Sean said that the House is expected to head home for campaigning and won’t be back until after the midterms, so don’t expect any legislation to pass that needs both chambers to act on.

We also talked about protecting the Mueller Trump-Russia investigation, election security, digital privacy, environmental/public health, the war in Yemen, the Farm Bill, workers’ rights, the federal judiciary, tax policy, trade, criminal justice reform, and having a town hall. Sean’s comments on each of those topics were informative and indicated the Senator’s position. As an example, the Farm Bill is in conference and the final version will have to be acceptable to 60 Senators regardless of what the House passed. Another insight: White House Counsel Don McGahn’s imminent departure will force the Administration and Senate Republicans to start from scratch on judicial nominations and will give Senate Democrats a bit of breathing room.

As of November 7, Sean will be the chief of staff for San Francisco Mayor London Breed. As of now, Senator Feinstein has not selected his replacement but he’s hoping that will be resolved shortly. The general feeling from the Indivisible folks was that Sean will be missed.

Read our memo to the Senator.

 

A Rosenstein red line?

When last we met for a Trump-Russia investigation update, we were concerned that the August 21, 2018 convictions of Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen had shoved us closer to the precipice of a constitutional crisis.

Well, a month later it feels like we’re dangling by our fingertips. Breaking news on September 24 about Rod Rosenstein’s status as deputy Attorney General included conflicting accounts on whether he was planning to resign, had been fired, or remained in his post as Robert Mueller’s boss on the investigation. The White House eventually said that Rosenstein still had a job, but would meet with the Current Occupant on Thursday, September 27.

Because as of now Rosenstein has not been fired, the Nobody Is Above the Law network has NOT triggered the rapid-response plan. Indivisible National’s updated article makes an additional point that the administration is sowing chaos to distract from the ongoing fight over the Supreme Court, and until we have news that Rosenstein has been fired, we must focus on supporting the brave survivors coming forward to tell their stories and fight to keep Brett Kavanaugh from getting confirmed.

These are “red lines” issued by MoveOn, Indivisible, and many other groups, meaning that any of the following will trigger mass protest:

  • If Trump fires Mueller or Rosenstein
  • If Trump pardons key witnesses
  • If Trump takes another action that prevents the investigation from being conducted freely, such as replacing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Mueller’s current supervisor or repealing the regulations establishing the office
  • Additional red line added on Sept. 24: The Mueller investigation releases findings showing significant wrongdoing by Donald Trump. Or Congress or the administration blocks the public from seeing Mueller’s findings.

What you can do now:

Contact your Members of Congress! See our article for a historical overview of the bills introduced to protect the investigation, none of which have progressed.

  • Call your Senators and ask them to:
    • Demand a vote on, and to support the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act (S. 2644) to protect Mueller and the Russia investigation.
    • Protect the special counsel’s office, including preserving its files and staff and ensuring it receives the full cooperation of all federal government law enforcement assets.
    • Demand the creation of a modern-day version of the Senate Select Watergate Committee to investigate all matters involved in the Russia scandals and Trump’s abuse of power and obstruction of justice
  • Call your Representative and ask him or her to do all they can to pass legislation to protect the Special Counsel and the investigation, and to call for bipartisan hearings in the House Judiciary Committee on obstruction of justice and abuse of power

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

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
  • Get your go-bag together:
    • charged cell phone and portable power if you have
    • water bottle and energy bars or other portable food
    • medications you may need
    • layers of clothing to add if it gets cold
    • a sign with your message

 

Go Time on Two Good Bills

By the Indivisible East Bay Voter Rights and Election Integrity team

Action deadline – ASAP! 

Great news! Thanks to your help in making calls, two good California bills that Indivisible East Bay supported, AB 2188 (Social Media Disclose Act) and AB 3115 (Jails: Voter Education Program), passed out of committee and are scheduled to be voted on by the full state senate. Read our prior articles for more info and background, see list below.    

  • AB 2188: Deadline: August 30 – Ads on social media are not always what they seem and many of them have been doing some serious damage to our democratic process. Free speech should be public. Make everyone show their names and faces if they’re paying to change our minds.  The vote for this bill will not be held until August 30.
  • UPDATE Aug. 26, 2018: IT IS UNCLEAR WHAT OCCURRED WITH THIS BILL, BUT FOR NOW WE ARE NOT RECOMMENDING ANY ACTION. AB 3115: Deadline: ASAP – IEB supported AB 3115’s passage in the Assembly because it gives people with criminal convictions who still have the right to vote a chance to become participating citizens again. 

Please call your California State Senator ASAP: 

You can mention both bills during your call. What to say:

My name is ____. My zip code is ____ and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to ask the Senator to vote YES on two important voter bills. First, about AB 2188 –  we shouldn’t be subject to political ads on social media like Facebook without knowing who paid for them. Free speech should be public and accountable.

UPDATE 8/26/18: DO NOT USE THIS PORTION OF THE SCRIPT: Second, about AB 3115 – we should do everything we can to reduce barriers to voter registration. Increasing voter education and voting access to thousands of people in California jails will improve civic participation and public safety, and it’s the right thing to do. 

I strongly urge Senator ____ to vote yes on AB 2188 and AB 3115. Thank you.

  • District 7, (Contra Costa) Senator Steve Glazer, (916) 651-4007
  • District 9 (Alameda & Contra Costa), Senator Nancy Skinner, (916) 651-4009
  • District 10 (Alameda & Santa Clara), Senator Bob Wieckowski, (916) 651-4010
  • District 11 (San Francisco): Senator Scott Wiener, (415) 557-1300
  • District 15 (San Jose area): Senator Jim Beall, (916) 651-4015
  • Tell your friends in other districts to call their senators. Search here or see list at this link.

We’ve been busy – and so have you, making calls and following these important bills. Read our articles:

 

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.

Graphic © California Clean Money Campaign

Town Hall on Securing Our Elections

By Ted Landau

For Representative Mark DeSaulnier’s 61st Town Hall since taking office, he focused on a single critical and timely issue: Securing Our Elections. Free and fair elections are the foundation of our democracy. Unfortunately, as evidenced by Russian interference with the 2016 election, the integrity of our voting process has never been under greater threat. The purpose of the Town Hall, held in Walnut Creek on August 13, 2018, was to consider what we should do about this — for the 2018 midterms and beyond.

The Town Hall began with a brief slide show presentation followed by opening statements by Rep. DeSaulnier and California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. Next, three election experts, Dr. David Jefferson, Professor Philip Stark and Mark Kumleben, joined the panel discussion. Taking questions from the jam-packed audience of about 300, they delivered both good and bad news.

Let’s start with the bad news: Here in California, attempts to “break in” to our election hardware continue unabated. Efforts to employ social media as a means to disrupt our elections also remain ongoing. We need to be more vigilant than ever if we expect to safeguard our election process. And unfortunately, with Trump at the helm and his GOP enablers downplaying Russian interference and blocking the Democrats’ attempt to increase election security funding, we can’t depend on much help from the federal government.

The good news: DeSaulnier continues to work to get Washington to act. He is currently the co-sponsor of at least 5 bills to improve election security (such as the aptly named Election Security Act, H.R. 5011). While none of these bills has made it to the GOP-controlled floor as yet, this is a start. If you live in CA-11, DeSaulnier’s district, thank him and urge him to keep pushing! Meanwhile, Secretary of State Padilla claimed that no one has yet succeeded in “hacking” California voting equipment. To help keep things that way, the state has allocated over $134 million dollars to upgrade our voting machines and to provide additional election protections. One caution came from Professor Stark, who pointed out that just because you’ve found no evidence of hacking, that doesn’t guarantee none has taken place; hackers may have succeeded in preventing your ability to detect them.

So what should we be doing? The panelists agreed on several key recommendations:

  • Paper ballots are essential. Electronic voting, online voting, whatever: they’re all bad. Only paper ballots allow us to reliably track, audit and verify the authenticity and accuracy of the vote. Accept no substitute. Further, no voting machines should be connected to the Internet; it’s too much of a risk. California has gotten the message: it keeps its machines offline and uses only paper ballots unless people with disabilities need an accessible voting machine. As for the rest of the country, while the Constitution prohibits most federal regulation of the electoral process, it allows for the federal government to require states to use paper ballots. We should demand that they do so!
  • Beware of bots. As discussed primarily by Mr. Kumleben, bots are mini-programs designed to imitate humans on social media. We can’t outlaw them but we should be aware of them. They can create an illusion of consensus or popularity that can unduly influence people’s perceptions and thus how they vote. Always be skeptical of what you read and view online — especially from unfamiliar sources! We should also demand that politicians reveal not only where their campaign money comes from but where it goes. If they’re spending money on bots, the voters should know!
  • Gerrymandering and voter suppression are rooted in white supremacy; their goal is to inhibit minorities from voting or having their vote matter. That was the strong assertion made by the Secretary of State to open this topic, which drew applause from the audience. The ideal goal should be for every eligible person to vote — and to do so within fairly-drawn districts. Again, California has led the way here with its recent bipartisan redistricting. All states should move in this direction.
  • Make the move to open source: non-proprietary software that anyone can see, explore and even modify. As elucidated by Dr. Jefferson and Professor Stark, most voting machines in use today run on proprietary software, owned entirely by the same companies that manufacture voting machine hardware. Even though election officials “purchase” voting equipment, they are prohibited from viewing or modifying the machine’s software source code. This leads to a quasi-monopoly that costs the government dearly. If voting machines were instead truly owned by the public and ran on open source software, it could reduce election costs by a factor of five, leading many experts to urge that we should push for a move to open source. While it is not a panacea for security concerns, and while it’s controversial (because, among other things, it is open to modification), open source makes the process much more transparent and accountable. Yet again, California is ahead of the curve. Both San Francisco and Los Angeles counties are planning to transition to open source. Other districts are expected to follow.

Several additional points of interest were raised by the panel:

  • You may not be aware of this, but a significant change is coming to the voting process in California, perhaps as early as 2020 in Contra Costa County, as a result of the Voter’s Choice Act. Most significantly, the law provides a new voting option, intended to facilitate in-person voting: No longer will you be restricted to vote only on election day at just one specified polling location. Instead, for the 11 days prior to an election, you will be able to vote at any of numerous “vote centers” located throughout the county. If you currently use a mail-in ballot, you already can come close to achieving this flexibility. You don’t have to mail your ballot in, risking problems with postal delivery or interference en route. You can drop it off at a city hall or, on election day, at a polling location.
  • Here is a truly cool tip revealed by Secretary of State Padilla: Did you know you can check the status of your vote after an election — and even get a history of your previous votes? To do so, start here.
  • Professor Stark explained the benefits of “risk-limiting” audits. These are partial audits that, combined with statistical analyses, determine when a full audit of a vote is needed. This allows the county to save time and money that would otherwise be wasted on full audits when they have little or no chance of changing the results. Expect to see the implementation of these audits here in California.

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.

Ted Landau is a retired professor of psychology. He has also spent several decades as a tech journalist/author — writing primarily about Apple products. He has been politically active in the East Bay since moving here in 2004.

Kicking off August ’18 with local political events

With midterm election day barreling toward us, local political groups (including Indivisible East Bay, of course) and elected officials are stepping up their efforts to make sure we cross the November 6 finish line as victors. The first weekend in August – we’ve hit the less-than 100 days out, folks – saw many IEBers participating in a wide variety of events. Didn’t make any of them? Here’s a quick roundup. Oh, and don’t miss any more, check out the upcoming events listings in our weekly newsletter and our Midterm Election Work webpage!

Paint Congress Blue, Art + Action Festival

On Sunday August 5, crowds of people from the Bay Area and beyond met in Oakland to Paint Congress Blue. The free block party featured art, activism and a visit from an infamous barnyard fowl. 

IEB, together with Indivisible Berkeley, Sister District, Swing Left, Working America, and more, helped organize the event. Each group had a table to provide opportunities for the public to get educated and get involved. IEB’s table had supplies for writing GOTV (Get Out The Vote) postcards to voters in swing districts. By the end of the evening, IEB volunteers and members of the public had written over 170 postcards to voters in California Congressional Districts 1 and 21!

Don’t miss these upcoming IEB postcarding and social events:

  • August 12, 10 AM-noon: Indivisible We Write! IEB August postcard party, Sports Basement, Berkeley. Info & RSVP.
  • August 25, 2-4 PM: IEB Ale & Mail! No-host mingle & postcarding at Hop Yard Alehouse in Pleasanton. Info & RSVP.
Paint Congress Blue, photo by Wesley Chang
IEB table at Paint Congress Blue, photo by Wesley Chang

At the main stage, speakers from each organization described their methodology and goals. Kristen Law (co-lead of the IEB CA-11 Team) spoke about the work of Indivisible East Bay, highlighting the successes of our Judiciary Team and efforts to hold our members of Congress accountable.

Kristen Law speaking at Paint Congress Blue, photo by Wesley Chang
IEB member Kristen Law speaking at Paint Congress Blue, photo by Wesley Chang

Between speeches local musical groups entertained the crowd, and Project Bandaloop, an aerial dance team, also performed. A number of art galleries in the district were open for tours.

The Trump Chicken overseeing the festivities.
Trump Chicken oversaw Paint Congress Blue festivities

Lest we forget, the guest of honor was the Trump Chicken, a 13-foot tall inflatable chicken that bears a striking resemblance to, well, you-know-who! Attendees could have their photos taken while giving the Chicken a piece of their mind. By any measure, Paint Congress Blue was a huge success, and a good time was had by all; well, except for maybe the Chicken.

Phone Banking for Northern Nevada

Want to help GOTV (Get Out the Vote) beyond our deep blue Bay Area? Here’s one way: Northern Nevada. That was the message delivered by two members of Issue Voters of Northern Nevada at IEB’s July All Members Meeting. The group is focused on contacting unaffiliated voters in Washoe County to ask what issues matter most to them. The number of these voters has grown dramatically in recent years — to the point that they will likely be the deciding factor in the November election.

Five IEB members who were fired up by this appeal packed their mobile phones and laptops — and headed off to Oakland for an afternoon of phone banking. They spent three hours calling voters, using national Indivisible’s virtual phone bank system. As is common with phone banking, most calls wound up with no one picking up, but the good news is that those who did answer were usually willing to talk and share their thoughts.

According to Toni Henle, one of the “IEB five,” the group made about 200 calls and “each of us had four or five good conversations (and a couple of not-so-good ones); we found it helps that others are around to share the good and bad!”

Can you help turn out the Nevada vote? We’ve scheduled two phone banks on Sundays August 19 & 26 from 3-6 PM at our hostess’ house in north Oakland. To join us, email vivian@mendezleal.com. And there are several other phone- and text-banking opportunities listed in our newsletter and this webpage.

Phone banking to Nevada
Phone banking to Nevada

Starting in September, there’ll also be opportunities to drive to Reno to canvass voters identified as “persuadable” for Democratic Senate candidate Jacky Rosen,  running against Dean Heller, one of the Senate’s most vulnerable Republicans.

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: Immigration town hall

Representative Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) has been to our southern border, witnessing first-hand what Trump’s Zero Tolerance immigration policy means. DeSaulnier’s message to constituents attending his immigration town hall in Concord on August 4, was that the policy is something we, as Americans, should have zero tolerance for.

In a slide-show presentation that focused on immigration, DeSaulnier walked through the damage being done — including the fact that at least 500 children may now be permanently orphaned because they were separated from parents who were subsequently deported. 

DeSaulnier described his trip to the border crossing at Brownsville Texas. Upon arrival, he met with a federal judge who confided that the immigrants here were not “bad people.” In most cases, they were legally seeking asylum. DeSaulnier attended the adjudication of 70 individuals, the majority of whom came from Central America, immigrants who had traveled thousands of miles and paid as much as $20,000 to “coyotes” to gain transport to the border.

DeSaulnier also met with several families who had recently been re-united. A young boy told him how, after being separated from his family, an immigration official had told him: “Your parents don’t ever want to see you again.”

Finally, DeSaulnier was able to tour a facility for new arrivals, the place where immigrants are housed in fence-enclosed “cages” (as you may have seen in television reports). Several immigration officials related how uncomfortable this all made them. One lamented that he had sought the job after 9-11, to be one of the “good guys” helping his country; he now felt he had become one of the “bad guys.”

An obviously emotional DeSaulnier stressed to the town hall audience that “this has to stop. It is not acceptable.” What the Trump administration is doing at the border is not only ethically wrong, it is illegal!  He described efforts to get legislation passed that addresses the issue. The frustrating problem is that GOP Speaker of the House has absolute control over which bills can be brought to the floor for a vote. Even though DeSaulnier is supporting at least two bills that would pass if voted on, Speaker Ryan has refused to let them reach the floor.

The meeting concluded with a Q&A where members largely voiced support for the work DeSaulnier is doing. At one point, he gave a shout-out to Indivisible — complimenting us for pressuring him to “tell us what you are doing about it.” Watch the recorded Town Hall here.

Rep. Eric Swalwell: baseball and town hall

For Eric Swalwell, Representative for the CA-15 Congressional district, last weekend was a combination of fun and business.

Fun was an Oakland A’s pre-game tailgate party at the Coliseum, which he hosted. After wrapping that up, it was on to the game itself, where Rep. Swalwell threw out the ceremonial first pitch!

The business part was a town hall meeting at Hayward High School on Saturday August 4. Swalwell answered questions on a wide range of issues, including health care, immigration, climate change, the rights of veterans and, of course, the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. His final words touched on FDR’s four freedoms: the freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear — with a new freedom added by Swalwell to provide hope in today’s troubled times: the freedom to dream.

Congressman Eric Swalwell, photo by Josh Richmond
Rep. Eric Swalwell, photo by Josh Richmond

Many constituents were interested in getting involved in the efforts to counter the Trump administration’s actions. That’s when IEB’s CA-15 team co-leads Ward and LeAnn Kanowsky stepped up to the plate. They and other members passed out flyers recommending IEB as a great resource for those wanting to be more involved.

Congressman Eric Swalwell, photo by Josh Richmond
Rep. Eric Swalwell and IEB CA-15 team co-lead Ward Kanowsky, photo by Josh Richmond

And IEB activism elsewhere too!

Several other intrepid IEB members took their activism on the road over the weekend as well! IEB superstars Amelia Cass and Linh Nguyen attended the Tahoe Summit, delivering a letter to keynote speaker Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski from 29 of her constituents asking her to vote NO on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. And Nancy Latham traveled to New Orleans to join with thousands of other activists at the Netroots Nation conference. Read her inspiring first-hand account.

Paint Congress Blue photographs by Wesley Chang, see more of Wesley’s PCB photos here.

Ted Landau, Alice Towey, Toni Henle and Ward Kanowsky contributed to this report.