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.

 

My Ballot ‘Tis of Thee

If you’re on social media, you may be worried right now about being turned away at the polls, or your vote-by-mail ballot being rejected, or ending up at a place that won’t let you vote. We’re hoping California doesn’t have those horror stories … but we’ve got some tips to help you avoid even getting into those situations. And the best news is, many of these are things you can do NOW, before the November 6 Election Day!

Provisional Ballot: a last resort

Lots of people are giving advice on social media about how to demand a provisional ballot: “Give me a provisional ballot with a receipt as required by law when requested.” It’s true that in California and most other states poll workers must give you a provisional ballot and receipt if you believe you’re entitled to vote, but for a variety of reasons the workers believe you are not. It’s also true that this is a last resort, that many of the reasons a poll worker may try to turn you away can be addressed, and that some issues can even be taken care of NOW, before Election Day, to prevent most problems.

  • Are you registered to vote? Is all your info correct? Check NOW!
  • Check your polling place NOW! Make sure you go to the right place to vote – if you’re at the wrong polling place, your name won’t be on the voter list. If you do end up at the wrong place, before you ask for a provisional ballot, ask where your correct polling place is. Go vote there if you can make it before the polls close so you can vote on all your local measures. If you can’t figure it out or can’t get there, then ask for a provisional ballot and receipt.
  • Did you get a vote by mail ballot in the mail, but you didn’t mail it in? You can drop it off at your polling place on Election Day. You decided you want to vote at the polls instead? You should be able to do that if you bring your vote by mail ballot and envelope: they’ll probably ask you to surrender the vote by mail ballot and give you a new one. Don’t have your ballot with you? That’s when you ask for a provisional ballot.
  • Worried you’ll be told you don’t have the right ID to vote? You usually won’t be asked to show ID, although you might be if it’s your first time voting in a federal election in California. And it’s a good idea to bring ID with you anyway. Here’s more info; here’s the complete list for first-time voters; or you can call the Secretary of State’s toll-free voter hotline at 800-345-VOTE (8683).

Here is the CA Secretary of State’s excellent official resource on provisional voting; and here’s a excellent article on what to do if you’re turned away at the polls.

Finally, if your last-resort requests for a provisional ballot and receipt are denied, report this or other incidents to the Election Protection hotline: 866-OUR-VOTE.

Conditional Voting

Did you forget to register to vote, or did you move and forget to re-register? Little-known fact: you can still register and vote conditionally at your county elections office, or at certain other locations, up through Election Day.  Conditional voting is different from provisional voting, since provisional voting is for people who believe they are registered but are having problems.

Vote-by-mail ballots not secretly rejected

Worried because you’ve heard that in some states, untrained people are rejecting vote by mail ballots because the signature on the envelope doesn’t match the one on file? No fear – that won’t happen in California. By law, you must be notified and given the chance to correct or acknowledge your ballot signature if there is any discrepancy. (And in Alameda County at least, they don’t use untrained people, they have trained folks whose specific job this is – we were told that if there’s something distinctive about your signature that’s common between the two samples, they won’t reject the ballot.)

Skip the lines, vote early

Early voting has started in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Check with your county for deadlines, locations, and specific guidelines — generally you can vote early in person, or by filling out a ballot and dropping it off at a designated site. Why vote early? You beat the crowds, you don’t have to deal with harried poll workers or people who showed up at the wrong place or didn’t fix their registration and there’s no time to fix the problem … and if you need info, you can probably get through to your county elections office!

Follow up: check your ballot status

In California, you can check the status of your ballots. You can find out whether your provisional ballot was counted, and the reason why, if it was not. And if you voted by mail you can find out whether the ballot arrived at your county’s election office, whether the ballot was counted, and, if not, the reason why.

Read our recent article with more great info about voting in the mid-term election here.

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.

Vote early, Vote often (every election, that is!)

Action deadline: Time’s nearly up! California election dates you need to know:

Early voting has started in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Check with your county for deadlines, locations, and specific guidelines — generally you can vote early in person, or by filling out a ballot and dropping it off at a designated site.

Did you forget to register to vote, or did you move and forget to re-register? Little-known fact: you can still register and vote conditionally at your county elections office, or at certain other locations up through Election Day.

Voter registration 101: 

  • Are you eligible to vote, but not registered? Pick up a paper application, fill it out and put it in the mail – no postage required! You can find a paper application at lots of places, including:
    • county elections offices
    • the DMV
    • government offices
    • post offices
    • public libraries
  • Do you want to register online? If so, you’ll need:
    • your California driver license or I.D. card number,
    • the last four digits of your social security number, and
    • your date of birth.

    Your info will be provided to CA Department of Motor Vehicles to retrieve a copy of your DMV signature. Don’t have one of those I.D.s, or have other questions? See more at the CA Secretary of State’s Election Division FAQ or contact them at 800-345-VOTE (8683) or by email.

  • Is your registration accurate? Check! Many voter registrations have errors – check yours. If you registered recently at the DMV, many of those were botched, so CHECK!
  • Do you need to re-register? Check here, and if you need to, please re-register. These are some (not all) of the reasons you must re-register to vote:
    • you moved since you last registered
    • you legally changed your name since you last registered
    • you want to change your political party
Learn more:
  • California voter hotlines: the Secretary of State’s office provides voting-related materials and assistance in ten languages. Call one of the toll-free hotlines for answers to your questions about voting and elections, or to request mail delivery of a voter registration form, vote-by-mail application, or the Official Voter Information Guide.
  • Read our earlier article, with information about your county’s election processes, pre-registering 16- and 17-year olds, voting for previously incarcerated people, and much more
  • See Vote.org’s California Election Center. Sign up for election reminders.
  • See the Voter’s Edge guide (a partnership of the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund’s Smart Voter and MapLight. It includes in-depth info about what’s on your ballot, and much more.

Send this info to your family and friends in states other than California:

  • Vote.org offers lots of information, and it’s easy to remember (it requires you to provide an email address).
  • Indivisible has partnered with TurboVote to help you sign up to get election reminders, register 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

Want to do more?

Canvassing with Very Cool People in Sanger

By Ted Lam, Fiona Woods, and Carl Mason

Six hours of driving and six hours of canvassing? Yes! And it was even more fun than we expected. We left Oakland before 5 AM on Saturday October 6, heading south toward Sanger, CA. Bagels, coffee, and great conversation made for a delightful three hour drive.  A millennial, a Gen Xer, and a baby boomer cruising toward the sunrise; intensely agreeing on politics while sharing music, pop culture, and social science insights.

Almost before we knew it we’d arrived in Sanger. While SwingLeft’s cheerful and super efficient organizers Stacey, Sharon and Norberto were giving us a quick update and walk through of the Political Data Inc. (PDI) app, who should show up but TJ Cox, the candidate we were there to canvass for! He spoke with us briefly and told us why he’s running for Congress: to help this neglected district get the attention and resources it deserves. CA-21 has a high poverty rate with many residents on Medicaid. TJ was especially proud that a foundation he started has built health clinics all over the valley, including the United Health Clinic in Sanger.  When we were out canvassing, many of the people we talked to were surprised and moved to find out that TJ was the force behind the Clinic’s creation.

IEB canvassing in Sanger for TJ Cox
Carl, Fiona and Ted canvassing in Sanger for TJ Cox (that’s TJ between Ted and Fiona)

You’d be shocked (not really!) to learn that David Valadao, the incumbent Republican Member of Congress against whom TJ is running, has voted with 45 over 98% of the time. Valadao has consistently voted against his district’s interests, including voting against the ACA, voting for cuts to Medicare, and failing to follow through with the discharge petition to protect DREAMers.

The three of us canvassed together from 9 AM to 3 in the afternoon, talking mainly to Democrats and to those who “declined to state” a preference on their voter registration. That’s because at this point in the election cycle, it’s much more about getting out the vote than persuading people to change their preference. While it was jarring to meet so many people who professed to have no knowledge of the election, it also felt productive. Nearly everyone was friendly and talking about TJ was easy. Perhaps we’re being overly optimistic, but we feel confident that we made a difference — that at least some of the people we spoke with will turn up at the polls because of us.

Lunch break! Ted, Carl and Fiona canvassing for TJ Cox in Sanger
Lunch break! Ted, Carl and Fiona canvassing for TJ Cox in Sanger

After lunch, the canvassing went a bit slower — not only because we were hauling around bellies full of excellent Mexican food, but because fewer people were home (or willing to answer the door). We left campaign literature with personalized post-it notes at every house. By day’s end, SwingLeft canvassers had knocked on 710 doors and had 174 targeted conversations — plus many more contacts with potential voters. Our trio even got three people to put up TJ Cox yard signs in very noticeable locations!

IEB canvasses for TJ Cox in Sanger, photo by Ted Lam
So inspiring when we spotted lawn signs for TJ Cox! Photo by Ted Lam

As the temperature approached 80 degrees (still unusually cool in the Valley), we wrapped it up, debriefed with the SwingLeft team, and headed for home. The drive back was even better than the drive out: after several weeks of the excruciating-to-watch Kavanaugh hearings, the satisfaction of having done something positive was cathartic.

You can make a difference too!

Can’t get out to canvass yourself? Donate to support one of the great groups listed above. You can even sponsor a canvasser in CA-21 by donating to Valley Forward, which helps employ people living in the district.

Read Ted’s recent article about why he spends his time canvassing, and his article about canvassing for TJ Cox in Mendota before the primary.

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.

Call to Action at IEB All Members Meeting

Get out of your chair and do something! Now!

That’s the essential message of the July 29, 2018 Indivisible East Bay All Members Meeting.

Midterm elections are now less than 100 days away! And these aren’t just any old midterms. They will determine whether Trump’s abuses of power can continue to go unchecked — without any restraint from a spineless GOP-controlled Congress — or whether Democrats can take back at least one house and begin to apply some checks and balance to stop the crazy.

Not sure what you can do? No problem. Representatives from several groups stood before the IEB attendees to pitch for support and activism from our members.

Adena Ishii, President of League of Woman Voters of Berkeley, Albany, Emeryville, started the ball rolling by reminding us that there is still much get-out-the-vote work to be done right here in our own backyard — where voter turnout among registered voters remains less than 40% for midterm elections! And that’s just registered voters; many potential voters still need to be registered.

Amy Golden from Swing Left East Bay asked volunteers to help with phone-banking and canvassing in critical California swing districts CD-10 and CD-21. See their events calendar and sign up!

Vivian Leal and Laynette Evans, visiting from Indivisible Northern Nevada, appealed for our help in the US Senate race targeting Senator Dean Heller, one of the most vulnerable Republican Senators. Opportunities include phone-banking in August and canvassing starting in September. There’s a Virtual Phone Bank on Sunday, Aug. 5; to volunteer for other opportunities sign up here

IEB’s powerhouse Linh Nguyen, who among her other hats co-leads the Judiciary and Senator Feinstein and Harris teams, spoke about issues that members are concerned about and working on:

  • Border separation: About 700 refugee children have not been reunited with their parents, and the administration does not have plans to reunify many of those. Of those children the administration says are “ineligible” for reunification, 431 have parents who are no longer in the U.S.  The administration did not get information regarding where the parents who were deported currently are, so there is no way to reunite the families.
  • SCOTUS: GOP Judiciary Committee Chair Senator Chuck Grassley has requested documents from only half of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s tenure in the White House.
  • Healthcare repeal 2.0: The House portion of Budget Resolution would make possible ACA repeal with ONLY 51 votes (again)! We are keeping an eye on this to see whether the Senate passes the same.

In a follow-up to the July 15 Indivisible webinar Fair and Secure Elections: What’s at Stake and How to Take Action, Melanie and Ion, co-leads of the IEB Voter Rights and Election Integrity team, explained the importance of taking action to secure our elections even as we participate in get out the vote efforts, canvassing, and other electoral work. Melanie and Ion, part of the Indivisible Safeguard Our Elections Working Group that  presented the webinar, explained that our election infrastructure is in terrible shape, struggling with vulnerable and hackable voting machines that too often provide no way to monitor their accuracy. The Voter Rights and Election Integrity team is seeking volunteers to help work on these issues. You can watch the recorded webinar at this link and if you have questions or would like to help, send the team an email.

IEB July 26 All Members Meeting

After the inspiring speakers the crowd was eager to hear about our upcoming events, which include:

  • August 12, 10 AM-noon: Indivisible We Write! IEB August postcard party, Sports Basement, Berkeley. Info & RSVP (free).
  • August 25, 2-4 PM: IEB Ale & Mail! No-host mingle & postcarding at Hop Yard Alehouse in Pleasanton. Info & RSVP.
  • August 26, 1-3 PM: IEB August All Members Meeting, Community room at Sports Basement, Berkeley. Info & RSVP. All welcome!

Finally, we broke into smaller groups. IEB Governance Committee member and Volunteer Coordinator Andrea led a packed breakout to introduce new members to the many ways they can work with Indivisible East Bay. IEB is always looking for volunteers who want to help organize events, research actions, and contribute to the newsletter. Email Andrea for more details. (And don’t forget the weekly action items in the newsletter!)

At another breakout several members sat down to take immediate direct action, writing 50 postcards in just a few minutes! We penned fifteen to our Members of Congress, asking them to support the PAVE Act to protect election security, and to oppose the asinine military parade. And twenty-four postcards are on their way to Democratic voters in New York, in support of Alessandra Biaggi, running for state senate. Want to learn more about postcard-ivism? Email Heidi.

Next month’s All Members Meeting will be at the Sports Basement in Berkeley on August 26, 1-3 PM. See you there!

Photographs by Andrea Lum and Heidi Rand

Protecting American Votes & Elections Act

This action will appear in the Indivisible East Bay newsletter on July 26, 2018. 

Deadline: ASAP and ongoing — Even without Russian hacking, elections can be compromised if we don’t protect the ballots! Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced S.3049, the PAVE Act, to require that all voters have the option to use hand marked paper ballots in federal elections. Paperless voting is vulnerable and problematic (see Georgia, South Carolina). The PAVE Act also requires Risk Limiting Audits for all federal races. Midterms are coming up, and we need to tell our Senators it’s time for them to support the PAVE Act, and to demand a 2018 implementation date (it’s currently 2020) for the hand marked paper ballot clause.

What to say:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want Senator _____ to support the Protecting American Votes and Elections Act, S.3049. We need to ensure that California’s voters are protected from malicious influence. We also need the hand marked paper ballot clause implemented for 2018 to cover the upcoming midterm elections.

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

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

 

Want to learn more about, and help to work on, election integrity issues?

  • Watch the recording of the Indivisible Fair & Secure Elections Webinar at this link (here’s our background article about the webinar)
  • After you watch, you can connect with people from your state by filling out this form. The working group will follow up with an email to introduce you to other people in your state interested in taking action
  • You can also view the webinar slides and other resources at this link
  • 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
  • Help spread the word on social media! Follow IEB member and election integrity advocate Jennifer Cohn (@jennycohn1) on Twitter, and re-tweet her  excellent content. Read Jennifer’s blog.

 

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Graphic copyright @equalandallied1

 

 

 

Contra Costa County Sheriff skates on thin ICE

Protesting works! Activism pays off! That’s a message we got loud and clear from Contra Costa Sheriff David Livingston’s July 10, 2018 press conference announcing that he is terminating the County’s contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

In practical terms, this means the West County Detention Facility (WCDF) in Richmond will no longer be used to “incarcerate undocumented migrants.” In resistance terms, it’s a victory that many, including members of Indivisible East Bay and our CA-11 team, have long worked to accomplish.

For months previously, WCDF had been the site of increasingly frequent and larger protests over the immigrant detainee issue. The matter gained additional traction in the chaos caused by the Current Occupant’s policy of separating refugee children from their parents. In announcing the termination, Livingston admitted that the public’s growing opposition and mounting political pressure significantly affected his decision. As we said, score one for the effectiveness of persistent protesters.

Cancelling the ICE contract was praised by most local politicians and officials, including Supervisor John Gioia, who declared that housing ICE detainees “erodes the trust between local government and local law enforcement and our immigrant communities. Ending the contract is a critical step in rebuilding this trust.”  Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), who previously called for termination of the contract, also spoke out in support.

Not everyone shared this view. At the press conference, County Supervisor Karen Mitchoff said she was sorry to be losing the contract. One concern was about how the County would make up for lost revenue; the ICE contract reportedly provided around $3 million in profit. Another was that detainees would be moved to sites much further away from family members, supportive communities, and their immigration lawyers.

A solution to the relocation problem, advocated by the Contra Costa Immigrant Rights Alliance and other groups active in assisting immigration detainees, would be to release currently held detainees as they await their immigration hearings. Not relying on the administration to release the detainees, these same groups have organized the West County Detention Facility Community Fund to raise donations to pay bond for those who can’t afford it and to pay for related expenses such as phone calls from detention centers.

There’s more than a bit of irony to the Sheriff’s decision. While he deserves credit for  finally terminating the ICE contract, we can’t forget that he has long supported and defended it — which is why people have been protesting at WCDF. His decision looks more like political pressure forcing a one-time capitulation rather than a change of heart. The Sheriff himself has given us much reason to take such a harsh view. To see why, let’s take a closer look at Livingston’s political history:

Looking back

David Livingston was first elected as Sheriff for Contra Costa County in 2010. His initial term passed with apparent little controversy, leading to his unopposed reelection in 2014. Over the next four years, his tenure took a dramatic turn.

In 2017, the East Bay Times‘ Editorial Board objected to Livingston’s heavy-handedness and “bombastic bullying” in dealing with those who “dare disagree with his policies.” As one example, the article noted that the Sheriff rejected a police dispatch contract for El Cerrito as “punishment” for the city’s opposition to an unrelated Livingston-supported West County jail expansion plan.

Later in 2017, twenty-seven WCDF inmates sent a letter, detailing allegations of abuse, to civil rights organization Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC — the national group recently re-named itself Freedom For Immigrants). Among the allegations, detainees described being locked up for hours and told to use bags in their cells when they needed to go to the bathroom. In response to the letter,  Rep. DeSaulnier asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the claims of mistreatment. Numerous other politicians were similarly critical of the Department. Sheriff Livingston denied the accuracy of the letter but did pledge an investigation (we are unaware of any publicly released results). 

In March of 2018, the Mercury News reported that Livingston banned CIVIC volunteers from entering the jail for a routine visit. The advocacy group labelled it as “retaliation” for their prior publicizing of the allegations of abuse. Human Rights Watch supported CIVIC’s complaint, noting that the Sheriff’s decision appeared to be “in response to protected speech, rather than alleged violations of policies and procedures.” In other words, Livingston was again deploying his tactic of “bullying” opponents.

In April, Livingston was accused of publishing the release dates of inmates in what appeared to be an attempt to assist ICE in tracking the inmates upon their release. In response, the California Senate began debate on a bill that would end the ICE contract and prevent “law enforcement from communicating and cooperating” with ICE. Not surprisingly, Livingston strongly opposed the bill, calling it a “disaster.”

During this same period, Richmond Mayor Tom Butt sought to have a tour of the West County facility and Rep. DeSaulnier sought to visit a local children’s shelter that was housing two adolescent girls separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. Both politicians were denied permission initially, but by July, close to the time of the ICE contract termination, permissions were granted.

Looking ahead

Amidst all of this controversy, Livingston was again running — unopposed! — for re-election as Sheriff. A strongly worded editorial in the East Bay Times lamented the lack of an opponent to Livingston and his “wrong-headed ideas and practices.” Similarly, IEB asserted that we should “speak out against his record and make sure none of our Democratic representatives supports him.”

Given the lack of an opponent, IEB and the CA-11 team, and several other groups, endorsed a “no confidence” write-in campaign against the Sheriff, rather than asking people to leave the ballot blank. Although the County’s official final vote tally shows Livingston receiving 100% of the vote (160,926), that is misleading — the County told us prior to the election that only write-in votes for “qualified candidates” would be reported. In fact, Assistant Registrar of Voters Scott Konopasek has now informed us that the “total unqualified write in votes for Sheriff-Coroner was 5563.”  That is 3.46%, a significant increase over Livingston’s prior races:

  • 2010: 0.41% (692) of those voting for Sheriff used the write-in option
  • 2014: 1.22% (1,328) of those voting for Sheriff used the write-in option

David Livingston is now on track to be the Contra Costa County Sheriff until at least 2022. In response, the CA-11 team, in coalition with other groups, may consider a recall effort. Recalls are very difficult, so we’ll also continue to search for someone to oppose him in the next election. One problem is that California law requires that a Sheriff candidate be in law enforcement — and it has been difficult to find qualified candidates willing to oppose Livingston.

In the meantime, we will continue to closely scrutinize his actions, ready to protest again whenever the situation demands, and to support those vulnerable populations who suffer most from his policies and practices. It worked this time. It can work again!

How you can help!

Reunite families fund

  • Actions at West County Detention Facility: The Interfaith Coalition for Human Rights holds a monthly vigil there, usually the first Saturday each  month – check their calendar for date & time. And Kehilla Community Synagogue’s Immigration Committee holds a protest there the second Sunday of each month, from 11 AM to 12 PM.
  • Keep the Heat on ICE! Join the weekly El Cerrito Shows Up protests organized by a coalition of groups including IEB and CA-11 team members; every Thursday from 6 to 7 PM at western entrance to El Cerrito Plaza
  •  Work with, support and/or donate to Contra Costa Immigrant Rights Alliance and Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement
  • Donate to the West County Detention Facility Community Fund    
  • This local fundraiser by the El Cerrito Progressives seeks to raise $5,000 to get at least one detainee out of WCDF. Donations will go directly to the West County Detention Facility Community Fund, and will be managed by Freedom for Immigrants.
  • Want to work with IEB and the CA-11 team to organize against the Sheriff? Email indivisibleca11@gmail.com or join the @moc_team_ca11 channel on IEB’s Slack.

Indivisible webinar to secure our elections

July 30 update: watch the recorded webinar here.

The 2018 mid-terms are mere months away – do you trust that our local elections will be fair, and that our election processes are secure? Indivisible National and several election security experts in Indivisible chapters around the country will present a webinar on July 15 to give Indivisible members and chapters critical information about how our elections can be undermined, and tools and strategies to hold our election officials accountable. 

The Safeguard Our Elections Working Group, made up of members of Indivisible groups in Maryland, Washington state, Hawaii, and California (that’s us – Indivisible East Bay), will present the free webinar, “Fair and Secure Elections: What’s at Stake and How to Take Action” on Sunday July 15 at 5 PM (PDT).

In March 2018, Congress allocated $380 million for states to secure elections against cyber attacks, and Indivisible chapters must press our state leaders to ensure that our states receive the grant money and use it wisely. The webinar will show us how to assess our states’ vulnerabilities and advise us how to lobby our state authorities to secure the elections.

The agenda and speakers include:

  • Introduction:  Jon Foreman, Indivisible Montgomery Maryland
  • Challenges and Threats and State Report Cards: Liz Howard, Counsel for the Democracy Program (Cybersecurity & Elections), Brennan Center for Justice
  • How States Can Act / Take Action Locally – Successful example of lobbying and getting action: Lisa Gibson, Indivisible Hawaii
  • How States Can Act / Take Action Locally – Rejection of public input on election security grant and Email voting insecurity : Kirstin Mueller, League of Women Voters – Washington State
  • Key Vulnerable States – Competitive states in next election and What to do at the state and local levels: Aquene Freechild, Campaign Co-Director, Democracy Is For People Campaign, Public Citizen
  • California – and We’re not Even a Red State: Melanie Bryson, Indivisible East Bay (California)
  • Looking Forward – Funding for 2019 and beyond: Congressman Jamie Raskin, Maryland, District 8
  • Discussion / questions

We Indivisible-ites are rightfully focused on taking back the House and Senate in the 2018 mid-terms. To ensure that our hard work isn’t in vain, we need to also learn how our election processes are vulnerable, and what actions we must take to ensure that each state has fair and secure elections. Indivisible must hold local officials accountable, just as we do our members of Congress! Learn how:

  • See the agenda and find more valuable background information here.
  • Sign up for the free webinar here.
  • Can you 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
  • For more info about the webinar, email Stephanie Chaplin: stephanie.chaplin20@gmail.com or Jon Foreman: jonforeman@gmail.com