Help elect Barrow Georgia Sec’y of State

Secretary of State — that’s a position we often don’t pay attention to till election time rolls around and we realize we’re stuck with a Republican who has abused the position to disenfranchise minorities and suppress voters’ rights — Georgia, we’re lookin’ at you! Georgia, where Brian Kemp, who “won” (yeah, we do mean cheated and stole) the governor’s race against Stacey Abrams before resigning as Secretary of State (SoS).

Well, it’s time to pay attention! Democrat John Barrow is in a runoff election against Republican State Representative Brad Raffensperger to replace Kemp as the Georgia SoS on December 4, 2018. And even if you don’t live there, you can help ensure that the era of disenfranchisement ends now.

What you can do:

We REALLY did it! IEB and the Blue Wave

We did it!

That was the cry — half delight, half relief — that all progressives expressed on Election Day 2018 … when it became clear that the Democrats would retake control of the House of Representatives.

But those of us in Indivisible East Bay could have more accurately exclaimed: “We really did it!” That’s because, over the final months of the campaign season, we engaged in a major push of canvassing, phone-banking and text-banking, all with the goal of flipping several key Republican positions. When the dust settled (which took almost two weeks to do, with one race still undecided), the results proved how spectacularly effective we had been.

IEB canvassing in Sanger for TJ Cox
Carl, Fiona & Ted canvassing in Sanger for TJ Cox – that’s TJ between Ted and Fiona!

To see for yourself, take a look at what happened in five important races where IEB put muscle into flipping seats from red to blue (note: races listed with CA- followed by a number were for the US House of Representatives; the number is the Congressional district):

  • Josh Harder, CA-10. We worked hard for this Congressional seat in CA-10, the flippable district geographically closest to the Bay Area. IEB members phone and text banked, and some traveled to the district to canvass. Initial results had Republican Jeff Denham, the incumbent for the past two election cycles, in the lead — and pundits were already giving up on Harder. But the race remained officially “too close to call.” Then on the Friday after Election Day, with mail-in and provisional ballots skewing Democratic, Harder pulled ahead and stayed there — resulting in a huge upset victory. The margin was narrow (50.9% to 49.1%) but we won!
  • TJ Cox, CA-21. If the current vote margins don’t change, this nailbiter may be a heartbreaker. Spurred on by Team Blue Wave Contra Costa organizer Kook Huber, IEB strongly committed to getting TJ Cox elected as CA-21’s representative to Congress, a rural heavily-Latino Central California district where Republican David Valadao is the incumbent. We canvassed in this district as much as or more than anywhere else. The race was unofficially called for Valadao on election night, but ballots still continue to be counted and the lead narrowed and keeps narrowing. While still considered a long shot, there is a real chance for Cox to pull out a victory. Currently, Cox is less than 1,000 votes behind Valadao, with around 22,000 votes still to be counted. Whatever the final outcome, there is reason to feel good about this race. In 2016, Valadao bested his Democratic opponent by 13 percentage points; this time around, the difference should be razor thin, perhaps within 100 votes! We’re headed in the right direction.
  • Harley Rouda, CA-48. This was perhaps the biggest shocker — and most welcome — of all the California races. Republican incumbent Dana Rohrabacher has represented this deeply red Southern California district for three decades! Known for his pro-Russia views and solid support for Trump, he was at the top of the list of Representatives we most wanted to oust. IEB sent postcards, text-banked and phone banked on behalf of challenger Democrat Harley Rouda. It worked! In the end, Rouda bested Rohrabacher by more than 5 percentage points. Postscript: With victory now declared for Gil Cisneros, the Democrats have swept all seven Orange County House seats!
  • Jacky Rosen, Senate, Nevada. IEB was approached by our sister Indivisible, Indivisible Northern Nevada, which asked us to join their highly organized Issue Voters Project focusing on Washoe County, which encompasses Reno. Led by IEB’s outreach team co-lead Toni Henle, we made a huge push via phone-banking and especially with canvassing, including knocking on doors in Reno for the final weekend before the election. The result was incredible: Washoe County, formerly solid red, turned blue and went for Rosen over incumbent Dean Heller by 4 percentage points! It was the key result that led to Rosen’s ultimate state-wide victory. Making the win even sweeter, this was a race where Trump got personally involved, derisively referring to Rosen as “Wacky Jacky.”
  • Kyrsten Sinema, Senate, Arizona. A Hollywood screenwriter couldn’t have scripted a more thrilling ending to this race. In Arizona, a traditionally red but increasingly purple state, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema was challenging GOP candidate Martha McSally for the Senate seat currently held by the retiring Jeff Flake. Democrats believed they had a real shot to win this. But on the first days after the election, the situation looked grim as McSally built a seemingly insurmountable lead of more than 20,000 votes. Then came the surprise. By Monday November 13, after mail-in votes were tallied, a stunning reversal occurred. With a turn-around lead of more than 38,000 votes, Sinema was declared the victor — despite Trump’s and the GOP’s attempts to muddy the waters with baseless claims of voter fraud. This is huge! Sinema will become the first Democratic Senator from Arizona since the 1980’s. Once again, IEB contributed to this success via several phone-banking events.
Phone banking for Kyrsten Sinema
Phone banking for Kyrsten Sinema

The bottom-line message couldn’t be more clear: what we do can make a difference. It definitely did make a difference in 2018. But there remains much work to be done. There’s still time to help Mike Espy win the Senate seat in the Mississippi special runoff election on November 27. And it’s not too early to start building the Blue Wave that will take out Trump in 2020.

Help Mike Espy win 11/27 special election

Deadline: today and through November 27 –

Surprise! Election season 2018 isn’t over! On November 27, 2018, Democrats have a chance to win a special election for the US Senate seat vacated by Thad Cochran in Mississippi. Representative Mike Espy, former Agriculture Secretary under Bill Clinton, is running against Trump-endorsed Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith, who replaced Cochran on an interim basis.

Espy, who would be Mississippi’s first African-American Senator since Reconstruction, is running as a moderate Democrat. He has stated his support for an increased minimum wage, paid family leave, expanding funding for Medicaid and CHIP, and women’s health initiatives and the right to choose.

We’re organizing events and publicizing other groups’ efforts to support Espy’s run because this is a chance to narrow the Senate’s partisan divide and hopefully force the GOP to the table on more issues. Below is information about our events and other ways you can get involved on your own. Please keep an eye on this post, our website, and the newsletter as we continue to organize to win this seat!

What you can do:

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