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.

Canvassing with Indivisible Northern Nevada

At the Indivisible East Bay July All Member Meeting, two of our colleagues from Indivisible Northern Nevada gave a presentation about their efforts identifying issues that matter to voters in the Reno area as part of the campaign to get out the vote to unseat Senator Dean Heller, identified as one of the most vulnerable Republican Senators. They were so inspiring that in early August, 2018, a group of IEB members traveled to Reno to attend the 2018 Lake Tahoe Summit and to canvass and register voters in northern Nevada with our Indivisible colleagues. 

Our Indivisible Northern Nevada hosts, all women, greeted us at the picnic tables at Reno’s Idlewild Park with coffee, orange juice, and three kinds of pastries all laid out on a floral tablecloth. After an enthusiastic welcome, some wrangling of the MiniVan app, and a little roleplaying, we were ready to talk to some voters. The goal was to identify issues the voters cared about and decide what, if any, further contact to plan with them. We split into pairs; my partner Ruth happened to live nearby so we decided to start in her neighborhood, which made it very easy to find the addresses that popped up on my phone. 

The first person we talked to was a stocky man with a sunburn who came out around the side of his house smoking a cigar. As planned, we asked him what issues he was thinking about in the upcoming election. He said he was pretty happy with how things were going for him, and would stay happy as long as his taxes were low. We probably could have said “thank you for your time” right then and there and taken him off the list. But he was polite and reasonably friendly, if a little smug, so we pressed a little further, asking what he thought of the state of Reno’s infrastructure and about recent changes to the federal tax code. He said he got a $10K tax cut and that if Reno outgrew its infrastructure he’d just move somewhere else. Then his wife came out to tell him his mom was on the phone and we were able to make a graceful exit.

Our next experience was happier. We talked to a young woman just out of nursing school who came to the door in a bathrobe with a towel on her head, yet was happy to chat with the strangers at the door about her top issues: student debt and cost of living. With her busy life, she didn’t know anything about the candidates for Senate or other upcoming elections, but she promised to educate herself by November, and to vote. After consulting in the car, we decided that we didn’t need to send anyone back to talk to her more about the issues and we marked her “GOTV” so that someone would call or visit to remind her to vote.

After a few unanswered knocks, we came to a house that seemed to have no door. The front of the house was a row of garages and at closer inspection there was a door at the back of one of them. We ventured inside to knock, and retreated back to the driveway. Just when we were giving up and turning to leave, a white-haired woman who looked to be in her seventies opened the door. She said she hadn’t really thought about the issues or which ones were most important to her. When we suggested some common answers like health care, jobs and the economy, or the environment, she said that “all those things must be important to anyone who’s alive” but didn’t really offer anything further.  She talked about a need for balance and cooperation in government and seemed mildly enthusiastic about the fact that so many women are getting involved and running for office right now. Back in the car, we decided that she probably could use another conversation to make her feel that her vote mattered and to be sure she knew which candidates agreed with her on the issues and would bring balance to Washington: we marked her “MAYBE.”

Even our Trumpiest door knock was calm and cordial, probably in part because we identified ourselves as non-partisan and asked for information rather than giving it. A middle-aged woman on crutches told us that she thought things were “finally on the right track” now that Trump was in office. We felt sad for her, suspecting that she is one of those supporters who is actually hurt by the president’s policies, but got a certain amount of satisfaction out of emphatically taking her off our list for future visits.

At our next stop, we met a man whose top issue was immigration. He said straight off that we definitely need “some” immigration to get people to do the jobs that Americans don’t want to do. He also said that people who enter the country without permission are “breaking the law” and should face consequences, and should need to prove that they haven’t come to do harm. But he was kind of wavering on whether it was okay to lock them all up in detention for fleeing violence or seeking a better life for their families. We marked him down as a strong MAYBE, almost envying the interesting conversation in store for the volunteer who comes back to engage him further about the facts around immigration and how to vote in alignment with his beliefs.

Our last conversation of the day was with a young father whose front yard was full of children’s toys, and who was the only non-white person we came across in that neighborhood. It was a short visit both because he was obviously busy and because it was pretty clear right away that he was a strong progressive informed on the issues and in favor of Medicare for all. We marked him “GOTV” and both sort of regretted that we didn’t at least ask if he wanted to volunteer; but it hadn’t occurred to us until after the moment had passed.

The group reconvened back at the park to discuss our experiences and talk about what we want to do better next time. The canvassers were energized, feeling good about people’s responses to getting questions about their opinions and priorities rather than being asked to support a candidate or fed a party line. Some also expressed a sense that out of all these voters who had registered as non-partisan, more were leaning leftward than rightward on the issues.

As for our goals to do better next time, we all thought we needed some more strategies to draw out relatively uninformed people in naming their top issues. And we noted our inclination to spend perhaps too many of our valuable canvasing minutes having long conversations with enthusiastic progressives, but decided there was value in that too both for our own morale and theirs.

Certainly my own morale was lifted by the trip, especially meeting the Indivisible Nevadans who fed us, opened their guestrooms to us, and taught us how to make connections with their neighbors and community.

If you’d like to join next time please fill out this form.

Indivisible We Wrote!

By Charlotte McGoldrick

Indivisible East Bay’ers and friends packed our August 2018 postcard party, companionably writing 433 postcards and 14 letters, and all in time for lunch!

  • 240 postcards are headed to CA-1 voters in support of Audrey Denney, an agriculturalist and educator running for Congress against Republican incumbent Doug LaMalfa
  • 158 postcards are going to CA-21 voters in support of TJ Cox, an engineer and Central Valley small businessman running for Congress against Republican incumbent David Valadao
  • 25 postcards went to Senators Feinstein and Harris to ask them to keep fighting against Trump’s horrible, no-good presidential power-loving Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh
  • 10 postcards went to voters for Julie Goldberg, an educator running for a New York state senate seat, through Postcards to Voters
  • We also sent 14 letters to Democratic voters in Georgia through Vote Forward, another great organization that specifically targets voters who are unlikely to vote, with the goal of boosting voter turnout through the power of the pen. 

We loved seeing lots of new faces this weekend (including several under one-year old – children are always welcome)! Thank you to everyone who turned out to flip Congress blue. Couldn’t make this one? Itching to write to more voters? Great, let’s keep this going. Stay tuned for announcements about our upcoming postcard parties, always listed in our newsletter, on our Facebook page, and on our upcoming events webpage.

Postcard party August

And Mary McFarland of East Bay for TJ Cox is hosting a post-carding party on Friday, August 17, from 4:00-6:00 pm in Alameda. If you’d like to attend, please email Mary. Can’t make it? Check out other events here.

200+ postcards in support of Audrey Denney in CA-1
This is what 240 postcards in support of Audrey Denney in CA-1 looks like!

Learn more about activist postcard-ing at our article The Pen (plus .35 stamp) Is Mightier Than Yelling At Your TV. Have other questions? Want to let us know about your own postcarding events? Email us or contact @heidirand on Slack.  

Photos by Heidi Rand

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.

Experts talk about how to beat the Kavanaugh nomination

By Candace Goldman

On August 2, 2018, Indivisible East Bay took part in a community meeting in Berkeley to discuss Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court, and actions we can take to prevent his approval by the Senate. IEB co-sponsored the meeting with the California Civil Rights Coalition, Equal Justice Society, The Center for Independent Living, and People For the American Way.

The evening was emceed by Eva Paterson, a long-time civil rights advocate, and speakers included Leslie Proll with the NAACP, Amy Everitt of NARAL Pro-Choice California, Raymundo Jacquez III from Centro Legal de la Raza, Noreen Farrell of Equal Rights Advocates, Dan Roth with the American Constitution Society, and IEB’s own Linh Nguyen, who co-leads our Judiciary Team.  Linh did a masterful job of informing the gathering about what IEB and the Judiciary Team have been doing. She really engaged the audience and was an inspiring example of what we can do when we band together to take action.  Great job, Linh – and thank you!

The speakers addressed the dangers a Kavanaugh confirmation would represent – and they are legion – and also the actions we can take to defeat his nomination.  Everyone’s rights and interests are at risk with this potential swing position on the Supreme Court – from women’s health to labor protections, from shredding Executive accountability to continuing environmental destruction to endangering the lives of immigrants.  Each speaker emphasized that it is NOT a foregone conclusion that Kavanaugh will be approved, but we need to keep a laser beam on the nomination and ramp up the pressure to defeat him.

What you can do:

  • Tell Senators Feinstein and Harris that you want them to vote NO on Kavanaugh in the Judiciary Committee; and that if the nomination gets out of committee and to the full Senate, you want them to vote NO and hold all other Democrats and swing voters to do the same
    • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
    • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Call all the people you know in the states whose senators are on the Judiciary Committee and urge them to tell their senators to vote NO on Kavanaugh in committee and, if necessary, in the full Senate
  • Ask all your friends to contact their senators – especially swing votes like Senator Murkowski of Alaska and Senator Collins of Maine – and tell them to vote NO if the nomination reaches the full Senate.
  • Read our articles here, here, here, here, and here (wow, we’ve been busy!) for more info, suggested call scripts, and actions you need to take.
  • Make your voice heard: Unite for Justice has called for nationwide rallies to oppose Kavanaugh on Sunday, August 26. Find an event near you at this link, or attend NARAL Pro-Choice California’s event from 1-3 PM, San Francisco Civic Center.
  • Educate yourself: the IEB All Members Meeting will also be held on August 26 from 1-3 PM at Sports Basement, Berkeley. Linh will present an updated version of the Kavanaugh presentation she made at the August 2 meeting. Please join us if you can – it’s important to educate ourselves about this unacceptable nominee who would serve for life (and he’s only 53 years old!) if confirmed. We need to keep the pressure intense to stop this dangerous nomination.

 

IEB Delivers Message to Sen. Murkowski from Alaska’s Indivisibles: Vote No on Kavanaugh

When we heard that the difficult to pin down Senator Lisa Murkowski was slated to be the guest speaker at the August 2018 Tahoe Summit, which several Indivisible East Bay members planned to attend, we reached out to Indivisibles in Alaska to see if there was a message we could bring to the senator on their behalf.

Sen. Murkowski is one of the most likely swing votes on the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination. She regularly breaks with Republicans to vote to fund Planned Parenthood (though she has yet to break with them in support of a judicial nominee) and she has demonstrated willingness to stand up to Republican pressure on ACA repeal.

Twenty-nine of her constituents gave us a letter asking her to vote NO on Kavanaugh, saying,

Here in Alaska, we are terrified that under a Kavanaugh Supreme Court, hundreds of thousands of us would lose access to safe, effective health care and autonomy over our bodies. We fear that the brave men and women who take on tough and dangerous work to bring prosperity to their families and our state will lose their protections. And we worry that if the federal government, under this president, or a future president, takes action that harms Alaska and we take it to court, this Supreme Court will automatically decide against working Alaskans.

After almost being denied access to the event by some Nevada State troopers, we successfully delivered the letter to Sen. Murkowski as she was entering the event, and told her that Alaskans are counting on her. She was very polite and friendly and thanked us for giving it to her, though her staff was kind of rushing her past us. She said she was headed to Alaska tonight to have some meetings about Kavanaugh, but she did not say who those meetings were with – we hope they are with her constituents, a majority of whom believe the Senate should not confirm a Supreme Court Justice who will overturn Roe v. Wade.

The Alaska Grassroots Alliance is collecting additional signatories to the letter we delivered here. Please share their petition with anyone you know in Alaska!

Photograph by Linh Nguyen

At Netroots Nation with Thousands of Other Progressives: Feeling our Grassroots Power

By Nancy Latham

Netroots Visual Recording, by Nancy Latham
Visual recording

At the beginning of August, I traveled to New Orleans with thousands of other activists to attend the 2018 annual Netroots Nation conference. Each day we chose from approximately a gajillion panels and trainings. At the panels we learned about how to build diverse coalitions, what it means to bring race and class narratives together, why we’ve been thinking about GOTV (Get Out the Vote) in the wrong way – and so much more. The trainings covered everything anyone would want to know about organizing and building power, from attracting volunteers to planning protests to messaging (and way more that I have forgotten).

Netroots, photo by Nancy Latham
Hidden Figures: How Women of Color are Making History in the Midterms, a panel discussion featuring women of color who are leading the way to progressive victories in key states

After drinking from a firehose of knowledge during the day, we flocked each night to the massive hall with its stage draped in lush curtains to hear keynote speeches by Democratic Party luminaries like Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Cory Booker, and rising stars like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cynthia Nixon, and Chokwe Lumumba. (Fun fact: I learned there that the cool people call Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez “AOC.”) The crowd was thrilled that no one there was heeding any centrist hand-wringing about moving too far to the Left. As speaker after speaker exhorted us to be bold in centering racial justice and economic justice and – for God’s sake – to stop apologizing for our party’s foundational principles, each was met with thundering applause.

Echoing the GOTV trainings that warned us about progressive voters who stay home when they are uninspired by Democrats’ lack of boldness, AOC reminded us that “swing voters don’t vote for the person who is moderate enough, the person who is most timid, the person who backs down from their starting point – the swing voter votes for authenticity.” And Bill de Blasio shouted to a cheering crowd: “This is an extraordinary moment. … We have to see ourselves as authors of an emerging majority. … Progressives: it’s our time!”

It sure feels like it’s our time. Since the dark days right after the 2016 election, we have been organizing our hearts out, building our power – and it’s working. People who just a year ago might have been nervous to lead with social justice messages are now proudly proclaiming those values. “Let’s speak truth,” Kamala Harris said. “That if it wasn’t clear before Charlottesville, it is clear now – racism is real in this country, and we need to deal with that. Sexism is real in this country; let’s deal with it. Anti-Semitism, homophobia, transphobia are real in this country; let’s deal with it.” These sentiments flowed throughout every speech – because the activists have demanded it. And we have told elected officials and those seeking office that we would work for them – we would mobilize to get out the vote and we would have their backs on the issues. They know they need us, so they are listening to us.

It was so refreshing to have racial justice front and center. While some of the coverage of the conference suggested that the message was “screw the white working class Trump voters – we’re done with them,” that was not what I heard at all. Rather, we are fighting for everyone devastated by decades of stagnating median wages and skyrocketing inequality. As AOC says, we “fight for social economic, and racial justice for all working class Americans.” We have to be honest and forthright about that – we can be true to our values, inspire our base, and do the right thing for everyone no matter who they voted for, all at the same time. As we return to our principles of equity and justice, Obama-Trump voters may come home to the Democratic Party.

And even among our progressive brethren, we were pushed to do better. On the last night, the Black Ass Caucus took the stage, claimed space, and challenged Netroots leadership and everyone in the audience to see the ways in which people of color were still being marginalized. While the protest stretched many in the audience outside their comfort zones (me included), we were grateful to be called out: asked to live up to our principles more authentically. To see the whole protest, go here – and I encourage you to watch it a few times.

Ultimately, what is very clear is that it is not only morally wrong, but strategically unsound, to moderate our focus on the issues that will galvanize our base: people of color, young people, and white progressives. As the math shows, if we stick with our base and inspire them, we don’t need to worry about scaring off voters who will vote only for centrists. And as grassroots organizers, we need to keep doing what we’re doing: mobilizing, proudly proclaiming and reaffirming our progressive values, holding elected officials accountable, and owning our power.

Nancy Latham is on IEB’s Governing Committee, and is a passionate member of the Resistance. In her day job, she works with non-profits, foundations, and government agencies that support greater equity and justice through initiatives in youth development, education, housing, and community development.

Photos by Nancy Latham

July IEB Postcard Party & Snack Potluck

Please join us at Indivisible East Bay’s postcard party & snack potluck July 15, anytime between 11 AM and 3 PM at Sports Basement, Berkeley. RSVP here – not required, but it’ll help us know what supplies to bring for you.

All are warmly welcome — from the postcard-curious to committed carders — for a combo of direct resistance activism, friendly chat, and noshing! Feel free to bring snacks to share if you want, but we’d prefer if you bring a friend (or 5) and/or your family (children welcome).

We’ll provide supplies, explain everything, and have newbies up and writing in a few minutes. Our postcard parties have been huge successes, with IEB members & friends stepping up to write 100s of cards! We’re upping our game and offering several options:

  • Postcards to Voters: this fantastic resource provides an ideal way for blue state activists to write directly to Democrats in other districts & states to urge them to vote. We’ll provide addresses and scripts – currently P2V is writing to get out the vote for Danny O’Connor, the Democratic candidate running in the August 7 special election for Ohio’s 12th Congressional District. 
  • Postcards for truth and justice in support of Andrew Janz, running for Congress against Putin’s puppet Devin Nunes in California District 22.
  • Postcards to U.S. Senators: we’ll have sample scripts so you can write postcards to your Senators to vote against Trump’s unfit judicial nominees. Want to write these postcards at home? See our Judiciary team’s awesome page for expert info on the nominees plus scripts!
  • New! We’re hosting Scott from Vote Forward, an exciting project using letters (instead of postcards) mailed to targeted voters in selected campaigns. For people who want to learn about this option, Scott will bring letters & envelopes for you to write, and he’ll answer questions. He’d appreciate donations to cover letter postage, or you can bring your own first-class letter stamps.

More deets:

  • You can bring your own postcards or we’ll have lots there for you to use – some designed and donated by IEB’s super postcard party guru Michael, and others donated by IEB angels
  • Bring postcard stamps (.35 each for cards a max of 6″ x 4.25″) if you have, or  we’ll have stamps for you (not donated, so we’ll just ask you to reimburse us for the cost)
  • We’ll also have pens and markers, fun GOTV washi tape, and other supplies
  • Already a verified P2V writer? Bring your own addresses if you want!

Learn more about activist postcard-ing at our article The Pen (plus .35 stamp) Is Mightier Than Yelling At Your TV

We’re set to be in the upstairs mezzanine at Sports Basement (take stairs or elevator up), but if there’s a last minute change of room check for Indivisible East Bay or IEB postcard party on the chalk board at the entrance.

Have other questions? Want to let us know about your own postcarding events? Email us or contact @heidirand on Slack.  

Thousands Protest Immigration Policies at “Families Belong Together” Demos

It was a dark time for the Rebellion. The armies of the Empire had thwarted the attempts of those seeking asylum from violence in their homeland — forcing refugees to choose between returning to the dangers of their home or being forcibly separated from their children at the border — perhaps forever. This unconscionable action could not stand. And it did not. Responding to growing protests even among his own supporters, Emperor Trump at last rescinded his order.

But for those families who had already been separated, it remained unclear when or how they would be reunited. Further, a recent court filing indicates the Justice Department plans to keep migrant families in detention. To keep the pressure on for a quick, humane and complete solution, hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered on Saturday June 30 at more than 700 “Families Belong Together” nationwide rallies. At the largest rallies, numbers reportedly ranged from 35,000 in Washington, D.C. to 70,000 in Los Angeles.

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Families Belong Together in Washington, D.C.

Indivisible East Bay communities held several notable protests, and IEB members were out in force. Some of our reports:

West County Detention Facility (Richmond)

“We joined thousands of protesters at the Richmond, California West County Detention Facility (WCDF) to make it LOUD and clear that families belong together,” IEB and Indivisible El Cerrito member Melanie Bryson said. She also sent a special thank you to the dedicated people who’ve been attending monthly vigils and bi-weekly protests at WCDF, and to all those attending weekly vigils in El Cerrito.

Families Belong Together protest at West County Detention Facility, June 30, 2018
Families Belong Together protest at West County Detention Facility

IEB member Mandeep Gill estimated the “massive” crowd at over 2,000, also noting that the energy level was high, and the noise level loud at the Richmond rally. He added that “our sustained several minute ‘Abolish ICE’ chant roar was loud enough that I saw several folks covering their ears. Good! This is the kind of fierce collective energy that’s going to carry us all forward.”

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A protestor at the Richmond rally

Berkeley

Over 1,500 people gathered together in Civic Center Park in downtown Berkeley. Carrying a wide variety of creative signs, the protesters were enthusiastic but peaceful. Undeterred by the week’s string of Supreme Court defeats, including the decision to uphold Trump’s Muslim travel ban, the crowd positively responded to the exhortations of the speakers — including State Senator Nancy Skinner — that we remain committed to the fight and maintain our confidence that we will be successful in the end.

Members from several Indivisible groups were among the crowd. Daron Sharps, a speaker from Indivisible Berkeley, called on demonstrators to phone-bank and vote President Donald Trump and his allies out of office.

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At Berkeley rally, protesting is a “family affair”

Livermore…and more

Several hundred people turned out for each of a trio of rallies in Tri-valley cities Livermore, Dublin and Pleasanton. The largest was in Livermore, where CA-15 Congressman Eric Swalwell was a featured speaker.

 

Concord

CA-11 Congressman Mark DeSaulnier spoke to a large crowd attending the Migrants March at Todos Santos Plaza in Concord.

See our article for many actions you can take to continue to fight for immigrants.

Photos by CNN, Heidi Rand, Mandeep Gill, and Ted Landau

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