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.  

Families Belong Together – We Demand Justice

Read our latest article on actions you can take to fight the administration’s war against immigrants. For more background on the family separation issue, please see our articles here and here

Hundreds of thousands of people nationwide marched and rallied at more than 700 protests on June 30 organized by a broad coalition of groups, including Indivisible, to protest the administration’s separation of refugee families and horrifying immigration policies.

The primary organizer, Families Belong Together, is calling for further mass protests on Saturday, July 28, to bring attention to the date — July 26 — by which federal District Judge Dana Sabraw ordered the administration to reunite thousands of refugee children with their parents. The administration missed the judge’s first deadline to reunite children under 5 years old with their parents, and they’re clearly dragging their heels, so we must all continue to demand a solution to this crisis, demand dignity for all immigrants, and demand justice!

Activists from groups including El Cerrito Progressives, El Cerrito Shows Up (ECSU), and Indivisible East Bay have organized large weekly rallies each Thursday for the past month. They’re holding their Families Belong Together: We Demand Justice! rally on Thursday July 26, the day Judge Sabraw’s order goes into effect. The rally, from 6 to 7 PM, will be a visible direct action, with people holding signs and letters to form a human billboard lining the busy intersection at San Pablo Ave and Carlson Ave, the west entrance to El Cerrito Plaza. Join others in songs, slogans, and solidarity, and bring a sign — for inspiration you’ll find signs, protest songs, and more here.

Focusing locally, the organizing groups – including members of IEB and our CA-11 team, and El Cerrito Progressives – also actively worked to oppose Contra Costa County Sheriff Livingston in the June 2018 election, emphasizing in large part his close ties with ICE. The West County Detention Facility, which Livingston runs, is the only Bay Area jail that houses ICE detainees. ECSU has also called for ICE to be de-funded and abolished. In a stunning reversal, on July 19 Sheriff Livingston announced that he is cancelling the ICE contract, and noted that protests and public pressure were a factor in his decision.

El Cerrito Progressives and ECSU organizer Sherry Drobner noted that activists are gratified that the ICE contract will be terminated, but are concerned about the 200 immigrants who’ve been detained at the detention center. “We hope they’ll be released into the community with their family members so they get access to resources to allow them to have their day in court,” she said, adding “and we look forward to a day when there are no ICE agents in our neighborhoods terrorizing families.”

Not in the Bay Area? Search for a Families Belong Together event near you (and check back for added events closer to the date), or sign up to host one, and spread that link to everyone you know!

 

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

Families Belong Together Rally 6/14/18

On June 14, more than 200 people from all corners of the Bay Area streamed to El Cerrito to protest the administration’s inhumane policy of separating children from their parents at the southern border.

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DE-FUND ICE

Filling all corners of the large intersection, we chanted, sang, and cheered for the clenched fists raised in solidarity and supportive honks from the constant stream of cars.

Families Belong Together

Organizers provided background information and ways to take further action, and got more than 150 signatures on a petition to deliver to our Members of Congress, asking them to go to the border and find out the facts.

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More demonstrations are planned.  Nationwide, find and/or organize a event. If you’re in the Bay Area, check that list (events are added frequently) and follow the Indivisible East Bay and El Cerrito Shows Up facebook pages. Also, see our articles for actions you can take, including how to pressure our Members of Congress and other ways to help.

Photographs by Heidi Rand

IEB goes to Washington

Indivisible East Bay usually meets with our Washington representatives when they visit the Bay Area. But from June 4-6, 2018, IEB members traveled to Washington, D.C. for a succession of get-togethers with California’s Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris as well as several of their key staffers. It was an opportunity for face-to-face interactions at a high-level — and IEB made the most of it.

Senator Feinstein visit to DC

One highlight of the trip was a constituent breakfast with Senator Feinstein. For her opening remarks, Feinstein mainly spoke about her recently-introduced legislation to prevent the separation of asylum-seeking families, as well as her plans to address the problems of homelessness and climate change. Since it was the morning after the primary, she thanked those who voted for her and said she hoped to win over the rest.

During the Q&A that followed, we noted that the Senator is a ranking member of the Judiciary Committee and asked what we could do to help fix the broken process for the confirmation of judges, and especially to protect the federal judiciary from the too-often extremist nominees put forward by Republicans. Her answer was simple but will be difficult to accomplish: Take back the Senate.

Senator Kamala Harris in DC

We also heard Senators Harris and Cory Booker (D-NJ) speak at a rally jointly organized by the NAACP and Demand Justice (a new organization focusing on judicial nominations). IEB’s Judiciary team recently started working with Demand Justice to attempt to block the nomination of Thomas Farr to a lifetime judgeship on the district court in North Carolina. Farr has a decades-long history of involvement in voter suppression of North Carolina’s African-American population.

Finally, we had several days of meetings with six members of Feinstein’s and Harris’s staffs. At each meeting, we raised our concerns on specific issues, listened to their replies, and offered our responses. Here are the highlights:

Senator Feinstein Chief of Staff Steve Haro and Appropriations Legislative Aide Josh Esquivel

Our highest level meeting was with Senator Feinstein’s chief of staff Steve Haro and Josh Esquivel, her appropriations legislative aide.

The opening topic was nuclear bombs, notably the House’s recently passed version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes a provision for $65 million to develop a new “low-yield” nuclear weapon to be launched from submarines. Feinstein is on record as strongly opposing this and other efforts to expand the nuclear stockpile and plans to offer an amendment to remove such provisions from the Senate bill. However, Josh would not promise that Feinstein would vote NO on the full NDAA if, despite her efforts, the nuclear authorizations remain in the bill.

We next discussed aspects of the Homeland Security Authorization Bill, which currently has bipartisan support in the Senate. We asked about the increased budget authority for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) included in the bill. In our view, both of these agencies have abused their power and defied Congressional oversight; we thus asked that Senator Feinstein vote against additional funding for those agencies. Steve and Josh both expressed some surprise that funding for these agencies was included in the bill; they were under the impression that the bill was mostly about other aspects of the Department, such as disaster preparedness and election security.

We also requested a status update regarding funding for Puerto Rico’s hurricane relief. Josh told us that there is still “plenty of money” left from the last relief funding bill Congress passed. Why then, we asked, does the situation in Puerto Rico remain so dire? He replied that the administration is not doing a good job using the available money to get resources to the people who need it.

We told him that we would like to see Congressional staff get raises. Legislative branch funding is very skimpy and one of the reasons for this is that Congressional Republicans have, since the 1990’s, cut funds for the legislative branch in an apparent bid to increase lobbyists’ relative power and influence. We would like to see that trend reversed in upcoming federal budgets.

Lastly, we discussed sexual harassment and staff well-being policies in Congressional offices. On the subject of harassment, Steve said that the Senator has a very strict, zero-tolerance policy. Staffers are asked to report any incidents directly to him or the Senator. In either case, a report immediately triggers an investigation, headed by Steve. If any harassment is determined to have occurred, the consequences are very serious and even a first offense can result in termination.

Feinstein judicial nominations counsel Gabe Kader

In our meeting with Gabe Kader, one of Feinstein’s Judiciary Committee counsels, we returned to the subject of nominations to the federal bench. Gabe was very interested to hear about our work in this area, especially about which issues in the nominees’ backgrounds resonated most with our members and friends: reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, conflicts of interest, etc.

While we affirmed our support for Feinstein’s goal of Democrats taking back the Senate — as the ultimate solution here — we told him that, in the interim, Feinstein should use her leadership to convince all Congressional Democrats to stand together in opposing unqualified and ultra-conservative nominees put forward by the GOP.

Gabe replied that the Senator is concerned that pushing back too hard could give Senator Grassley and the rest of the Republicans an excuse to abandon the vetting and bipartisan process entirely. We questioned how much that would differ from what the GOP is already doing.

Feinstein immigration counsel Olga Medina

Our last meeting with a Feinstein staffer was with Olga Medina, an immigration counsel. We went over the details of Senator Feinstein’s new legislation to prevent the separation of asylum-seeking families at the border. Her Keep Families Together Act would prohibit agencies from separating children from their parents unless a state court, an “official from the State or county child welfare agency with expertise in child trauma and  development,” or the Chief Patrol Agent or the Area Port Director “in their official and undelegated capacity” determines that a separation is in the best interests of the child.  It also explicitly states that families can’t be separated as a deterrent. A variety of other provisions (such as keeping siblings together) are designed to protect families in those rare cases when a separation does occur.

Senator Harris legislative science fellow Ike Irby

We had two meetings with representatives of Senator Harris. The first was with legislative science fellow Ike Irby. The focus was on the hurricane recovery in Puerto Rico and how we can learn from our failures there. Ike told us that the Senator is working on legislation to put standards in place for how states and territories calculate death rates from natural disasters. We also discussed climate change, both specifically in terms of rebuilding Puerto Rico’s power infrastructure and, more generally, about federal carbon pricing. It sounded as if Senator Harris, similar to many of our local representatives, isn’t quite ready to put her weight behind any particular carbon pricing plan, but is generally supportive and waiting to see which way the wind blows.

Harris Legislative Aide Elizabeth Hira

Our meeting with Elizabeth Hira, one of Senator Harris’ staffers, focused on the judiciary and criminal justice. As in our meeting with Gabe Kader, Elizabeth was very interested to hear which issues in the judicial nominees’ backgrounds most resonated with the resistance.

We also discussed criminal justice bills that Senator Harris supports, most notably the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act. We expressed concerns that these bills don’t sufficiently guard against the possibility that the software used for determining recidivism risk and thus sentencing could unintentionally perpetuate racial biases. As such, we want to see provisions to properly review such software and to allow people to appeal decisions made by software. We suggested a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “algorithmic bias”, with expert testimony from researchers in the field, and Elizabeth asked us to write up a short proposal for such a hearing, indicating she would follow up on this matter.

Top photo: IEB members with Emma Mehrabi, Legislative Director for Representative Barbara Lee (CA-13).

Memos:

Spread IEB’s message at July 4th Fair

Celebrate Independence Day by helping save our democracy! Meet new people and get the word out about Indivisible East Bay at the fantastic City of El Cerrito/worldOne Fourth of July Festival on Wednesday, July 4, 2018, 10 AM to 5 PM. 

You don’t have to be an expert! All you need is a basic familiarity with Indivisible and a friendly attitude. There will be experienced members at every shift, so if you’re unsure what to say you can listen for a bit to get into the swing. Sign up for shifts here: got an hour? Perfect! Got two? Even better! Don’t live in El Cerrito? No worries, everyone is welcome! Bring a friend or three, and children are more than welcome too. 

At last year’s booth we spoke to many people eager to learn about Indivisible and hungry for suggestions about how they could take action against the Trump agenda. Talking one-on-one with people is the best way to get the word out, answer questions, and let people know how they can get involved and begin resisting. Also, eat corn-dogs and/or other fun fair food (our booth is mere steps from the Food Court).

July 4th Indivisible booth

We welcome volunteers with disabilities – the event is wheelchair accessible, and our booth will accommodate wheelchairs. 

RSVP or questions to IEB Outreach co-lead Toni Henle: ieb.outreach@gmail.com

July 4th Indivisible booth

Photos © Heidi Rand

Update on IEB endorsements

It may be several weeks before final results of the June 5, 2018 California primary election are reported, but here are the day-after results in local races that Indivisible East Bay supported or endorsed.

Contra Costa County District Attorney: Indivisible East Bay and the IEB CA-11 team endorsed interim DA Diana Becton. With the in-person votes counted, Becton garnered the greatest percentage of the votes — besting Paul Graves 49.59% to 42.06%. In order to clinch the race and avoid a runoff in November, one of the candidates would have to win 50% plus one; at this time Becton falls short of that number by .04. However, the East Bay Times reports that election officials state there are about 70,000 mail-in votes and 10,000 provisional ballots yet uncounted. Should there be a runoff in November, IEB will continue to work hard for Becton. Can you help? Email info@indivisibleeb.org or join the #moc_team_ca11 team on Slack.

Contra Costa Sheriff: Although incumbent David Livingston ran unopposed, IEB and the CA-11 team found him so unacceptable that we recommended writing in “no confidence” rather than leaving the ballot blank for this office. At this time the County reports that 1.76% of voters chose a write-in option, with Livingston capturing the remaining 98% of the votes. We’re disappointed but not surprised. The CA 11 team, in coalition with other groups, is considering mounting a recall effort and will renew efforts to locate a candidate to run against Livingston next time around. Want to help? Email info@indivisibleeb.org or join the #moc_team_ca11 channel on Slack.

U.S. House of Representatives: IEB also endorsed incumbent Congresspeople Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Barbara Lee (CA-13), and Eric Swalwell (CA-15), all of whom won easily. Although all garnered way more than 50% of the vote (with Lee running unopposed!), they must all run again in the general election we expect them to win easily again in November.

Oakland Measure D: IEB strongly supported this bond measure supporting Oakland’s libraries, which garnered more than the required 2/3 vote despite low voter turnout. Thanks to all who came out in support of library love, we love you back!

Speaking of voter turnout: always poor in midterm elections, turnout was shamefully bad, at only 19% in Alameda County and 20% in Contra Costa — although those numbers will increase when remaining ballots are counted. But we must do better! And we also need to work to make sure that our election processes are fair — there were significant problems in some precincts. IEB observers reported that paper ballots at some Contra Costa precincts ran out well before closing time and people were told to vote provisionally on their sample ballots! We invite you to work with us on IEB’s Voting Issues Team– contact info@indivisibleeb.org or join the #voting-issues channel on Slack.

 

IEB Meets With State Asm. Thurmond’s Staff

On May 29, Indivisible East Bay members Nick, Amelia, Ted, Melanie, and Mark met with Molly Curley O’Brien from State Assemblymember Tony Thurmond’s (AD15) office in downtown Oakland. IEB’s first-ever meeting with Thurmond’s staff was a positive experience.

We had sent Molly a memo beforehand listing the topics and state bills we wanted to talk about and to find out Thurmond’s positions. But first we asked a general question — why the Democrats didn’t use their super-majority advantage last year to push through more progressive legislation. Molly explained that negotiating between moderates and more progressive members was often tricky, with the worry that moderates would flip support to the GOP and doom more progressive legislation; this unfortunate dynamic illustrates why it’s so important for Indivisible groups to take an active role in holding Democrats accountable at the state level and electing progressives wherever possible.

Schools and Students

We began by discussing Thurmond’s support for AB-1502 (Free or Reduced Lunch Direct Certification) and AB-1871 (Charter schools: free and reduced price meals). These bills would provide crucial meals to low-income and poor students in both public and charter schools, and reflect Thurmond’s ongoing work to support students in California’s education system. We thanked him for these positions, which align with our progressive values; Molly was happy to hear our thanks, and it set a good tone for the rest of the meeting.

Stating that Thurmond believes our schools need more resources, Molly mentioned that he would like to tax private prisons to provide resources for public schools, especially for LGBTQ students. She also noted that Thurmond wants to find a solution for the lack of affordable housing for teachers.

After Molly mentioned that Thurmond’s priority focus on education is “his bread and butter,” we asked her to make sure that he remembers to support small school districts and their teachers’ associations, not just larger ones in major metro area. 

Criminal Justice and Policing

We turned to the topic of criminal justice and policing, particularly AB-3131. Introduced by Assembly members Gloria and Chiu, AB-3131 is co-sponsored by Indivisible CA: State Strong, the ACLU, the Anti Police-Terror Project, and others. It  would provide for civilian oversight of local police forces’ efforts to purchase excess military equipment, which is a newly allowed practice under the Trump administration. Molly said that the principles of this bill align with Thurmond’s values, and gave us hope that he would vote Aye on it in a floor vote.

Voting Rights and Election Infrastructure

We wrapped up the meeting with a discussion of voting rights and election infrastructure, including AB-3115 (Jails: Voter Education), AB-2165 (Election Day holiday), AB-2188 (Social Media DISCLOSE Act), and AB-2125 (Risk-Limiting Audits). The IEB expert on these issues, Melanie (the lead for our Voter Rights and Election Integrity team), began by describing the problems we’ve had trying to help with voter education and registration in jails, to illustrate why passing AB-3115 is so important.

We also talked about unintended negative effects of the Voters Choice Act, recent closures of neighborhood precincts, and the need to keep polling locations open and improve – rather than restrict – access to the polls. Melanie asked whether Thurmond could help move AB-2165 out of submission so it could get a floor vote this week in the Assembly, so Election Day would be declared a holiday, showing our commitment to voter engagement and civic participation.

On AB-2188, we explained that a technical ruling had exempted social media from last year’s DISCLOSE Act, which requires political ad transparency, and urged Thurmond to support AB-2188  to help prevent a repeat in future elections of undue influence by Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, and others.

Finally, Melanie tackled a complex subject — Risk-Limiting Audits (RLA). She highlighted the importance of AB-2125, the RLA legislation currently moving through the Assembly, especially in light of AB-840, enacted last fall, which weakened our 1% manual vote tally by exempting late-arriving and provisional ballots. To impress on Molly the critical need for AB-2125 to be amended before it goes to the Senate, Melanie mentioned the UC Berkeley statistics expert who invented risk-limiting audits (Philip Stark), and explained that Stark’s and other election security experts’ proposals don’t line up with current language in the bill. She asked how Thurmond might help, including whether he could let it be known he’s aware that corrections are needed, and to push for a timely amendment. Melanie clarified that although California should begin using risk-limiting audits, AB-2125 must be amended to follow best practices, and we want to see a bill we can support before it goes to the Senate.

We asked for Thurmond to familiarize himself with these bills and others, and Molly seemed confident he would be eager to do so. She noted that protecting democratic practices is important at all levels of government, and promised to discuss our issues with the Chief of Staff at their next meeting.

We ended the jam-packed half hour meeting on a positive note with a photograph. We hope to have another meeting with Thurmond’s staff, perhaps after his campaign for California Superintendent of Public Instruction is over.

Photo by Nick Travaglini

Feinstein’s State Director responds to concerns about Alzheimer’s care

Senator Dianne Feinstein’s state director, Sean Elsbernd, is no stranger to Indivisible East Bay. Far from it: he regularly meets with small groups of IEB members to listen and respond as we go over our priorities for action. And he doesn’t stop there: he also generously makes time to meet with the public at events that we periodically organize. One of the best parts of these public meetings is that we get to hear questions (and Sean’s answers!) from people outside our typical cadre of members — which often brings new issues to the conversation.

For example, at our latest public meeting on May 24 at the IBEW Union Hall in Dublin, we were joined by a group asking Sen. Feinstein to co-sponsor the BOLD Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act — a bipartisan bill to fund Alzheimer’s care, education, and study. The parents of a daughter with early-onset Alzheimer’s described their struggle and told Sean that the bill could have helped them personally by putting in place infrastructure that could have helped them identify their daughter’s disease sooner and pursue more effective treatment.

Both Sean and IEB were very moved by their story. Sean said that he would take the bill to the senator and get a response “right away.” IEB plans to research it, and will likely ask all of our members of Congress to show their support (Rep. Swalwell already has). While this topic is a little outside our usual focus, it certainly fits within our goal of “health care for all.”

The other main topic covered at the meeting was communication. We went over the best ways to reach the senator — noting that emails, calls, faxes, and letters are all currently weighted equally in her call sheet reports. We also discussed the senator’s much-expanded Twitter presence. We voiced our appreciation that she uses the platform to speak out about the issues, but one member suggested that she include more calls to action.

Finally, we talked about recommended news sources. Sean recommended subscribing to TheWashington Post’s Daily 202 e-newsletter for a briefing on the top political stories (including Twitter highlights) and to the very impressive The Rough & Tumble website for a daily roundup of California political news. Sen. Feinstein subscribes to The Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, and San Francisco Chronicle. Her staff also regularly provides her with packets of relevant articles from numerous other papers. Sean claimed that the first things she reads each day are the Letters to the Editor. A word to the wise: Write letters to your local paper expressing your political views; you never know who might wind up reading them or what effect they might ultimately have!