Editor’s note: Governance Committee member and IEB CA-11 team co-lead Ted Lam wrote about text banking for the Virginia House of Delegates’ election. If you’re interested in text banking with IEB – and after reading Ted’s account we hope you will be! – please see our Events page.
I saw Indivisible National’s Facebook request for text banking volunteers starting the weekend of October 28 through early November for the Virginia House of Delegates’ election. I couldn’t help myself due to my soft spot for Virginia, so I signed up for a 2-hour window on the first day. As a Coast Guard Officer I spent a lot of my time in the late 90s and early 2000’s in Northern Virginia and the Tidewater region (Yorktown, Portsmouth, Williamsburg). I love the area.
Indivisible emailed me a link to a Zoom training by Michele from Indivisible Virginia. I couldn’t get on the video conference but the followup email had a recording of it, which worked perfectly. Michele’s training was excellent.
On the scheduled day, I was ready for my 10 AM to 12 PM slot. Although I was at a 5-hour seminar at downtown Oakland’s Preservation Park for my union’s delegate assembly, I was able to sneak away to a breakout room at 9:50 to start text banking. Indivisible used Relay, a web-based system which connects to your phone and laptop/iPad. It was simple. I think Relay and the pre-loading of information that it uses may be what Indivisible National has been buying with some of the money it solicited for “tools.”
I had a list of 40 people in my conversation queue with pre-loaded text messages saying I was a volunteer from Indivisible Virginia. I sent out the 40 texts and walked back to my meeting. The recipients get a local number for you, not your phone number. I had 10 responses back: most were re-commitments to vote Democratic and a few were “hell no, I’m Republican.” I heartily thanked the former and just thanked the latter for their time. I texted the responses sitting in the back row of the large meeting room, and don’t think anyone even noticed.
The whole experience could not have been simpler or more satisfying. I felt I was doing something concrete, and it helped that I have a strong connection to Virginia. Overall, I probably only “worked” 30 minutes in the two-hour shift. I could have been doing it at a pub with a pint.
If you’re looking for an easy action with big impact, this is it.
At the October IEB All Member Meeting, members participated in a respectful and productive opening discussion about the 2018 Senate race. After folks called out issues important to them we all voted for our top three choices. Not surprisingly, people shared overwhelming concerns about healthcare, immigration, and voting rights.Amelia Cass, IEB’s Member of Congress lead and Senator Feinstein expert gave a synopsis of Feinstein’s positions on the top issues, and invited the audience to contribute their thoughts about California Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Léon and other candidates.
Senator Feinstein has said she favors universal healthcare, but has demurred on single payer, saying she’s not yet ready to commit. At a recent meeting with Senator Feinstein’s staff, IEB learned that implementation (funding, rollout, and transition to) of a single payer system is one of the problems preventing her endorsement, and that she has not yet seen a reasonable, feasible plan that would get California where it needs to go toward a fair healthcare system. In contrast, Kevin de Léon has stated that he supports CA healthcare for all, and in a tweet said that California should have two senators behind Health Care For All. Another candidate for the Senate seat, David Hildebrand, is a Democratic Socialist and self-described “Berniecrat” who is solidly behind single payer. At present, so early in the race, little is known about the other candidates.
One IEB member stated that “if you want single payer or medical care for all, young people need to be involved to create the economics to drive it forward.” Sharing her experience working on the California healthcare bill, another member described how difficult it was to balance moving forward on a bill and being able to explain everything that is going to happen with it.
The son of a single immigrant mother, Kevin de Léon was an author of SB 54, the California Sanctuary State bill. The bill went through several iterations before Governor Brown signed it, which some advocates believe severely weakened the bill.
IEB Governance Committee member Katie added that if the final DREAM Act includes other legislation, it may be worth considering how Senator Feinstein votes, if not for a “clean DREAM Act” for which most immigrants’ rights groups have advocated. Candidates should be explicit in what they will and won’t accept. In contrast, Senator Kamala Harris has stated she won’t support any end-of-year spending package without a clean DREAM Act.
Members suggested that further discussions could separate immigration into two issues: comprehensive reform and a path to citizenship. Senators Harris and Feinstein have offeredlegislation that would protect undocumented farmworkers in California from deportation and create a path to citizenship.
Interestingly, California is one of the few states which has an independent, non-partisan commission draw its district lines, instituted by ballot proposition in 2011. At the national level, after the Supreme Court curtailed the federal Voting Rights Act, a critical tool to prevent discriminatory voting practices, several states have created serious obstacles to voting, including voter ID and registration restrictions, cutbacks on early voting, closing polling places in minority neighborhoods, and more. A member suggested examining the candidates’ opinions on the districting commission.
This was the first of what we’re sure will be several conversations about the 2018 Senate race. Future discussions will examine the remaining issues suggested during the meeting.
There’s a crowded race to fill Tony Thurmond’s California State Assembly District 15 seat, which he’s leaving to run for state superintendent of public instruction in 2018. Hear the candidates who’ve already announced, at the Assembly District 15 Candidate Forum, Saturday, November 4, 2017, from 11 AM to 2 PM, Contra Costa College, 2600 Mission Bell Dr., San Pablo, in the Room 225, General Education Bldg.
City of San Pablo Vice Mayor Genoveva Calloway and Contra Costa Community College District Board Member John Marquez will welcome the community to the City and to Contra Costa College. Paul Cobb, publisher of The Post News Group, will serve as moderator.
The event is free, you can register here (not required). Any questions – contact Mister Phillips (510) 556-1951, theCalifornia Democratic Party African American Caucus Secretary. Can’t make it to the event? Submit questions for possible inclusion.
District 15 includes Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland and Piedmont in Alameda County, and El Cerrito, El Sobrante, Hercules, Kensington, Richmond and San Pablo in Contra Costa County.
Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) in 2001 in reaction to the 9/11 attacks. Since then, thousands of American troops have been killed and injured and hundreds of thousands of civilian lives lost in the Middle East. It took an ambush in Niger (and fumbled condolence phone call) to get Congress to schedule a hearing on the 60-words long authorization that has enabled presidents to launch more than 37 military campaigns in the past sixteen years.
But a Congressional hearing doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods; hawks want to expandthe scope of the authorization and if they prevail, it’s round infinity in the dead end war on terror. We must all demand a repeal of this blank check for the President, and Congress has to do its job. Hiding behind 4-star generals was not what the framers of the Constitution had in mind when they wrote that Congress had the power
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
With a dangerously out-of-touch and unstable Commander in Chief, we can not continue to be complicit when even those charged with oversight can’t keep track of where our military is deployed, let alone explain why!
For 16 YEARS our own Representative Barbara Lee has fearlessly pushed to revisit this dangerously overbroad war authorization. Let’s give her our full support and demand a full repeal.
Please call Senators Feinstein and Harris, and Representatives DeSaulnier and Swalwell, and say:
My name is _____, I’m a constituent from [zip code], and a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to ask [ ] to support a full repeal of the Authorization of Military Force passed by Congress after 9/11. The 16 year old AUMF is a blank check to wage war. Giving this President such latitude is a risk to national and global security. His disregard for our military service-members and their families (evidenced by his reaction to the ambush in Niger), civilians caught in the crossfire, and provocative statements to other foreign powers show that he is incapable of the responsibility of leading a nation at war. Please call for repeal of 2001 AUMF.
Editor’s note: When you know you’re making a difference: IEB’s Governance Committee member and co-lead of Indivisible CA-11 United, Kristen Law was invited by Representative Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) to join him at the Ultimate Women’s Power Luncheon and Issues Conference on October 19, 2017 at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. The event was hosted by Nancy Pelosi and paid for by the DCCC (not authorized by any candidate or committee). The following is Kristen’s report from the conference.
The Ultimate Women’s Power Luncheon and Issues Conference began with welcoming remarks from Representative Nancy Pelosi, acknowledging the heartbreak and devastation of the recent fires. Along with gratitude for all those who have stepped up to help, Rep. Pelosi provided weblinks for Napa relief and Sonoma relief. Rep. Pelosi also touched on questions that she often receives about communications with constituents, redistricting and voter suppression and the need to leverage the grassroots movement, and acknowledged women congressional candidates in attendance: Angie Craig (MN-2), Chrissy Houlahan (PA-6), Abby Finkenauer (IA-1), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-2), and Susie Lee (NV-3). Also on the subject of elections, she acknowledged the event’s “power couple,” Ann and Jerry Brown, whom she described as committed to flipping seats in California.
Panel 1: Political Updates
This panel consisted of DCCC Chair Ben Ray Lujan, DCCC Recruitment Vice Chair Rep. Katherine Clark (MA-5), and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA-19).
Lujan began by providing an update on the national environment. He struck an optimistic note, saying “history is on our side and we need to make history repeat itself”: after Clinton came Bush, after Bush came Obama, and after Obama came 45 – who is below 40% approval. Lujan honored the importance of grassroots work for taking down Trumpcare, and noted that the Democrats need to work directly with people and must inspire America. Republicans are under water in many red districts, so people in blue areas should adopt a precinct to flip. Lujan spoke of the need to defend against fake news and trolls.
Rep. Clark expressed deep gratitude for the Left Coast. She recognized the success of local engagement, especially citing the success of Town Halls. Like several others at the event, she focused on the Women’s March (the “You know there’s trouble when librarians are here” poster was one of her favorites because her mom was a librarian). The Women’s March, she said, has translated into an increase in women wanting to run for elected seats. As of late September, 84 women were running for office in 80 Congressional districts. When women run for office, she said, they focus on issues such as the wage gap, the struggle to care for parents and children at the same time, and the cost of education. Women’s issues are economic issues, and women candidates “stand for you and giving your family a shot at the American dream,” so supporting women candidates is supporting our values as a country.
Rep. Lofgren advised that we focus on flippable seats here in California. There were seven Republican seats where Trump lost in 2016:
CA-10: There are currently 8 Democrats running against Rep. Jeff Denham
CA-21: (Kern area) Trump lost by 16 points – there is one Democrat running against Rep. David Valadao
CA-25: This is the last Republican seat in LA County
CA-39: This is a majority minority district in Orange County and is experiencing a dramatic demographic shift
CA-45: (Irvine) A number of strong Democrats may run against Republican Rep. Mimi Walters
CA-48: (Laguna) Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is considered “Russia’s Congressman” and has a number of competitive Democratic challengers
CA-49: (San Diego/Oceanside) Rep. Darrell Issa won by under 200 votes in the last election, and recent polls show him losing to a fictitious Democrat!
To this list, Rep. Lofgren added CA-50 (San Diego), where Rep. Duncan D. Hunter is under investigation for using campaign funds for such things as groceries, kid’s college tuition and shipping a rabbit by plane (you read that correctly); and CA-22 (Tulare County). Lofgren warned that we need to make sure that we are protecting incumbents. There has never been a time like now where we NEED to win: The president is doing everything in his power to depress us, but the power is in our hands.
Question topics for this panel included voter suppression. The panel replied that there are several avenues being explored, including the Democratic Redistricting Committee chaired by former Attorney General Eric Holder, and plans to launch on the ground campaigns earlier than ever before. Rep. Pelosi closed the panel, again emphasizing the power of mobilizing the grassroots and stating that the community wants to select their leaders.
Ultimate Women’s Luncheon panel: Reps Anna Eshoo and Mark DeSaulnier, and Tom Steyer. Photo by Kristen Law
Panel 2: Infrastructure and Jobs of the Future
Rep. Pelosi introduced this panel by stating that our primary goal should be “Build. Build. Build!” – We need to build infrastructure, we need to build education/human resources, and we need to build our democracy.
Rep. Anna Eshoo (CA-18) talked about the new Innovation Agenda 2.0. Ten years ago the Democrats created the first Innovation Agenda: of 22 proposals, 21 became law (all except comprehensive immigration reform). There are three pillars to the new Innovation Agenda:
Create and Support Workforce.
Recommit to Basic Research: government funded research leads to innovations, protects people’s health and safety and creates jobs.
Modernize Government: Government should keep up with technology and scientific advancement, should be tech savvy, should enhance policies to protect security, and should draw on the private sector. Government must be accessible to the average person: the public should be able to access data because “knowledge is power” and we need knowledgeable citizens.
Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) started off, as he generally does, by encouraging everyone to read Dark Money and then Democracy in Chains. He said that under Trump there have been far fewer oversight committee meetings than under Obama. Regarding infrastructure, Rep. DeSaulnier said there are trillions of dollars in backlog. Tech centers are driving young people to urban centers, creating huge challenges around providing infrastructure for so many people to get around. We need mobility and government needs to provide it, but Republicans don’t want to invest. Regarding workforce/labor, DeSaulnier (who recently held his 50th Town Hall) said he has repeatedly heard how people are suffering and heard a sense of urgency. As we in California have leapt forward in advancement, we have left too many people behind; we need to focus on bringing everyone along with us. For example: in the transportation field, as we transition to self-driving trucks we need to prepare for what to do with the current workforce of truck drivers, with employers contributing to training and retooling and helping to mitigate the cost (like CEQA in the environmental field). Rep. DeSaulnier authored the Smart City Program, a competition that Columbus OH won in 2016, gaining them $40 million from the USDOT (plus more from corporate grants); DeSaulnier hopes that the San Francisco Bay Area wins next time.
Environmentalist, mega-donor and sometime political candidate Tom Steyer spoke (not surprisingly) about the need to put investments into leveraging the grassroots. Infrastructure is investment, he said, but it isn’t enough to just build – we need to build smart infrastructure and a smart, clean United States with renewable energy, denser living spaces, open spaces, and public transportation. Infrastructure requires connectivity: the ability to connect to a rapidly changing world, including physical connection, training, and emotional connectivity. People’s feelings of disconnectedness, Steyer said, led to the Trump election. On the other hand, Steyer pointed out, we have had some big wins: GM is going electric, the tar sands pipeline was shut down, the new refinery proposal on the California coast was closed. We have the technology and the ability to build a fantastic future but we need to think about it on a human basis. Job creation has to include every community, from inner city to rural. New technology means health and justice: no one wants to be a coal miner and no one wants to live near coal mines (and the Republicans’ insistence on coal hurts the poor). Investing in schools, training and health is about social justice and the rights of Americans.
In the Q&A period, the panelists discussed the need for government to invest in community colleges, which 2.2 million students attend in California; Rep. DeSaulnier says that free, high quality community colleges are essential to our future.
Panel 3: National Security
According to Rep. Jackie Speier (CA-14), “President Trump is a National Security risk,” primarily because he won’t listen to the generals. How are we doing? Let me count the ways: He has undermined allies, insulted other leaders, and picked fights with our closest allies; he sided with Saudi Arabia against Qatar and his first foreign trip was to Saudi Arabia, the country where 15 of the 9-11 terrorists came from; he has provoked North Korea, a belligerent nuclear power, with “Fire and Fury” text messages; degraded the intelligence community, applauded the president of the Philippines; he has isolated the US from the Paris Climate Treaty, terminated the Iran deal for no apparent reason (other than its having been signed by Obama); he has allowed China to move toward being the World’s primary superpower while our allies are drifting away … Rep. Speier recommends, as the first solution, invoking the 25th Amendment; and she also recommends reading The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.
Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13) said flatly that Donald Trump is dangerous and is is ruining our standing in the world – but that the world is with us (though not with the administration). She focused on peace and diplomacy: we need to include more women in peace negotiations and international relations and look at international ways of achieving peace such as the United Nations. Rep. Lee urged support for HR 669, which would prevent a president from a nuclear first strike without Congressional approval, and also for repealing the AUMF, which allows commitment of money and personnel to wars without Congressional approval. (Repeal of the AUMF received bipartisan support until Speaker Ryan torpedoed it.) Rep. Lee urged support for “the three D’s”: Reinvesting in Development, Diplomacy and smart Defense.
Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15) chairs the Future Forum, a group of the youngest members of Congress. The Forum travels the country listening to millennials; one young Marine told Rep. Swalwell “this is not what we fought for,” and said that he fought for freedom. Swalwell stated that freedom is under attack: freedom to have clean air; freedom to work; freedom for a woman to make a choice about her health with her doctor; freedom to stay healthy without going broke. Even freedom to make a choice in voting because our own democracy is under attack – Russia chose our president. We are 22 votes short of an independent review of how Russian interference affected the election, but to get this we need to flip seats.
Former US Ambassador to Afghanistan and Lieutenant General (ret.) Karl Eikenberry talked about four big trends posing challenges: the diffusion of global policy; the diffusion of technology – we are in a time when the “weak” can coerce the “strong”; the increasing difficulty of global governance of states; and the fact that we live in a world where nations need to cooperate and the other three trends are eroding this. Ambassador Eikenberry gave a shout-out to Rep. Lee for her long efforts to try to repeal the AUMF, saying he believes that the power to declare war belongs with the Congress and that Congress needs to step up to enforce this.
The event ended with a celebratory luncheon honoring power couple Ann and Jerry Brown and featuring a performance from local musicians. The five Congressional candidates spoke about themselves and their campaigns, including these highlights:
Chrissy Houlahan from Pennsylvania is former US Air Force Captain, a third generation military officer, former teacher, businesswoman and president of a non-profit, who never saw herself running until 45 was elected and she wanted to be able to answer with pride when her children and grandchildren asked what she did during these bad times.
Abby Finkenauer from Iowa is in her 20’s, a first generation college student who has raised more than $300k since announcing in April – a lot of money for that district!
Angie Craig from Minnesota is a firecracker! She lost the last election by two points and is running again. She lives with her wife and four teenage sons, worked two jobs to pay for college after watching her mom work for nearly 10 years to get her college degree. Her opponent, Jason Lewis, is considered one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents in the country.
I was grateful and delighted to be Rep. DeSaulnier’s guest at the event and table partner at the luncheon. DeSaulnier has made an effort to work with Indivisible chapters on grassroots issues, and makes himself available to his constituents; if you live in his district and would like to be involved, you can contact me on IEB’s CA-11 Slack channel @klaw. Not on Slack? Email email@example.com. I look forward to working with you!
Senator Feinstein spoke to the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce at a luncheon on Wednesday October 11. As you’d expect the 400 or so attendees were mostly business people among whom the senator seemed very comfortable.
We’re not making any accusations—and it was likely just that the hosts were so in sync with their guest—but the questions seemed to be exactly what the senator would have chosen to be asked at her first public appearance since announcing her reelection campaign. And she was clearly very prepared, down to statistics on how the elimination of the state and local tax deduction would hurt middle income Riverside residents.
Sen. Feinstein and moderator Jack Clarke talked about terrifying weapons: the senator’s gun control legislation, the nuclear agreement with Iran, and the potential crisis brewing between the United States and North Korea— “the longer it lasts this way, the easier it is for one of the two leaders to make a slip in rhetoric and something happens that we don’t want.”
Asked about tax “reform” the senator was very clear that the Republicans do not have bill. They have “a framework—whatever that is.” And she predicted that if they attempted to jam something through without hearings and “regular order” that it would certainly fail. Let’s hope she has Senator McCain’s word on that. (Note: He voted against the 2001 Bush tax cuts; she voted for them.)
She spoke at length about saving the Affordable Care Act and stabilizing and improving the marketplaces, and about the nearby airport and what it means for the local economy and infrastructure.
Clarke also read three audience questions off of cards collected at the event including one about the future of DACA. She was, of course, strongly in favor of the DREAM Act. But she made some statements that were troublingly supportive of a deal on border security, against the wishes of the DREAMers themselves who don’t want their safety traded for policies that harm other immigrants. She said, “we can use more border patrol,” which might be a reasonable argument to make if the immigration enforcement we currently have was doing a decent job protecting the rights and humanity of the people it interacts with.
For young people who want to be involved in politics and the future of this country, she said: “Instead of sitting back and criticising, get out and run for something…people jump up and down, and you ask them what they really want and it’s some vague statement.”
Clearly she’s not talking about Indivisible East Bay. While we do jump up and down quite a bit, our statements are anything but vague. We certainly criticize, but we don’t sit back. We know what we want and we’ve learned how to translate that into requests for specific votes and legislation, and oversight, because that is the most effective way to maximize our power. But as the senator well knows (and, to be fair, has demonstrated many times) part of the job she took on when she asked to represent us, is the task of taking her constituents’ vague statements and finding the way to address those needs through policy.
And as for the admonition to “get out and run for something.” It’s not bad advice. More of us need to do that. But more of us also need to realize that it’s not the only way. Many of us Indivisibles across the country ourselves realized only recently that democracy doesn’t have to just mean voting and running for office. It can mean working as constituents together with our elected representative to govern ourselves.
IEB has been in close touch with Indivisible Sonoma County throughout the terrible fires that have devastated Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino this October. Some ISoCo members and leaders have lost their homes and all they owned; everyone has been deeply affected, as have their whole communities. The following was written by an Indivisible leader from the town of Glen Ellen, California:
When the fires started, I was out of town, working with a client on their annual conference. My daughter’s call woke me Sunday night. She was frantic. “Dad, Mom can see fire through the neighbors’ trees and we’re trying to get the things we need to take with us. What do you need us to take?”
Half-asleep, I tried to think of what we absolutely had to have and talked with them as they raced, grabbing what came to mind as essential, hurrying to get out. Soon they left and I went back to sleep, hoping that fleeing would have just been a precaution. Instead, the next morning my wife’s text began, “Honey, I’m afraid we lost everything.”
After the initial shock, I was just grateful that my family had escaped. They were safe. The dog was with them. That was what mattered to me. Life would go on. We even found out later that the studio and barn had made it through. The house, though, had burned to the ground.
In 2016 this same conference was in November, right after the election. It occurs to me that I was more distraught last year. Restless with dread about Trump and the damage he would cause, I couldn’t sleep, imagining only the worst. Having the conference frame both events, I realized now that I had lost my home two years in a row.
Last year that home was my country. This year it was my house. Losing my country was and is the bigger threat. But I’m rebuilding both, dammit. However long it takes and no matter how hard it is to do.
Our family is lucky. We’re all safe. We were insured. We have emergency funds that we can draw on. But there were thousands here who were impacted as much or more and have less to fall back on. They could use your help. Here are the causes that members of Indivisible groups in Sonoma County are supporting:
Representative Mark DeSaulnier held his 50th Town Hall on October 16, 2017. The meeting, held in Walnut Creek before a standing room-only crowd, was also live-streamed on DeSaulnier’s Facebook page. California’s District 11 representative was his typical self: a policy wonk, solid on his facts and figures, willing to work with the audience without backing away even from those who were angry with him.DeSaulnier gave an overview and talked about the fires up north and environmental concerns. He spoke quite a bit about opioid addiction issues and the recent 60 Minutes/Washington Post report on Congress’s role in preventing the DEA from prosecuting drug companies suspected of a major role in this disaster.
DeSaulnier also talked about how we in California have managed to be great in terms of innovation, growth, and embracing new technology and environmental protection. Some of his main points: China and other countries are now embracing much of what we’ve been doing — including plans to stop producing internal combustion engines — but the U.S. as a whole is becoming an outlier by failing to look to the future. California will continue to be a leader; but in the Bay Area we have to address issues of affordable housing and transportation and their roles in our ability to attract the best people to come here and stay.
Other issues included:
Fielding a tough question on immigration, DeSaulnier responded that immigrants contribute more economically than they “take” from the government. An audience member didn’t like that answer, so he asked staff to set up a one-on-one for him and the audience member to review each other’s facts.
DeSaulnier said that he does not support term limits: he feels that term limits get rid of both good and bad people and overall reduce the strength of your “bench.” It’s better, he said, if elections are transparent and everyone votes.
There was a question on BART and its service. DeSaulnier reiterated his support for labor, and sweated out the recent bond measure to upgrade BART infrastructure.
Someone asked about the recent Muslim ban, and DeSaulnier said that Congress is looking at studies on how other countries have dealt with religious intolerance. He mentioned that our founding fathers came to this country to escape religious intolerance, and said that the views of Steve Bannon and his ilk are not a part of our country.
To a question about the planned Republican tax cuts, DeSaulnier stated strong opposition, especially the FY18 budget passed by the House. He favors a more progressive tax system.
He is concerned about election protection and Russian interference and hacking in our elections. He reflected that if 63 million people had voted in 2016 the result could have been different – although, he said, you respect the votes of the other side.
When voter suppression tactics prevent citizens from exercising their right to vote, election outcomes fail to represent the true will of the people. – Election Watch program overview
2016 was the first presidential election after the Supreme Court gutted key protections of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder (2013). Free to alter voting laws and practices with no oversight or system of ensuring that their revisions weren’t discriminatory, many localities snuck through changes that went unnoticed and unchallenged. These changes, including strict voter ID requirements, closing down polling places, purging voters, and cutting back early voting and voter registration, disproportionately impacted people of color and young or low-income people, and severely curtailed voters’ access to the ballot. Election Watch, a non-partisan voting rights program, has the ambitious goal of mobilizing trained lawyer volunteers in every county or county-equivalent in the country (count them: 3,144!) to monitor and defend voting rights year-round. The new program, run by the Lawyers for Good Government Foundation (L4GG) in partnership with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Voting Rights Institute, will “monitor, report on, … and address problematic decisions made by local election boards across the country on a year-round basis.”
Election Watch will train volunteer lawyers on the ground to monitor local election boards all year and detect rights violations. With this early alert system flagging potential issues as they happen, EW can proactively address problems before damage has been done (i.e., before an election). A national steering committee of experts, including representatives of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and the American Constitution Society Voting Rights Institute, will review the reports, and EW will prioritize and determine next steps for each.
As Trump and the GOP cheat to pack the federal courts with more and more far-right wing judges, it’s clearer than ever that we the people have to educate ourselves about voting issues, and step up to watch over the officials who run the elections in our states, towns, and counties.
How to help:
Are you a lawyer, law student, or legal professional interested in volunteering with Election Watch? If so, email me for more information, learn more at the Election Watch program overview, or fill out the signup form.
Know any legal eagles, including in other parts of the country, who might be a good fit for Election Watch? Send them the program overview or my email address.
In the first week of October, IEB members held a text bank at Drake’s Dealership in Oakland and enjoyed pizza, beer, and each other’s company! We teamed up with Oakland-based Rapid Resist, the “immune system for the resistance,” to text voters in Oceanside, CA, and Tuscon, AZ, asking them to call on their members of Congress to resist Trump’s tax cuts by voting NO on the house budget resolution. We also texted voters in Modesto to inform them about Tony Madrigal’s campaign for Modesto City Council, District 2.
The eight-month-old Rapid Resist was created in order to leverage blue state energy to support resistance work across the nation and utilizes a peer-to-peer texting system to recruit for big events. Rapid Resist focuses on lawmakers who may be a key swing vote, have moderate constituencies, are committee chairpeople, and/or who are vocal critics of the Trump agenda. Rapid Resist utilizes the texting app Hustle, which keeps the phone numbers of all involved parties private.
Those who were already familiar with Rapid Resist and Hustle got right down to business, while folks new to these platforms received direct training and support from Nick Travaglini of IEB’s Governance Committee. Rapid Resist’s founder, Yoni Landau, also joined the event and provided technical support and encouragement.
We’ll be gathering for more text banks at rotating locations around the East Bay every first Tuesday of the month (barring holidays). Join us on November 7! Time and location TBD.