Go Time on Two Good Bills

By the Indivisible East Bay Voter Rights and Election Integrity team

Action deadline – ASAP! 

Great news! Thanks to your help in making calls, two good California bills that Indivisible East Bay supported, AB 2188 (Social Media Disclose Act) and AB 3115 (Jails: Voter Education Program), passed out of committee and are scheduled to be voted on by the full state senate. Read our prior articles for more info and background, see list below.    

  • AB 2188: Deadline: August 30 – Ads on social media are not always what they seem and many of them have been doing some serious damage to our democratic process. Free speech should be public. Make everyone show their names and faces if they’re paying to change our minds.  The vote for this bill will not be held until August 30.
  • UPDATE Aug. 26, 2018: IT IS UNCLEAR WHAT OCCURRED WITH THIS BILL, BUT FOR NOW WE ARE NOT RECOMMENDING ANY ACTION. AB 3115: Deadline: ASAP – IEB supported AB 3115’s passage in the Assembly because it gives people with criminal convictions who still have the right to vote a chance to become participating citizens again. 

Please call your California State Senator ASAP: 

You can mention both bills during your call. What to say:

My name is ____. My zip code is ____ and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to ask the Senator to vote YES on two important voter bills. First, about AB 2188 –  we shouldn’t be subject to political ads on social media like Facebook without knowing who paid for them. Free speech should be public and accountable.

UPDATE 8/26/18: DO NOT USE THIS PORTION OF THE SCRIPT: Second, about AB 3115 – we should do everything we can to reduce barriers to voter registration. Increasing voter education and voting access to thousands of people in California jails will improve civic participation and public safety, and it’s the right thing to do. 

I strongly urge Senator ____ to vote yes on AB 2188 and AB 3115. Thank you.

  • District 7, (Contra Costa) Senator Steve Glazer, (916) 651-4007
  • District 9 (Alameda & Contra Costa), Senator Nancy Skinner, (916) 651-4009
  • District 10 (Alameda & Santa Clara), Senator Bob Wieckowski, (916) 651-4010
  • District 11 (San Francisco): Senator Scott Wiener, (415) 557-1300
  • District 15 (San Jose area): Senator Jim Beall, (916) 651-4015
  • Tell your friends in other districts to call their senators. Search here or see list at this link.

We’ve been busy – and so have you, making calls and following these important bills. Read our articles:

 

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.

Graphic © California Clean Money Campaign

Teach Our Voters Well

By the Indivisible East Bay Voter Rights and Election Integrity team

Action deadline – Sunday August 5

AB 2188 (Social Media Disclose Act) and AB 3115 (Jails: Voter Education Program) are scheduled for hearings on Monday August 6 before the State Senate Appropriations Committee, their last stop before being heard by the full Senate.

Please call the Appropriations Committee chair and vice chair by end of day Sunday, August 5: 

You can mention both bills during your call. What to say:

My name is ____. My zip code is ____ and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to ask the Senator to vote YES on two important voter bills. First, about AB 2188 –  we shouldn’t be subject to political ads on social media like Facebook without knowing who paid for them. Free speech should be public and accountable.

Second, about AB 3115 – we should do everything we can to reduce barriers to voter registration. Increasing voter education and voting access to thousands of people in California jails will improve civic participation and public safety, and it’s the right thing to do. 

I strongly urge Senator ____ to vote yes on AB 2188 and AB 3115. Thank you.

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.

Graphic © California Clean Money Campaign

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

Who’s Behind That Curtain? Support AB 2188, Reveal Online Ad Funders

By the Indivisible East Bay Voter Rights and Election Integrity team

Updated May 26, 2018

The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling eight years ago undermined our democracy by allowing those with unlimited money to use it to drown out the voices of the rest of us. While we would like to see Citizens United overturned, we should not wait for the Supreme Court to act – and we don’t have to. Here’s a good start: AB 2188, the Social Media DISCLOSE Act, currently pending in the California legislature, would lift the veil that lets big spenders influence politics while hiding their identities from us. (DISCLOSE is an acronym for Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections.)

The Social Media DISCLOSE Act isn’t the first piece of legislation to tackle this problem. As a 2017 California Clean Money Campaign (CCMC) press release explained, AB 249, the California DISCLOSE Act, requires television, radio, and print ads about ballot measures, and independent expenditures about candidates, to clearly list their top three funders. While AB 249 also has provisions relating to electronic media ads, the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) did not believe that it required social media platforms to comply. AB 2188 closes that loophole, requiring online social media platforms to disclose information regarding the funders of political advertisements and to keep a database of the political ads they run. AB 2188 specifically requires online platforms to display “Who funded this ad?” on each political ad, linking to the page of the paying committee.

The amounts of money involved in political races have always been high; they have now become stratospheric. According to Southern California Law Review, an estimated $1.4 billion was spent on online political advertising nationally in 2016 – nearly an eightfold increase from 2012! And if you think you’re seeing a lot of political ads on Facebook, you’re right – about 40% of that astonishing sum was spent there and on other social media ads. Virtually none of those ads disclosed who paid for them, so you never knew that $100,000 of those Facebook ads were bought by Russian entities. The federal Honest Ads Act, sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar and co-sponsored by Senator John McCain, was introduced in response to this threat, but – surprise! – it’s stuck in Congress.

A federal bill would be ideal, as would a Congress that would see it to conclusion. Things being less than ideal, a state like California should be able to stand up and defend itself from the influence of dark money, Super PACs and a handful of people who believe they have more right to be heard than everyone else in the country put together. In fact, AB 2188 is better than the federal bill in at least one way — it requires the web pages of the committees paying for online ads to clearly list the top three true funders – that way, individuals can’t hide behind nice-sounding committee names.

Updated May 26, 2018: AB 2188 awaits a critical vote on the floor of  the Assembly. Please call your Assemblymember before the end of May. What to say:

My name is ______, and my zip code is _____. I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay and a constituent of Assemblymember ______, I’m calling in support of AB 2188, the Social Media DISCLOSE ActPolitical ads on social media like Facebook should be required to disclose who pays for them.  We should never again have to wonder who is trying to influence our vote. I urge ______ to vote yes on AB 2188.

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.

Graphic © California Clean Money Action Fund