Making a Difference – An Easy Way

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.

– By Ted Lam

Senate 2018 Race – Discuss!

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.IEB AMM Senate DiscussionAmelia 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.

Healthcare:

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.

Immigration:

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.

Senator Feinstein has spoken out strongly in favor of the DREAM Act and other pro-immigration bills; however, she has hinted that she might accept additional border security measures and some are concerned that she might compromise more than may be necessary.

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 offered legislation that would protect undocumented farmworkers in California from deportation and create a path to citizenship.

Voting rights/gerrymandering:

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.

Votes for each suggested issue:

  1. Healthcare – 15
  2. Immigration – 15
  3. Voting rights/gerrymandering – 15
  4. Environment/climate change – 13
  5. Reproductive rights/women’s rights – 10
  6. Campaign donors/transparency – 10
  7. Judicial appointments – 8
  8. Public schools & charterization – 7
  9. Lobbying/corporate money – 5
  10. Racial justice – 5
  11. Impeachment – 5
  12. Criminal Justice – 3
  13. Labor – 3
  14. Second amendment – 2
  15. LGBTQIA+ rights – 2
  16. Accessibility to elected officials – 1
  17. Minimum wage – 1
  18. Disability rights – 1

Phone Banking in West County

Living the motto “friends don’t let friends phone alone,” hero members of Tassajara Indivisible and Indivisible El Sobrante/Richmond, also in IEB’s CA-11 team, are burning up the phone lines hosting multiple phone-banking parties reaching hundreds of voters in other states’ upcoming elections.

Join them at any of the several West County phone bank parties up to Election Day, November 7, to help make calls for the Virginia House of Delegates races and for Dr. Kathie Allen, running for Jason Chaffetz’s open Utah seat.

These are the currently scheduled West County phone banks:

Saturday October 28, 11 AM to 1 PM, El Cerrito
Sunday October 29, noon to 2 PM, El Sobrante
Monday October 30, 5 to 7 PM, El Cerrito
Tuesday October 31, 1 to 3 PM, El Sobrante

Saturday November 4, 10 AM to 4 PM, El Sobrante [come when you can for as long as you can]
Sunday November 5, noon to 2 PM, El Sobrante
Monday November 6, 2 to 6 PM, El Sobrante

TUESDAY ELECTION DAY, November 7, 8 AM to 2 PM, El Sobrante [come when you can for as as long as you can]

For information on locations and to RSVP, visit the Commit to Flip Blue website and enter your zip code into the search box. Have general questions? Email us.

The hosts will gladly train you on the script and making the calls. Bring your phone, charger, and earbuds (for your comfort) AND a laptop or tablet (or when you sign up, indicate you’d like to borrow one), and don’t forget your good cheer and positive energy to #Resist! And bring friends!

Can’t make it to an in-person phone or text bank? You can text with MobilizeAmerica for Virginia. They’re having two Get Out the Vote trainings — they’ll walk through setup, who you’ll be texting, how to mark data, and best practices.

After you sign up, MobilizeAmerica sends you dial-in info for the conference call. Upcoming dates are Mon Oct 30 and Wed Nov 1, both 3 to 4 PM. Sign up here.

 

Watching the Electors

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 WatchElection 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.
  • Donations to support the program are welcome.
  • Non-lawyers are invaluable in this fight! Learn all you can about your state and local election officials and bodies, and help monitor them.

By Heidi Rand

 

In Counting There is Strength

Many of us were shocked by the results of the 2016 election, and months later still grapple with an ever-growing pile of reasons that added up to the Democrats’ devastating losses. But most of the 100+ experts and activists at the October 7-8 Take Back the Vote Conference were not surprised; to them the results were the predictable outcome of problems they’ve been warning about and working on for years.

Take Back the Vote conference
Photo © Heidi Rand

Hard truth time: no matter how many voter registration and get out the vote drives we run, no matter how many hours we spend canvassing and phone or text-banking, our efforts will amount to a hill of uncounted ballots if we don’t restore the soundness of our election infrastructure.  

The non-partisan conference “to advance the conduct of American elections – how votes are collected, counted and cast,” featured 25 speakers, a Who’s Who of nationally recognized election integrity experts and activists, computer scientists, professors, lawyers, journalists and election officials as well as federal, state and local legislators. They presented findings, shared and debated ideas, and answered tough questions. To see their bios, click the “speakers” link on the NVRTF website, and view or download the Conference program at the “schedule” link.

The audience, ranging from seasoned activists to new volunteers, passionately discussed necessary next steps and strategies to restore publicly verified democracy in the United States. The issues are complex, many have no easy answers, and reasonable minds differ about best practices. In coming weeks we’ll follow up this conference report with in-depth looks at issues covered, including:

  • propaganda and political communication
  • internet voting and cybersecurity risks
  • open source election software
  • election suppression
  • auditing options; including risk limiting, hand-count, two-tier, and digital ballot audits

Despite differing opinions on issues, had we taken a vote at the conference it likely would’ve been unanimous that our country is careening down the path of having our democracy stolen from us, and that protecting our elections from internal and external attacks will take ALL of us becoming educated, engaged, and involved in the process.

What can you do? Get involved! A good start – watch videos of the conference at the “videos” tab of the Voting Rights facebook page. Next, work with IEB’s voting issues team – no experience necessary, we’ll get you up to speed! Email us for info.

And to learn Everything You Wanted to Know About Voting But Were Afraid to Ask, check out these websites:

boss tweed cartoon vote with caption small

 

California’s Primary Moved to March – Now What?

Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law the “Prime Time Primary Act,” a bill that moves California’s primary from June to March, beginning in 2020.

Although California is a heavy hitter in terms of money to be raised and electoral votes to be won, a June primary means that we have had pretty much no say in choosing the parties’ nominees: “By the June California primary elections in 2016, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were already their parties’ presumptive nominees,” as NPR put it.

But will the change be a mixed blessing?

On the pro side: California will weigh in earlier in the primaries and make a difference.

On the con side: California is a big-deal media state, so any candidate must be able to pay for TV ads in the primaries in order to gain attention. In other words: The earlier primary favors candidates who are established and who have hit up big donors. A trailing but worthy candidate, particularly one without big bucks or wealthy connections, may fall by the wayside. That may leave us, by default, with candidates we wouldn’t necessarily favor.

And the joker: Some candidates don’t need to pay for ads to get in the public’s eye. Trump spent little on ads in the primaries, but got tons of free coverage for his daily road show. Come to think of it, we don’t want any more candidates like that either …

So where does the earlier primary leave us? Good or bad for California? Good or bad for progressive politics and for future races? It’s an open question for now.

Help Preserve All Votes

Voting is the bedrock of our democracy: if it can be broken, every other right we rely on can be taken away. Many IEB’ers are doing critical work registering voters and canvassing in swing districts. To make sure those hard-won votes are counted, we must improve the security of our elections.

Expert Jim Soper explains that “the foundation of election security is based on paper ballots and random hand counts of the ballots.” On August 24, the authors of California AB 840, originally intended to ensure a thorough vote audit, inserted last-minute amendments that exempt millions of vote by mail ballots from the manual tally.

Under the amended bill, approved by the California Assembly on September 15, 2017, no provisional ballots and only ballots counted before midnight on Election Day will be eligible for audit. Why does that matter? In 2016, about 4 million California ballots were still uncounted after Election Day.

What can you do?

First, please call Governor Brown’s office TODAY, and urge him to veto the bill.

  • Office number: (916) 445-2841 
  • What to say: My name is ____. I live at [zip code]. I’m opposed to AB 840 because it exempts millions of vote by mail ballots from the election audits. Please protect the election audits. I urge Governor Brown to veto the bill. Thank you.

Next? Sign up for the Second Annual Take Back the Vote National Conference. Over 30 nationally recognized election integrity leaders will convene in Berkeley to discuss the current crises in our elections. Among the speakers or guests are computer scientists, professors, lawyers, journalists and election officials as well as federal, state and local legislators. They’ll present their findings, answer questions, and organize a national effort to restore publicly verified democracy in the United States.

  • When: October 7 and 8, 2017; 10 AM – 6 PM both days
  • Where: South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis Street, corner of Ashby Avenue
  • More info and register here. Early bird discount: $40 for 2 days. No one turned away for lack of funds
  • Can’t make it? If you can afford, please donate. Volunteers and speakers are tireless but unpaid, and contributing their time.

Take Back the Vote

There’s more! ACLU’s People Power is launching a 50-state voting rights campaign. Kickoff events to campaign for voting rights tailored to each state are planned for October 1st. Find an event or sign up to host one! You’ve got more than 20 to choose from in the Bay Area.ACLU People Power voting launchFinally, want to work with IEB to organize around voting and election issues? Email us.

Take Back the Vote National Conference

Take Back the Vote national conference

The California Election Integrity Coalition, a non-partisan voting rights organization, will host its Second Annual Take Back The Vote National Conference on October 7-8 in Berkeley, CA at the South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis Street, corner of Ashby Avenue (near Ashby BART station).

Over 30 nationally recognized election integrity leaders from across the country will convene to discuss the current crises in our elections. Among our speakers or guests are computer scientists, professors, lawyers, journalists and election officials as well as federal, state and local legislators. They’ll present their findings, answer questions, and organize a national effort to restore publicly verified democracy in the United States. 

Speakers include Drs. Barbara Simons and David Jefferson (Verified Voting), John Brakey (AZ), Lulu Friesdat (NY), Jan BenDor (MI), Lu Aptifer (MA), Karen McKim (WI), Dr. Laura Pressley (TX), Jonathan Simon, and more. See a list of speakers and topics here. Co-sponsors include the California Election Integrity Coalition, Voting Rights Task Force, Ballots for Bernie, Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, and Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists.

Click here for more information or to register. Conference tickets are $25 per day, or $40 for both days if purchased in advance. No one will be turned away for lack of funds. You can help! The conference is funded entirely by individual contributions and organized by volunteers. Email info@nvrtf.org to find out how to donate or volunteer.

Now Hiring: CoCo County Prosecutor, Felons Need Not Apply

Contra Costa County
Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson, the chief law enforcement official for one of the most populous counties in California, resigned on June 14th after pleading no contest to one count of felony perjury. Peterson, who was first elected in 2010 and ran unopposed for reelection in 2014, had been charged with 12 counts of felony perjury and one count of felony grand theft for misusing more than $60,000 in campaign funds to pay personal bills and buy jewelry and other items.

Because the election for the DA’s 2019-22 term isn’t until June 2018, with a potential runoff election in November ’18, the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors will appoint an interim DA to serve through 2018.  These are the Board’s key dates:

  • July 21: application deadline

  • Screening process

  • August 1: narrow down to 3-5 applicants

  • August 15: public meeting in Martinez at 6 pm

  • September 12: special meeting to discuss the appointment

  • Late September: appointment of interim DA

Since the interim DA will have an advantage in the 2018 election, progressives should push now for the BOS to appoint one with impeccable ethical standards who’ll listen and respond to the community; provide services to crime victims; and work to create a culture of accountability and improvements in law enforcement, the administration of justice, and beyond. A coalition of community groups and labor unions has called upon the BOS “to engage in a fully transparent and community-centered process for appointing an interim District Attorney. ” Members of the coalition, and others, hope a new DA will address racial inequities in the county’s criminal justice system.

With ten days to go, only Patrick Vanier and Paul Graves have formally thrown their hats into the ring. Questions we’d like to ask Vanier involve his reputation for being harsh toward criminal defendants, his position on bail reform, and whether he’ll seek to increase misdemeanor filings. Graves, a former homicide prosecutor, is the senior deputy DA heading a unit that prosecutes sexual assault, elder abuse and domestic violence. Often described as a traditional ‘law and order’ prosecutor, we’d want to press Graves on whether he’d offer any change from Peterson (aside from the felony criminal conduct, of course). Other names have been floated, and we’ll update with a list when the application deadline closes.

With the cautionary tale of our chief county law enforcement official resigning in disgrace as a convicted felon fresh in the minds of the public and our Supervisors, we have a rare opportunity to raise our voices in favor of a District Attorney who will advance a progressive law enforcement and criminal justice agenda. There’s much we can do!

  • Go to the Tuesday August 15th meeting in Martinez, which will be a candidate forum moderated by former County Clerk Steve Weir. Members of the public will be invited to submit questions for consideration that may be asked of the finalist candidates

  • Go to the Tuesday September 12th special BOS meeting at which the Board will interview in public the finalists

  • Stay tuned – no firm dates or locations yet but many concerned groups are planning house parties and forums where we can meet and question potential candidates

By Heidi Rand

Barbara Lee and Keith Ellison Discuss the Democratic Party

On Saturday, June 24, Indivisible East Bay and Indivisible Lake Merritt volunteers helped host a political forum with Congresswoman Barbara Lee and DNC Deputy Chair Congressman Keith Ellison, moderated by Van Jones. Despite some technical difficulties with the live stream, much of the day was captured on video here and here.

Topics included the importance of African American voters to the Democratic Party, election strategy, and who could win the presidency in 2020.