Meeting with State Sen. Skinner, June 2019

Indivisible East Bay Meeting with State Senator Nancy Skinner, SD 9

June 28, 2019

From Sen. Skinner’s Office: State Senator Nancy Skinner, Margaret Hanlon-Gradie 

All notes reflect remarks by Senator Skinner unless otherwise noted.

Overview, some things that California can do to fight the federal government and make the state and local communities more livable:

  • Addressing wealth disparity; we used the budget to extended medical from undocumented children all the way up to 25-year-olds; we missed getting coverage for undocumented seniors because the Governor blocked it on budget concerns; we had a bill for student health programs to provide Plan B, but were vetoed by Brown – we’ve passed it again, and are confident Newsom will sign it.
  • Hanlon-Gradie: We plan to put out an ICE raid warning in two weeks.
  • ICE is contracting less with sheriffs because of monitoring and inspecting by the state. Yolo County had a juvenile in solitary for 9 months – our bill gave powers to the AG to inspect the jails and got that fixed. Caging kids may play to some in Trump’s base, but hurts him with the overall electorate.

Issues concerning sheriffs:

  • Aware of current sheriff eligibility bill that would require sheriffs to have gone to police academy. 
  • AB1185, bill for oversight over sheriffs, is up for a July 2 committee vote; worried about the Appropriations Committee – Anthony Portantino of La Cañada-Flintridge needs to be lobbied to pass it through committee.
  • Budget for deportation concerns: added $20MM to the general legal defense fund for tenant and immigrant defense, like East Bay Community Law Center. The more money that’s available in the big pool, the more will go to immigration defense.
  • Elected vs. appointed sheriffs: as it stands, appointed sheriffs won’t get put on the ballot because of the sheriffs’ power. Was unaware that sheriffs and district attorneys have no term limits; generally opposes term limits but would consider a bill to let counties impose them.

Election Security and voting rights:

  • IEB: could CA have an omnibus election security bills like HR1? Skinner: Lobby Lorena Gonzales (AD80) – she wants to be Secretary of State and this is an issue that could distinguish her.
  • Same day registration: Agrees with IEB that Motor Voter is not enough.
  • ACA 6, Constitutional amendment, parolee voting rights: Supports, and also supports SB310, which would allow former felons to serve on juries – a civil rights issue because a black man has a hard time getting a jury of his peers. (Some question about actual sponsorship of these bills.)

Miscellaneous legislation:

  • AB1593 (plastic pollution reduction): already included in budget; AB1080 (single use plastic ban bill): already in the senate as SB54 (and there’s a duplicate clause in a another bill before the senate) 
  • Supports AB1022 (anti hunger response training)
  • Supports tax credit for children but suggests we support Autumn Burke tax credit, which is similar 
  • AB5 (codifying and expanding the CA Supreme Court Dynamex case prohibiting employers from misclassifying employees as contractors vs. employees): Skinner supports the bill and is very unhappy that the Governor is going to block it. She suggests we lobby the Governor. 
  • SB168, creates a Chief Officer of Climate Resilience: Skinner will consider co-authoring.

We the People

Two houses. Three days. Eight candidates. Sixteen Indivisible group leaders. 416,818 paths to a Democratic victory in 2020.

Our allies at Indivisible National in D.C. are part of a coalition including the Communication Workers of America, Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) Action, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Sierra Club, SEIU, and 32BJ SEIU. Together these groups aim to bring grassroots organizers and activists to the table to help choose our next Democratic presidential nominee. 

To that end, Indivisible National reached out to sixteen group leaders from Texas, Nevada, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Iowa, Virginia, and, of course, California. We were invited to spend three days together in D.C., living in two multistory rental houses and attending workshops and candidate forums. The theme of the event was democracy expansion — free and fair elections and pro-democracy reforms of all three branches of government.

Day one was described as activist training, but was really a call to arms from Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II, plus some group discussions at our tables with members of other coalition partners. Rev. Dr. Barber invited us to join the Poor People’s Campaign. Then he spoke about the history of democracy expansion, from the Declaration of Independence to the Reconstruction Amendments to the Voting Rights Act, and also about the Supreme Court’s continued history of reversing democracy expansion. He challenged us not just to fight for the presidency, but to strive for what Coretta Scott King, in her moving Solidarity Day Address, called “not right vs. left, but violence vs. non-violence” — and to fight even for our right to self-government.

Day two: Rev. Dr. Barber was a hard act for the eight presidential candidates to follow during the seven hour forum at the historic (and very gilded) Warner Theater. The candidates took the stage one at a time to give a short pitch and answer audience questions (including questions from several Indivisible representatives) about voting rights, the filibuster, judicial reform, campaign finance reform, etc.

You can watch a recap and nearly the whole thing; here are a few highlights that stuck out to me:

  • Seeing our own Leah, representing this young but mighty organization we built together, take the stage with powerhouses like Planned Parenthood, NAACP, SEIU, and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
  • Julian Castro’s story of how he quit his job as a lawyer and put his financial future at risk in order to avoid conflicts of interest on the San Antonio City Council.
  • Cory Booker saying we don’t need to eliminate the filibuster if we just elect a supermajority of Democrats instead, and almost inspiring us with his oratory to believe it.
  • Elizabeth Warren declaring that we must amend the Constitution to give everyone the right to vote, and the right to have their vote counted.
  • Beto O’Rourke introducing his plan to require each member of his cabinet to hold monthly town halls and hear directly from constituents like us.
  • Amy Klobuchar boasting about the fundraising record she holds: most money raised from ex-boyfriends.
  • Bernie Sanders getting BY FAR the loudest cheers — and no line for the restroom during his speech (nothing against Bernie, just being practical).
  • Jay Inslee living up to his reputation by bringing literally every question back to climate change.
  • Kirsten Gillibrand bringing up the rules change the Republicans were just then getting ready to go nuclear on to turn the Senate into a rubber stamp for judges. 
  • Hearing the inspiring personal stories of the questioners who are starting unions, teaching children, standing up to injustice, and protecting their communities all over the country.

Over dinner, Indivisible group leaders and staff discussed our impressions of the candidates. There was some general agreement: people were particularly impressed with Warren and surprised at how funny Klobuchar is in person. But it was most interesting to hear how experiences differed: some thought Booker was showboating while others were moved to tears, and some found Inslee charming while to others he came across as insincere.

Despite a lot of jokes about reality TV and “confessional videos” we didn’t really spend enough time at the shared houses to get in any drama or much bonding — we all went straight to bed (as far as I know!) and were up and out early for our final day at Indivisible Headquarters.

Day three: After loading up on some decadent breakfast tacos, we got started with a presentation from Indivisible National’s political data manager Olivia Robinson on Indivisible’s tactics for winning elections: expand and protect voting, build a coalition, and motivate core voters. She also talked about how various demographic groups sort into the categories of base voters, swayable voters, and opposed voters; and about the many (up to 416,818!) possible combinations of states we could use to win. You can find a lot more detail in her presentation, but the main takeaway was: don’t believe anyone who tries to tell us that there is only one path to victory or only one kind of “electable” candidate.

Next we heard from associate political director Lucy Solomon about Indivisible’s experience working with local groups to nationally endorse Congressional candidates, using as examples the campaigns of Ayanna Pressley in MA, Andrew Gillum in FL, and Harley Rouda here in CA. As it happened, several of the group leaders involved in those endorsements were in attendance. It was especially interesting to hear the story of how the Indivisible endorsement put Gillum on the map, as well as the division it caused within Indivisible groups throughout the state. Since for various reasons Indivisible East Bay never really considered getting involved in any statewide races, it was fascinating to hear the inside story of how our highest hopes and worst fears around endorsements both played out in the same race.

Then policy director Angel Padilla spoke about some of the legislative priorities Indivisible National is pushing in Congress right now. Though it is unlikely to be signed into law until 2021 at earliest, we talked about building support for H.R.1 – For the People Act of 2019 — and just how far Congressional Democrats, and we ourselves as activists, would be willing to go to force this democracy expansion bill through. Angel’s presentation is here if you scroll down to the bottom.

The final item on our agenda was a media training from consultants who shared tips about everything from how to craft and stay on message to what to wear. A webinar version of the training will be available soon.

In summary: We learned a lot. At this point all the candidates and their talking points have started to run together in my mind; but I expect that over the next 11 months, as I work with others at Indivisible East Bay to figure out how we want to engage in the primary in a way that makes both the candidates and our group better, I’ll benefit from having heard them answer the questions of that room full of grassroots leaders about the fundamentals of our democracy.

That said, I think the most lasting effect from this trip for me is the in-person connections I made with people from across the country whom I would never have met if not for this movement. It was delightful to meet the D.C. union organizer knocking on doors and working on a series of nursery rhymes about the evils of the GOP. It was inspirational to meet the Texan who got kicked out of a Ted Cruz event — and he followed her out to keep arguing! Heartening to meet the Floridian whose events our volunteers had texted to recruit volunteers for — when I told her I was from Indivisible East Bay she remembered that immediately and told me how much it meant to her that we had reached out. I tried to tell her that giving us concrete tasks we could do in swing states was as much a favor to us as our texting was to them, but she wouldn’t hear of it.

These are the moments that make me believe that we are building more than a winning coalition — another blue wave — more even than a movement. We are building an inclusive and expansive community of people who care for one another and work for one another — and that’s how we’ll build a better world.

 

H.R. 1 is Priority One

By Ion Yannopoulos and Ann Daniels

Even little kids know how voting works: you vote, your vote gets counted, everyone else’s vote gets counted, the totals are added up, and the winner is the one who gets the most votes. Simple.

Or not. In real-life elections, there are so many ways this goes wrong. Let’s look at “your vote gets counted” – how do you know? And how do you know that the total of votes they announce is actually the same as the number of people who voted? There could be cheating or tampering. Even in honest elections, people can make mistakes all along the line. Bottom line: it’s so easy for there to be lost votes, miscounted votes. So how can you trust election results?

That’s why one of the first (if not the first) priorities of the new Democratic House of Representatives is H.R. 1, the For the People Act, which among other things lays the foundation for (more) secure elections. And that’s why we need you to tell your Member of Congress that you want them to support H.R. 1. Read on for more info and what to say.

Background

There are a lot of reasons why voting machines can be vulnerable to problems – and unfortunately, voting machines in the U.S. are subject to most of them. But there’s good news: it’s possible to count votes to a very high degree of accuracy, detect interference in elections, and prevent election tampering, all by using paper ballots and something called a risk-limiting audit – essentially, double-checking the election by using a specific statistical method of analyzing the votes cast.

H.R. 1 requires, among many other things, that new voting machines always start with paper ballots, and that those ballots be retained until the election is over. Why paper ballots? Digital data is cheap, fast, and very flexible – but it has a fatal flaw, because it can be changed nearly undetectably. The only way an audit can tell if there’s been tampering is if there’s a trusted source to verify the electronic vote against: namely, the voter’s original ballot. There are electronic voting machines that produce a paper ballot, but if they are hacked, the paper part produced by the electronic voting machine is just as tainted as the electronic part. In fact, there are even ways that the votes can be hacked based on the paper record produced by the electronic machine! Experts agree: Paper ballots are an indispensible part of election security.

What you can do:

1. Contact your Member of Congress. Let them know you support H.R. 1. All three of our East Bay Representatives have cosponsored the bill; thank them. Barbara Lee is on the House Appropriations Committee, which will have to come up with the money to address the funding needed for the states to agree.

What to say:

My name is _____, my zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to thank ______ for cosponsoring H.R. 1 to make our elections trustworthy by making them secure. Please make sure other Members of Congress understand how dangerously insecure our current voting machines really are, and convince them to support H.R. 1. Thank you.

For Barbara Lee, who is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, you can add:

I’m also asking you to make sure the provisions for funding voting machines with paper ballots are rock solid, to resist criticisms about “unfunded mandates.”

  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 • DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 • DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 • DC: (202) 225-5065

2. Contact the California Secretary of State. The Secretary of State oversees elections. The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) is having a conference in Washington from Feb. 1-4, 2019, and one of the topics they will address is voting on a resolution opposing any federal attempts to decide how state money is spent on elections – essentially leaving decisions about election machines in the hands of the states. Tell Secretary of State Alex Padilla that we don’t believe our elections can be safe nationally if any states are vulnerable, and that a minimum standard needs to be set for all elections.

What to say:

My name is ______, my zip code is _____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to thank Secretary of State Padilla for speaking out about the need to defend election integrity, and I want to ask him to speak against the NASS Interim Position on Potential Federal Election Funding. Our elections can’t be safe nationally if any states are vulnerable. For us to be secure and for our elections to be trusted they need to be verified by audit, and we need both paper ballots and risk-limiting audits in order to make that happen.

Secretary of State Alex Padilla: email; Main phone (916) 657-2166; Legislative Office: (916) 653-6774

3. 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

4. Find out more: For more information, read our past articles about election security and risk-limiting audits:

Swalwell final 2018 Town Hall

By Ward Kanowsky

Close to 450 attendees braved the wind and rain to join Representative Eric Swalwell (CA-15) on December 1 at Dublin High School for his last town hall of 2018.  Swalwell gave an overview of HR 1, the new Congress’ first major piece of legislation in 2019, touching on key issues of voting rights and dark money and also pledging to expand investigations so that the Oval Office is not used by the current occupant as an “opportunity to cash in.” On the issue of immigration, Swalwell said that despite threats of a government shutdown, he would never vote to fund the wall; rather, we need to focus on the “root cause” of the immigration crisis and work with other countries to help them address the poverty and violence within their own borders.

Rep. Swalwell Town Hall, photo by LeAnn Kanowsky
Rep. Swalwell Town Hall, photo by LeAnn Kanowsky

Some of the other issues discussed during Swalwell’s opening comments and during Q&A included:

  • Trump’s tax returns: “We will see them.” The House Ways and Means Committee could request the returns right now without a vote, but Swalwell thinks it will likely still go through the courts. Every President since Nixon has released their tax returns, and “we need to do an MRI” on Trump’s financial interests.
  • Impeachment: “The best thing for democracy is for Trump to be impeached,” but we need an impeachable case. “We don’t want to make a martyr out of him.”
  • Climate change: “The window is closing fast” to get something done. Since Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Accord (and the U.S. can’t get back into the Paris agreement until we have a new President), the best opportunity to get something done would be through an infrastructure bill that includes provisions for energy alternatives. This is an area where Trump might agree.
  • Guns: In addition to background checks, Swalwell supports banning or buying back all assault weapons. He told a personal story from when he was a prosecutor about a victim of an assault weapon who was shot in the leg, but still died because the bullet was fired at such a high velocity.
  • Yemen: Swalwell said that he supports House Concurrent Resolution 138, which directs the President to remove United States armed forces from the Republic of Yemen.

Photograph (top) © Rep. Swalwell’s office

Ward Kanowsky is co-lead, with LeAnn Kanowsky, of the Indivisible East Bay CA-15 Team.