IEB shows up big time for January 3 Day of Action

Whose House? Our House!

If they ever turn the story of the 2018 midterm elections into a movie, the culmination of the film will certainly be January 3, 2019. After the stunning Democratic victory in November — a Blue Wave that resulted in a gain of 40 seats and control of the House — a colorful, diverse and significantly more progressive Democratic party strode triumphantly into the Capitol building for the start of the new 116th Congress.

Not coincidentally, it was also the day that Indivisible had declared as a National Day of Action, an opportunity for local Indivisible groups across the country to meet with their local members of Congress or one of their staff to thank them for their past work when appropriate, and to challenge them to push for a progressive agenda going forward.

The National Day of Action was a huge success; Indivisible National counted 168 events in 31 states, its biggest single day of action yet, and the events made national news and lit up social media. As you would expect, Indivisible East Bay made its presence known here in the Bay Area, organizing and/or participating in three separate events.

CA-11 (Mark DeSaulnier)

More than two dozen people showed up for a noon gathering outside Representative Mark DeSaulnier‘s Richmond office. Every attendee was given one of our spectacular new Blue Wave commemorative t-shirts — paid for by a fundraiser we conducted prior to the event.

IEB members Ted, Heidi, Toni, George and Ted strike a pose
IEB members Ted, Heidi, Toni, George and Ted strike a pose

 

IEB's new Blue Wave Commemorative t-shirts make their public debut!
IEB’s new Blue Wave Commemorative t-shirts make their public debut!

The mild and sunny weather perfectly matched the festive mood of the participants. DeSaulnier was in Washington, of course, but a member of his staff graciously agreed to join us.

As DeSaulnier reliably supports most of IEB’s progressive positions, we didn’t spend much time on persuasion. Rather, we focused on thanks and encouragement. CA-11 team co-lead Ted Lam made an opening statement thanking DeSaulnier for his past work and for making himself so accessible to his constituents. Ted also noted that we had supported his re-election and put in hundreds — if not thousands — of hours to help elect him and other progressives to Congress.

Next up, IEB outreach team co-lead Toni presented DeSaulnier’s staff with a “Back to Congress” backpack, covered with buttons in support of proposed legislation including H.R. 1 and the Green New Deal, and packed with items such as an “Erase Corruption” eraser, a “Restore the Rule of Law” ruler and two of the Blue Wave t-shirts.

Our "Back to Congress" backpack
Our “Back to Congress” backpack

Most notably, the backpack included a letter outlining IEB’s priorities for the 116th Congress. Top of list: H.R. 1, the Democrats’ democracy reform bill which encompassing (1) voter empowerment and access, (2) limiting money in politics, and (3) strengthening ethics and reducing corruption in Congress. The letter cited IEB’s  high expectations for DeSaulnier and urged him not to compromise on the values of H.R. 1. We also offered to meet with him and/or his staff on a regular basis to work to accomplish these goals.

DeSaulnier’s staffer offered thanks on the representative’s behalf, and our event concluded with IEB member George’s light-hearted theatrical reading of our backpack letter, followed by our final thank-yous.

CA-13 (Barbara Lee)

California’s 13th Congressional District, represented by Barbara Lee, benefits from coverage by multiple Indivisible groups, including two of the region’s largest: our own Indivisible East Bay, and Indivisible Berkeley. These groups joined forces with Indivisible Euclid and Indivisible Alameda for Impeachment for a 5 PM event held outside Lee’s office at the Dellums Federal Building in Oakland.

IEB and other Indivisible groups outside Rep. Lee's Oakland office
IEB and other Indivisible groups outside Rep. Lee’s Oakland office

The centerpiece of the gathering was a series of speeches by Indivisible members highlighting their participation in building the Blue Wave — especially via the canvassing done by IB in CA-10 and by IEB in CA-21. The speakers also expressed their hopes for what the 116th Congress will accomplish, focusing on (as with CA-11’s message) H.R. 1 and the Green New Deal.

Following the speeches, Congressional Aide Chrissy Anecito joined the group and read a statement from Lee’s office.

CA-15 (Eric Swalwell)

Meeting at the Castro Valley District office of Eric Swalwell, IEB members presented District Director Mallory De Lauro with a backpack to welcome the Representative back to the new blue Congress. As with CA-11, the backpack contained appropriately labelled school items. A message urged Swalwell to stand firm on all parts of H.R. 1 and to not provide funding for an immoral border wall.

IEB members Ward and Andrea meet with Swalwell District Director Mallory (on left)
IEB members Ward and Andrea meet with Swalwell District Director Mallory (on left)

Ted Lam, Nick Travaglini and Ward Kanowsky contributed to this report. CA-11 photos courtesy of Mary Martin DeShaw.

Hugs, not tear gas!

Outraged by the administration’s inhumane and illegal treatment of refugees seeking asylum at our southern border, the East Bay turned out in force on Saturday, December 1, 2018 at several hastily-planned protests called by the national group Families Belong Together.  

Governance Committee member and CA-11 team lead Ted Lam reports on the noon rally in El Cerrito:

Thirty people, including families with children, gathered at a busy intersection at El Cerrito Plaza at the Stop the Tears protest organized by El Cerrito Progressives’ Sherry Drobner. People held signs – including forming a human billboard spelling out STOP T-H-E-T-E-A-R-S – and enthusiastically chanted “Let them Pass, No Tear Gas” and “Refugees families under attack, This is illegal, Stand up and fight back!”

Stop the Tears protest in El Cerrito, photo by Ted Lam
Stop the Tears protest in El Cerrito, photo by Ted Lam

The pedestrians and motorists streaming by were very supportive, with many honking  in approval. The one-hour event passed too quickly but we felt good at speaking out loud and clear against the administration’s inhumane actions. 

Governance Committee member and volunteer team lead Andrea Lum reports on the San Leandro protest, which she organized with GC member and IEB treasurer Gina Clinton:

Stop the Tears protest in San Leandro
Stop the Tears protest in San Leandro

The day started off rainy and stormy but ended in cheers, honks and waves at our small but mighty protest on the corner of Memorial Park in San Leandro, As the sun came out, our trio was joined by a mother and son, and another person outraged by the tear gassing of families at the border. Seven people on a rainy Saturday – we call that a win!

Didn’t make it to a protest? There’s still much you can do to help fight. See our article with information, a call script, and contact info to make sure that your elected representatives speak out and do all they can.

 

 

 

Rep. DeSaulnier’s Congressional Update Town Hall

By Ted Lam

Indivisible East Bay CA-11 team co-leads Kristen and Ted, and IEB member Tom, met with Congressperson Mark DeSaulnier and his D.C. Chief of Staff Betsy Marr before his Congressional Update Town Hall in Richmond on October 23. We updated DeSaulnier on CA-11 team members’ recent work helping elect Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton, our involvement in pushing Sheriff Livingston to cancel the ICE contract, and our various Get Out The Vote actions in CA-21, Northern Nevada, and Arizona. DeSaulnier was impressed and immensely grateful, and Marr encouraged us to keep at it. DeSaulnier shared his unvarnished summary of the “goings-on” in D.C. with us, and we had a great back-and-forth on that. 

Looking to the future, we asked about DeSaulnier’s priorities after the elections, and what he’d recommend for our post-midterm grassroots efforts. To our specific question about whether the Democrats would re-establish the Office of Technology Assessment that was killed by Newt Gingrich in the Clinton era, DeSaulnier agreed that it should be a priority. Wrapping up, DeSaulnier offered to meet with the CA-11 team after the midterms to check in and dive deeper into our post-election ideas. We will hold him to that!

About 70 people attended the 90-minute Town Hall. There was an underlying tone of optimism in the Representative’s presentation about the midterms. One of his post-election priorities is to work on overturning Citizens United, banning stock buybacks, strengthening anti-trust enforcement, and updating the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act (WARN). The WARN Act of 1988 is a US labor law that protects employees, their families, and communities by requiring most employers with 100 or more employees to provide 60 calendar-day advance notification of plant closings and mass layoffs of employees.

IEB and CA-11 team member Janis Hashe asked two questions on what can be done about coal rail shipments through Richmond, and whether the interstate commerce clause can be utilized to help. DeSaulnier’s response was supportive, and he gave some suggestions. Obviously fascinated with the second question, he said he’d give it further thought.

Janis Hashe & friend at Rep DeSaulnier Richmond Town Hall, photo by Ted Lam
Janis Hashe & friend at Rep. DeSaulnier Richmond Town Hall, photo by Ted Lam

It was satisfying to hear our Member of Congress espouse progressive values and be so responsive to his community. 

Missed the Town Hall? Watch the video here.

Photo of Representative DeSaulnier © Mark DeSaulnier

Ted Lam is retired from the USCG and currently works as a civil engineer. Ted is a member of the Indivisible East Bay Governance Committee and is co-lead of the Indivisible CA-11 team.

Town Hall on Securing Our Elections

By Ted Landau

For Representative Mark DeSaulnier’s 61st Town Hall since taking office, he focused on a single critical and timely issue: Securing Our Elections. Free and fair elections are the foundation of our democracy. Unfortunately, as evidenced by Russian interference with the 2016 election, the integrity of our voting process has never been under greater threat. The purpose of the Town Hall, held in Walnut Creek on August 13, 2018, was to consider what we should do about this — for the 2018 midterms and beyond.

The Town Hall began with a brief slide show presentation followed by opening statements by Rep. DeSaulnier and California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. Next, three election experts, Dr. David Jefferson, Professor Philip Stark and Mark Kumleben, joined the panel discussion. Taking questions from the jam-packed audience of about 300, they delivered both good and bad news.

Let’s start with the bad news: Here in California, attempts to “break in” to our election hardware continue unabated. Efforts to employ social media as a means to disrupt our elections also remain ongoing. We need to be more vigilant than ever if we expect to safeguard our election process. And unfortunately, with Trump at the helm and his GOP enablers downplaying Russian interference and blocking the Democrats’ attempt to increase election security funding, we can’t depend on much help from the federal government.

The good news: DeSaulnier continues to work to get Washington to act. He is currently the co-sponsor of at least 5 bills to improve election security (such as the aptly named Election Security Act, H.R. 5011). While none of these bills has made it to the GOP-controlled floor as yet, this is a start. If you live in CA-11, DeSaulnier’s district, thank him and urge him to keep pushing! Meanwhile, Secretary of State Padilla claimed that no one has yet succeeded in “hacking” California voting equipment. To help keep things that way, the state has allocated over $134 million dollars to upgrade our voting machines and to provide additional election protections. One caution came from Professor Stark, who pointed out that just because you’ve found no evidence of hacking, that doesn’t guarantee none has taken place; hackers may have succeeded in preventing your ability to detect them.

So what should we be doing? The panelists agreed on several key recommendations:

  • Paper ballots are essential. Electronic voting, online voting, whatever: they’re all bad. Only paper ballots allow us to reliably track, audit and verify the authenticity and accuracy of the vote. Accept no substitute. Further, no voting machines should be connected to the Internet; it’s too much of a risk. California has gotten the message: it keeps its machines offline and uses only paper ballots unless people with disabilities need an accessible voting machine. As for the rest of the country, while the Constitution prohibits most federal regulation of the electoral process, it allows for the federal government to require states to use paper ballots. We should demand that they do so!
  • Beware of bots. As discussed primarily by Mr. Kumleben, bots are mini-programs designed to imitate humans on social media. We can’t outlaw them but we should be aware of them. They can create an illusion of consensus or popularity that can unduly influence people’s perceptions and thus how they vote. Always be skeptical of what you read and view online — especially from unfamiliar sources! We should also demand that politicians reveal not only where their campaign money comes from but where it goes. If they’re spending money on bots, the voters should know!
  • Gerrymandering and voter suppression are rooted in white supremacy; their goal is to inhibit minorities from voting or having their vote matter. That was the strong assertion made by the Secretary of State to open this topic, which drew applause from the audience. The ideal goal should be for every eligible person to vote — and to do so within fairly-drawn districts. Again, California has led the way here with its recent bipartisan redistricting. All states should move in this direction.
  • Make the move to open source: non-proprietary software that anyone can see, explore and even modify. As elucidated by Dr. Jefferson and Professor Stark, most voting machines in use today run on proprietary software, owned entirely by the same companies that manufacture voting machine hardware. Even though election officials “purchase” voting equipment, they are prohibited from viewing or modifying the machine’s software source code. This leads to a quasi-monopoly that costs the government dearly. If voting machines were instead truly owned by the public and ran on open source software, it could reduce election costs by a factor of five, leading many experts to urge that we should push for a move to open source. While it is not a panacea for security concerns, and while it’s controversial (because, among other things, it is open to modification), open source makes the process much more transparent and accountable. Yet again, California is ahead of the curve. Both San Francisco and Los Angeles counties are planning to transition to open source. Other districts are expected to follow.

Several additional points of interest were raised by the panel:

  • You may not be aware of this, but a significant change is coming to the voting process in California, perhaps as early as 2020 in Contra Costa County, as a result of the Voter’s Choice Act. Most significantly, the law provides a new voting option, intended to facilitate in-person voting: No longer will you be restricted to vote only on election day at just one specified polling location. Instead, for the 11 days prior to an election, you will be able to vote at any of numerous “vote centers” located throughout the county. If you currently use a mail-in ballot, you already can come close to achieving this flexibility. You don’t have to mail your ballot in, risking problems with postal delivery or interference en route. You can drop it off at a city hall or, on election day, at a polling location.
  • Here is a truly cool tip revealed by Secretary of State Padilla: Did you know you can check the status of your vote after an election — and even get a history of your previous votes? To do so, start here.
  • Professor Stark explained the benefits of “risk-limiting” audits. These are partial audits that, combined with statistical analyses, determine when a full audit of a vote is needed. This allows the county to save time and money that would otherwise be wasted on full audits when they have little or no chance of changing the results. Expect to see the implementation of these audits here in California.

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.

Ted Landau is a retired professor of psychology. He has also spent several decades as a tech journalist/author — writing primarily about Apple products. He has been politically active in the East Bay since moving here in 2004.