Tuesday, March 20, 2018

MN Republicans Want to Ban RCV

Lawmakers in Minnesota introduced Legislation last week that would Prohibit Local Governments from adopting Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV), a system that can help Third-Party Candidates’ chances for Election and Lead to a more Representative Government.

The Bill, introduced on March 12th, would have the greatest impact in Minneapolis, which has used RCV for Municipal Elections since 2013. The City has Elected a Green Party City Council Member, and it currently has a nearly Equal number of Men and Women on City Council and the most Ethnically diverse set of Lawmakers in its History. Just last year, a well-funded Socialist was a viable Candidate in a City Council Election. St. Paul adopted RCV last year, and a Number of other Cities are currently considering it.

RCV eliminates the so-called Spoiler Effect, helps Third-Party Candidates achieve Viability, and ensures that no one can be Elected without the support of the Majority of Voters. So the Bill Prohibits a list of “Political Subdivisions”, such as: Cities, Counties, Townships, and even School Districts, from adopting RCV. A Bipartisan group of Legislators introduced it, Three House and Three Senate Sponsors. But the two Democrats who had initially signed on, Reps. Rena Moran (District 65A) and Mike Nelson (District 40A), Removed their Names from the Legislation after Inquiries, with no explanation.

The Legislative Measure is what is known as a Preemption Bill, a Tool Conservative State Lawmakers have used to Block Municipalities from setting their own Policies. Many of these Bills are promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has teamed up with Corporations to author Legislation that was used, for example, to Ban Municipal Broadband and City Living Wage Laws.

The Mayor of Tallahassee, Florida, Andrew Gillum, has made Overturning Preemption Laws a Cornerstone of his Bid to be Florida’s next Governor. About a dozen Municipal Governments have adopted RCV, according to Fair Vote, a Group that Advocates for Electoral Reforms. The Minnesota Proposal appears to be a unique attempt at Legislatively crushing Local Governments’ ability to adopt the Voting Method.

In Maine, Voters passed a Statewide Referendum in 2016 that would establish RCV across the State. The Legislature objected to the Referendum and Blocked its Implementation. Activists responded by launching a successful Petition Drive that will give Voters the chance to Overrule the Legislature in a Second Referendum during the June Primary Elections. Voters will be able to test-drive the system during those Elections, they will use RCV for the first time in Primaries for Governor, U.S. Senate, and the State Legislature.

Undermining RCV would Disadvantage Independents and Third-Party Candidates, who have had unusual Success in the State. From 1999 to 2003, Jesse Ventura of the Independence Party was Governor; his Party continued to be Active in subsequent Elections, such as the 2008 U.S. Senate Race in which an Independence Party Candidate won 15% of the Vote. If RCV were to continue to spread in Minnesota beyond the Twin Cities and eventually be utilized Statewide, it could increase the Viability of the Independence Party and others who are challenging the traditional Two-Party dominance.

“It’s a unique piece of legislation in how sweeping it is with respect to preemption, as well as simply abolishing the opportunity for [ranked-choice voting] ever in the state of Minnesota everywhere,” said Massey. “It’s breathtaking.”

Republican state Sen. Mark Koran defended the legislation in an interview with local news outlet MinnPost. “Every vote should count, and every vote should be as simple as ‘I picked my top candidate,'” said Koran, who is sponsoring the Senate version of the bill. “I think it changes the dynamics of, do you win by a second or third chance? It just doesn’t seem natural, and we have an established elections process that has worked well for more than 100 years.”

There are Complications associated with RCV. There have been cases in which Voters simply Voted for the same Candidate on every single line, which Defeats the whole point of the System. In one San Francisco District in 2010, 2% of Voters Spoiled their Ballots by Over-Voting for Candidates.

In order to combat this Spoiling of Votes, Cities have engaged in Education Campaigns to Teach Voters how to use the System. San Francisco’s City Government publishes YouTube Videos to teach Voters how to use the System. The City of London in the U.K., which uses RCV for its Municipal Elections, specifically warns Voters against Listing the Same Candidate on each Line, as doing so essentially renders All Votes made after the First-Preference selection Useless. Additionally, Candidates Running in RCV Elections have had to make a wider effort to reach out to Voters who don’t Rank them as their First Choice, because they want Second-Preference Votes, and so on, dependent on how many Rankings they have.

There are Signs that City Education Campaigns about RCV work. Santa Fe, New Mexico, recently held its First Election under this system to Elect a New Mayor and City Council Members. Voter Turnout was around 40%, as compared to 28% in 2014. Almost all the Voters understood how to use the system, as Fair Vote noted: “Of the 20,670 votes cast for mayor, there were only 40 ‘undervotes,’ meaning 99.8 percent of voters who cast a vote did not skip the 5-choice mayoral ballot. There were only 26 ‘overvotes’ (when more than one candidate is chosen at the same ranking), meaning 99.9 percent of all ballots that included a vote for mayor were valid.”

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Monday, March 19, 2018

Supreme Court Rejects GOP Attempt to Block Redrawn PA District Map

Republican Leaders' efforts to Stop Pennsylvania from using a New Congressional District Map in Midterm Elections were dealt a potentially Fatal Blow Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court and a Panel of Federal Judges both Ruled against them.

The Courts Rejected requests to Throw Out or Halt use of the Map imposed last Month by the State Supreme Court, which had Ruled that a 2011 GOP-crafted District Map Violated the State Constitution's guarantee of Free and Equal Elections.

The pair of Rulings makes it highly likely that this year's Congressional Elections in Pennsylvania will be Conducted under District Lines widely viewed as more favorable to Democrats than the 2011 Map.

Both Decisions came with just One Day left for the State's Congressional Candidates to Circulate Petitions to get on the May 15th Primary Ballot.

The U.S. Supreme Court turned down the Request without Comment.

The Panel of Judges said it had No Authority to Act in the matter except to Dismiss the Case.

More than 40 Candidates had filed Petition Paperwork by mid-day Monday, according to State Elections Bureau data. The Deadline to submit at least 1,000 Voter Signatures to get on the Primary Ballot is Tuesday.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Trump Staff Nondisclosure Agreements Unconstitutional and Unenforceable

The ACLU called the Reports that Senior Staff in the Trump Administration have been Required to Sign Nondisclosure Agreements (NDA) that prevent them from Sharing Details of Trump's Presidency, now and after his term Expires, is Unconstitutional and Unenforceable.

Ben Wizner, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, had this Reaction: "Public employees can't be gagged by private agreements. These so-called NDAs are unconstitutional and unenforceable."

The Washington Post reported Sunday that Trump was requiring the NDAs in the early months of his Administration, when he was "furious over leaks from within the White House," and that "senior White House staff members were asked to, and did, sign nondisclosure agreements vowing not to reveal confidential information and exposing them to damages for any violation."

The Draft of the NDA seen by the Post set that penalty at $10 Million "for each and any unauthorized revelation of 'confidential' information, defined as 'all nonpublic information I learn of or gain access to in the course of my official duties in the service of the United States Government on White House staff,' including 'communications . . . with members of the press' and 'with employees of federal, state, and local governments.'"

Remarkably the White House Counsel's Office, Headed up by Don McGahn, "pressed" staff to sign the agreements. And now in some undisclosed location, Dick Cheney is regretting his own lack of Creativity and Brazenness.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Kushner Case Touches off Probe Into NYC Buildings Department

A Report that Jared Kushner’s Company Falsified Construction Permit Applications has triggered a New York City Council probe into the City’s beleaguered Department of Buildings (DOB).

Bronx Councilman Ritchie Torres (D-15th District), Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Investigation, announced the inquiry Monday. Joining him was the Activist Housing Rights Initiative, which will Partner with Torres’s Committee to Conduct the Review, having determined that the Landlord had Falsely claimed to have No Rent-Regulated Units in 34 of its Buildings on 80 Documents submitted to the City over the course of Four years.

“It is deception and dysfunction hidden in plain sight,” complained Torres, noting the DOB could have checked Kushner Cos.’ Applications against Publicly Available Records from the City Department of Finance, which Logs Regulated Units in Tax Documents. “It’s a failure of common sense, coordination and communication between the Department of Buildings and the Department of Finance.” The Councilman deemed City Government “an enabler” of the Alleged Violations.

The Incidents took place between 2013 and 2016. The Mayor signed Legislation in 2017 to crack down on Spurious and Disruptive Construction Projects intended to Harass Tenants. Kushner Cos., which has Blamed the Faulty Filings on Clerical Errors, is likely not the First or Last Organization to Fail to Properly notify the DOB of the Legal Status of its Units.

Torres’s Office confirmed that Housing Rights Initiative and the Committee would Not Limit the Investigation to the Family Business of President Trump’s Son-in-Law, but would Examine the Entirety of the City’s Permit-Approval Process. “Part of the purpose of the investigation is to determine just how widespread this practice is,” said Torres.

Yet the Councilman and Housing Rights Initiative Executive Director Aaron Carr tore into Kushner Cos. during the Press Conference, insisting it had deliberately Misled the City to avoid additional Scrutiny that would have attended Work at a Rent-Regulated Building. “When does an accident turn into a systematic business model?” said Carr, noting that the Organization sold several of the Locations Identified in the Report at a Substantial Profit. “This is not a clerical error, this is a window into Kushner Cos.’ business model.” But he Failed to List other such instances that would indicate a Pattern of Pushing Out Tenants in order to Deregulate Apartments and then Rent them at Market Rates, using State Laws on Vacancy Decontrol and Major Capital Improvements.

Torres, for his part, linked the Allegations of Tenant Harassment to the City’s Record-shattering Homeless Population. “It’s a humanitarian crisis. And it’s an outrage that we have developers and billionaires like Kushner Cos. profiting from the destruction of affordable housing at the very moment that we need it most,” the Councilman said. “It is clear to us that falsified permits as a means to illegal construction is an attempt to profiteer from the loss of affordable-housing units.”

The Councilman raised several possible Outcomes of the Investigation, including Legislation to Tighten Oversight of the Permitting Process and even the Referral of the Case to Prosecutors. He Dismissed, however, any notion that the DOB lacks sufficient Funding and Staff to keep up with the City’s Growth. “At what point does funding cease to be an explanation and becomes an excuse? Aaron is one advocate, I’m one elected official, and we managed to do more to shine a spotlight than the Department of Buildings, which has thousands of employees,” he said.

The DOB has said it Commented on the False Filings for Two Astoria Buildings mentioned in the AP story, and in July 2016 Penalized the Architect who Filed for the Permits for making False Statements. Both Buildings are now being Investigated by a City and State Task Force on Tenant Harassment.

Kushner Officially Resigned from his Duties at the Family Business upon Joining the White House in 2017, but Retains a Stake in a Number of the Companies Assets and Ventures.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Sex and the City Star Cynthia Nixon Announces Primary Challenge to NY Gov. Cuomo

Sex and the City character, Cynthia Nixon, wants to give up Manhattan’s glamour for decidedly unsexy Albany.

Nixon made her long-rumored Democratic Primary Bid against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo Official with a Video and Email Release Monday afternoon.

Nixon has never held Elected Office but is a longtime Advocate for Public Education and a Political Ally of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Cuomo’s nemesis.

The Governor recently suggested the Mayor had steered the Actress and Activist into a Campaign against him.

She faces daunting Odds against the Deep-Pocketed and universally known Cuomo.

A Siena College Poll released hours before the Announcement found Cuomo leading Nixon by 47% among Registered Democrats, only 39% of whom said they knew enough about her to form an Opinion. Nixon will also face Competition from at least one other Primary longshot, former State Sen. Terry Gipson.

One Consultant suggested Nixon could only seriously threaten Cuomo’s chances of a Third Term if she Secured the November Ballot Line of the Working Families Party, a Liberal Group She and her Wife have contributed Money to, and which has Twice Endorsed the Centrist Governor despite Fighting with Him on Policy Matters.

Bradley Tusk, a former Strategist to Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and ex-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, suggested that such a Split in the Liberal Vote could create a narrow Pathway to Victory for a Republican, though he cautioned Cuomo would still probably edge out his Opponents.

Gov. Cuomo has come under increasing Media Scrutiny since the beginning of the Corruption Trial of his Aide and Confidant, Joseph Percoco, who was ultimately Convicted.

His former Upstate Economic Development Chief, Alain Kaloyeros, will go on Trial in June for allegedly Rigging State Contract Bids in favor of Political Donors.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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How MI Voters Aims to End Gerrymandering

Read this article by Natalie Tomlin, a Freelance Writer based in Grand Rapids.

Caledonia Resident Katie Fahey and her Grassroots, Non-Partisan Ballot Committee Voters Not Politicians (VNP) made headlines.

Last year, the Aquinas College Alumna, along with a Board of Directors and Thousands of Volunteers, gathered more than 425,000 Signatures in less than Four Months to put a Constitutional Amendment on the Ballot this November.

VNP surpassed the 315,654 Signatures Required and Submitted them to the State in December 2017. The Group hopes that Michigan Voters will have the chance to decide to Completely Restructure the Redistricting Process in the State and end Gerrymandering.

Fahey sensed that Voters had lost Faith in the Political System, and she instinctively went back to her Knowledge of Gerrymandering from High School. As she researched further, she began to understand why Citizens felt so Disconnected. “Right now, we have politicians carving our state out like a turkey,” she says.

Federal Law has Three Rules in place to Control how Voting Maps are Drawn:

1. They must be Drawn every 10 years when New Census Data is Available.

2. Districts must be Drawn to Reflect Equal Population.

3. Districts must adhere to the Voting Rights Act that Protects from Racial Discrimination in Voting.

Beyond these Three Rules, the Drawing of Lines is up to States.

Michigan is one of 37 States to give All Power to Redistrict to State Legislature and uses a Simple Majority Vote in Each Legislature Chamber to Finalize Maps.

After watching 3,500 Volunteers collect Signatures in All 83 Counties of Michigan, Fahley is most inspired by the many People who took part in a Political Movement for the first time in their lives, including an 87-year old Woman who carried a Petition. “People have learned that they can participate. Regular people can make change, and we’re proof of that.”

CLICK HERE to read the Article.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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States Seek Their Own Net Neutrality Rules

Activists say 35 States, plus the District of Columbia, are pursuing Strategies to keep some Version of Net Neutrality in place after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) scrapped Nationwide Regulations late last year.

Ranging from Lawsuits to Executive Orders, the moves represent a loosely Coordinated attempt by States to push back against a controversial Decision by the Republican-controlled Agency.

Despite their gumption, though, it may be an Uphill Battle: In its Decision, the FCC declared its Right to Sue State Governments over any such attempts.

Governors in Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Montana, and Vermont have signed Executive Orders related to Net Neutrality Issues, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Patricia Fahey in New York State got the idea for her Bill from Washington Governor Jay Inslee, who first Proposed Limiting State Business to Net Neutrality-Friendly Internet Service Providers (ISP)s.

California is crafting their own Net Neutrality Laws. They would Prohibit ISPs from Blocking or Hindering Access to Legal Online Content Sources, or from offering Premium-Bandwidth “fast lane” Deals to others.

CLICK HERE for a 2017 List of States Bills for Net Neutrality by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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