Category Archives: Voting

‘Chilling and Unprecedented’: DHS Reauthorization Bill Would Let Trump Send Secret Service to Polling Places

“This is an alarming proposal which raises the possibility that armed federal agents will be patrolling neighborhood precincts and vote centers,” over a dozen secretaries of state tell Senate leaders.

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 3-12-2018

Civil rights advocates and secretaries of states are warning against a provision in a DHS reauthorization bill that would let the president dispatch Secret Service to polling places. (Photo: Penn State/flickr/cc)

Civil rights advocates and top election officials are expressing alarm over a section in the Department of Homeland Security reauthorization bill that would allow the president to send Secret Service agents to polling places.

“Who in their right mind would give this vulgar talking yam this kind of power?” quipped Charles P. Pierce at Esquire. Continue reading

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Census Rushes to Respond to Request to Add Citizenship Question

 

Image: JEC Democrats/Medium

By  Justin Elliott. Published 2-23-2018 by ProPublica

The Census Bureau is scrambling to respond to a last-minute request by the Justice Department to add a question on citizenship status to the 2020 census, according to hundreds of pages of emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The emails show that the DOJ’s December request set off a flurry of activity in the bureau as career Census officials hurried to research the history of how citizenship has been handled in past surveys, raced to come up with alternatives to the DOJ request and vented their frustration over public outrage on the issue. Continue reading

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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Smacks Down GOP Gerrymandered Congressional Map

Decision hailed as ‘major victory for all Pennsylvanians’

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 1-22-2018

Thanks to the new decision, said the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, “The new maps could result in a delegation that more closely resembles the will of Pennsylvania’s voters.” (Photo: Penn State/Flickr/cc)

Pennsylvania’s high court on Monday ruled that the state’s gerrymandered congressional map “clearly, plainly, and palpably” violates the state constitution and ordered the state to draw up a new map to be used in the primary.

“The Pennsylvania Supreme Court today ruled in favor of voters choosing politicians rather than politicians choosing voters, and that is major victory for all Pennsylvanians,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause, which filed an amicus brief in the case. “The court order will result in new maps in time for the 2018 election so that voters will not be forced to face a fourth congressional election under these unconstitutionally gerrymandered congressional districts.” Continue reading

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Thanks to the North Carolina case, partisan gerrymandering’s day of reckoning may soon be upon us

File 20180111 101514 6ew2l7.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

The word ‘gerrymandering’ comes from the name of Elbridge Gerry, Massachusetts governor in the 1800s. AP Photo/Elise Amendola

Christopher Beem, Pennsylvania State University

Gerrymandering was already shaping up to be an important issue this year, with huge implications for American democracy. But after the ruling this week on the North Carolina congressional map, the stakes have been raised still higher.

For the first time, a federal panel of judges ruled that a state’s map of its congressional districts was unconstitutional. The North Carolina map didn’t just give an advantage to Republicans – it manifested “invidious partisan intent.” The panel directed the state to draw the districts again by Jan. 24. Continue reading

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“We Don’t Want to Repress”: Police in Honduras Refuse Orders to Stamp Out Pro-Democracy Protests

“We are tired. And our job is to give peace and security to the Honduran people, not repress them. We want all Hondurans to be safe.”

By Jon Queally, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 12-5-2017

Photo: Heather Gies/Twitter

Amid widening violence and ongoing protests, members of the Honduras National Police force—including those within the U.S.-trained units known as the Cobras—say they are refusing  to obey orders from the right-wing government of the incumbent president, Juan Orlando Hernández, who has used the security forces to crackdown on demonstrators and imposed a curfew amid allegations of voter fraud in recent elections.

“We want peace, and we will not follow government orders – we’re tired of this,” a spokesperson for the police told reporters outside the national police headquarters on Monday. “We aren’t with a political ideology. We can’t keep confronting people, and we don’t want to repress and violate the rights of the Honduran people.” Continue reading

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We started a revolution over this once

Do you remember voting for lobbyists to decide who pays what in taxes? We don’t.

Photo: Daniel Huizinga/flickr

On Friday night, the Senate passed their version of the #GOPTaxScam. The bill, all 479 pages of it, was presented to the full Senate just hours before the vote. The vote was along party lines, with the one dissenting vote among the Republicans coming from Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee.

So, what was in this bill, and why did they vote on it before all the Senators could actually read through the bill? We’re glad you asked. First, what’s in it.

A lot of the bill is what you’d expect. For example:

  • The top individual rate is reduced from 39.6% to 38.5%, and the threshold at which the top rate kicks in is increased from $418,000 for a single/$480,000 for married filing jointly to $500,000/$1,000,000
  • The estate tax exemption is doubled, to $11 million for a single taxpayer and $22 million for married taxpayers.
  • The corporate rate is reduced from 35% to 20%.
  • The top rate on the income earned by owners of “flow through” businesses — S corporations and partnerships — is reduced from 39.6% to a shade below 30%.

Questions about these measure that we were forced to ask include; how is it that corporations are able to keep the tax deductions that have now been excluded from individual tax bases? Why is the corporate tax is now LOWER than the top individual rate? If corporations are people too, why is there ANY difference in these tax rates?

Then, there’s the “Why are these items in a tax bill, anyways?” parts. These include:

  • A provision that explicitly allows parents to use tax-free college savings plans, known as 529s, for a “child in utero.” This is essentially a personhood bill, setting a precedent for the legal definition of life beginning at conception.
  • The bill repeals the Johnson Amendment, which bans non-profit groups from engaging in political activism. This would mean that churches and the like could actively engage in elections without disclosing individual donors; think of it as Citizens United on steroids. This serves the purpose of blurring the lines between the separation of church and state, allowing the churches to donate and promote individual candidates in local and national elections, all while cloaked under the donation secrecy this provision allows.
  • Eliminating the individual mandate of the ACA. While this actually does deal with taxes (the fine for not being insured is paid as part of your taxes), removing the mandate means that younger and healthier people won’t buy insurance until they need it. These are the people who currently offset the cost of providing healthcare to the older and sicker people. Without this in place, premiums will rise dramatically more than the anticipated 10% over the next 10 years.
  • A provision that would open part of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, to oil and gas exploration. While this would raise revenue, it only amounts to $2 billion over the next ten years, at the cost of almost assuredly ruining the local environment and ecosystem. Additionally, it is worded in such a way that it is actually ILLEGAL to not drill, forcing Alaska to accept ANY drilling permits and fields desired.

Of course, the individual tax cuts are set to expire, meaning that the middle class will see a tax increase. And, what’s going to pay for these? The GOP mantra’s always been that tax cuts pay for themselves, but others, such as Marco Rubio, have already admitted that the tax reform is part one of a two-step process designed to defund and eventually dismantle Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security; the very programs designed to help the elderly, disabled and poorest members of American society.

Now obviously, a lot of these proposals don’t sit well with the electorate. So, why the rush to pass it? The GOP needs a victory. Even with controlling both houses of Congress and the White House, this administration’s been notably inept in getting meaningful things accomplished. Furthermore, the GOP donor class has stated that the campaign money will dry up if they don’t get the tax cuts they want.

Photo: Represent.US

So, who came up with most of the amendments? Lobbyists. Out of the 11,000 registered lobbyists in Washington, more than 6,000 said that they worked on taxes this year. That works out to 11 lobbyists for each member of Congress. Do you remember electing lobbyists to write our laws? We sure don’t.

We still have a chance to stop this. The House and Senate bills now go to a conference committee. The bill that comes out of that will need to be passed by both houses. The healthcare fiasco this summer proves that if we’re loud and persistent enough, our message gets through. And, with the bill only having 37% approval before the vote, there’s enough of us to make the message get through.

And what if it doesn’t? The last time that the GOP had won control of both houses and the presidency before 2016 was 1928. The new tax bill looks even more extreme than the policies put into place by the Republicans after the 1928 election. Does anybody remember what happened in 1929?

Another annoying historical factoid that you may wish to remember at a time like this: 244 years ago, a group of people decided that they weren’t going to pay taxes without proper representation, and what became known as the Boston Tea Party took place. This in turn led to a revolution, and the founding of this country.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

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Trump’s “Frightening” Pick for Top Census Job Thinks “Competitive Elections Are Bad for America”

Thomas Brunell is a political science professor with no government experience, and would politicize the agency tasked with counting every resident of the U.S.

By Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 11-21-2017

The U.S. Census is a nonpartisan accounting of every person who lives in the country, but President Trump’s top pick for its new deputy director could politicize the Census Bureau with his views on redistricting. (Photo: PaulSh/Flickr/cc)

President Donald Trump’s top pick for deputy director of the U.S. Census Bureau is the author of a book about the dangers of a competitive electoral system—leading to fears among voting rights advocates that the appointment would lead to a politicization of the agency which is heavily involved in how voting districts are drawn.

Thomas Brunelll, a political science professor at the University of Texas, is the author of the 2008 book Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections Are Bad for America, in which he argued that voting districts packed with like-minded voters are fairer than those with a mix of Democratic and Republican voters. Continue reading

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Half a Million March in Massive Uprising Against Spanish Plan to Overtake Catalonia

Catalans poured into the streets of Barcelona Saturday following the Spanish prime minister announcement that he would move to take control of their region

By Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 10-21-2017

Catalans did not take the news that Spanish Prime Minister will move to impose direct rule on their region quietly on Saturday. Nearly half a million people marched in Barcelona soon after the prime minister’s press conference.

Carles Puigdemont, president of Catalonia, joined the demonstration before a planned speech responding to Mariano Rajoy’s statement that pending the approval of the senate, which his party controls, he would remove the Catalan government from power and call for a special election in the coming months.

The protesters chanted, “Freedom!” and “Rajoy, Rajoy, so you know we are leaving!” Continue reading

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#FairMaps: Pro-Democracy Rally as Supreme Court Hears ‘Most Significant’ Voting Rights Case in Decades

“Make no mistake about it: Extreme partisan gerrymandering is corruption. It’s a cancer on democracy. End it now!”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-3-2017

“Gerrymandering has no value in our democracy,” said Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee on Civil and Human Rights. (Photo: Janai Nelson/Twitter)

Wielding signs that read “hands off our districts” and “you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your voters,” hundreds of civil rights advocates, lawyers, and lawmakers rallied in the nation’s capital Tuesday as the Supreme Court heard arguments in a landmark redistricting case that poses “the most serious challenge to gerrymandering in modern times.”

The case under consideration—Gill v. Whitford—is the result of a lawsuit filed by Wisconsin voters and the Campaign Legal Center in 2015 alleging that Republican-drawn state district lines violated the rights of Democratic voters. In 2016, a federal court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, arguing that the GOP’s district maps amounted to “an aggressive partisan gerrymander” and ordered the lines redrawn.  Continue reading

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More Than 700 Injured as Spanish Police Try to Prevent Catalan Independence Vote

The Spanish government’s “unjustified use of violence,” says regional leader Carles Puigdemont, “will not stop the will of the Catalan people.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-1-2017

Police beating firemen in Girona. Photo: Gerry Lynch/Twitter

Update:

As of Sunday afternoon, more than 760 people were injured in Catalonia after Spanish police clashed with voters who attempted to cast votes for the region’s independence referendum, which Madrid has deemed unconstitutional, Reuters reports.

Despite the reports of violence, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy praised the police force for its actions in Catalonia Sunday.

Alarming photos and videos continued to circulate on social media into the evening:

Earlier:

Catalan officials say Spanish police have injured more than 330 people who tried to vote during Catalonia’s independence referendum on Sunday.

Madrid has declared the vote unconstitutional, but Catalan citizens and members of the regional government have vowed to move forward with it. In recent days they have protested by the thousands, and even occupied more than 160 local schools that were set to serve as polling stations, in attempts to avoid the national police’s promise to prevent voting.

The BBC reports:

Police officers are preventing people from voting, and seizing ballot papers and boxes at polling stations. In the regional capital Barcelona, police used batons and fired rubber bullets during pro-referendum protests.

Catalan emergency services said they had treated 38 people who were injured when police pushed back crowds of voters and forced their way into polling stations. The Spanish interior ministry said 11 police officers had been injured.

Catalan firefighters even battled with police officers on Sunday, trying to protect voters from the national police. Videos of their exchanges quickly circulated on Twitter:

As police continue to seize ballot materials, Catalan government officials are allowing voters to print their own ballot papers and use any open polling station if theirs is shut down. Ballot papers simply as voters “Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic?” and instruct them to check a box for “Yes” or “No.”

The regional government leader Carles Puigdemont condemned violence by the national police and Guardia Civil, who were sent to Catalonia to help with Madrid’s effort to stop the vote.

“The unjustified use of violence,” Puigdemont said, “by the Spanish state will not stop the will of the Catalan people.”

Several public figures outside of Spain turned to social media on Sunday to condemn the violence:

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