Pigs Flying in Florida as Even Republicans Call for Voting Reforms

voting lines in Miami 2012

New Orleans   Yes, it snows in July in Florida.  Yes, pigs are on the runway in Miami getting ready to fly, and it is not because of loosening travel restrictions in Cuba, but because finally after more than a dozen years of being the case study for anti-democratic vote suppression and election chaos, even Republican governor Rick Scott has finally decided that Florida should not be the laughing stock of the electoral world.

I’m not saying that they he or the Republican Party in Florida have decided that they should endorse democracy or a citizen’s right to vote.  That would be way too radical for them!  Being for democracy would include making it easier once again for citizens to register to vote, and that’s way over the line.

But, at least they have decided that some of the more obvious obstacles that they had put in the way of voters like cutting the number of early voting days, taking away the Sunday before Election Day which had been so popular with African-American voters and larding up the ballot should be reformed.  Election supervisors had guaranteed that these changes would create long lines and total disruption, and the fact that the whole country waited for days, yes DAYS, after the last Presidential election to finally know whether Obama or Romney won the state (Obama did of course), must have been the last straw.

Well, maybe not the last straw.  That straw might have been a report by University of Florida professor of political science, Daniel A. Smith, which was released the same day as Governor Scott’s epiphany.  The report established that black and Latino voters were disproportionately affected.  Hello, was that not the point?!?  Almost half of black voters voted early, no longer trusting the election process, but then caught in the maelstrom of long lines to such a degree that more than a half-million voted absentee, lengthening significantly the waiting time to tally the final results from around the state.  According to a story in the Times,

Absentee ballots cast by blacks were twice as likely to be rejected as those by whites.  Racial and ethnic minorities also cast a disproportionate number of provisional ballots and saw them rejected at higher rates.

And to think that the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court has questioned whether there should still be Department of Justice review of voting matters in southern states?!?  The only real question should be whether or not all 50 states should have a departmental and judicial review to ensure access, equity, and fairness.

This is Florida, so this is a baby step.  We will have to watch this.  Keep remembering how hard it will be for these pigs to fly.

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State Initiatives Move the Needle on Key Issues in USA Elections

New Orleans  Obvious disclosure:  I’m a huge proponent of the strategic and tactical value of local and statewide initiative on our issues to build organizational power and actually win campaign results.   This is obvious given the number of living wage, lifeline utility, sales tax on food & medicine, generic drug, minimum wage increase, and single member district measures we put on the ballot – and mostly won – before voters in cities and states throughout the country with ACORN.  When people are given the opportunity to speak and be counted, and when organizations prove they have both the wherewithal and the courage to put the questions before them, the needle moves.  Sometimes it moves with us, and sometimes it moves against us, but, doggone it, it moves!

In the elections around the country it moved yesterday in some interesting ways, so let’s look at a couple with undoubtedly more to come:

  • In Michigan I had called attention recently to a number of measures where unions were willing to take their case to the voters on important collective bargaining issues.  There were mixed results.  The preemptive effort to ward off “wisconsinitis” and protect the public employees bargaining rights in the constitution failed, though it may have immunized the state in the future, which is critical.  On the other hand the powers of “emergency managers” to take over schools and cities and reject existing collective bargaining contracts won decisively.
  • Teachers, and this is mostly the NEA, were able to turn back statewide initiatives by so-called school “reformers” masking as hard right turners in Idaho and South Dakota and protect both collective bargaining and tenure in those states.
  • In California upending all of the Debbie Downers and pollsters that were signally that Governor Jerry Brown was going down, voters decisively voted to raise their taxes to try and rebuild the once great public school system in that state.  This is the first successful pushback to “repeal” the impact of the Howard Jarvis property tax limitations from over 30 years ago that have crippled public funding.  This is huge!
  • Maryland and my friends at Casa de Maryland have much to celebrate having not only won a state-based “DREAM” act through the legislature but also winning voter approval to the measure in the shadow of the White House.  We’re going to win DREAM soon, I would bet.
  • On protest votes on Obamacare voters in Alabama, Wyoming, and Montana on health exchanges:  I’m glad I only got to Montana for fish and fun, because my brothers and sisters there are drinking bad water before voting these days.  Florida voted “yes” which should have been a message to Romney, but whatever for the 47%, eh?  It doesn’t matter though since federal law preempts state measures in the USA.  The tide is moving out on this rightwing resistance.  Even the business-based conservative Times-Picayune in New Orleans editorialized a couple of weeks ago in our solid red state that Republican Governor Bobby Jindal was a fool to not take “free” federal money for three years to provide Medicaid support for Louisiana citizens.  Their message was essentially “don’t play national politics with the lives of Louisiana poor people.”  A lot of these governors are going to be getting this message about reality now.
  • Remember that Planned Parenthood is still fighting in the trenches state-by-state to protect its health services program after the ACORN-style Congressional scam attack, well in Florida voters lined up to say that state funding for their programs and others around birth control were fine with them.
  • On other “wedge” issues dividing modern voters, two more states, Maryland and Maine are ok with gay marriage.  My bet is that the Supreme Court will be watching these state plebiscites with decisions coming before it soon on this issue.  Washington and Colorado were OK with legalizing marijuana (yes, I can already hear the advertisements about being a “mile high” there!), but Oregon said no.  Unclear how this will sort out since the US and the Attorney-General are still insisting anything about marijuana is a crime, but Latin America is also moving this way with Uruguay and other countries believing we must legalize to stop the Mexican drug cartels.  Change is coming on both of these issues no doubt!

Let the people speak and be prepared to follow.

We need to put more living wage and minimum wage efforts on the ballot locally and statewide in 2014.  We need to look at some of these other issues and assess what it takes and start making plans.

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