This Week in Democracy Reform
This week, Texas Democrats are working to win the state house and prevent gerrymandering in 2021. A bipartisan group of former North Carolina governors are calling on the courts to end partisan gerrymandering. Delaware Senators have joined other Democrats in signing the Democracy for All Amendment (make sure to check out Senator Tom Udall’s op-ed in TIME supporting the amendment). Florida is, unfortunately, holding voter registration drives at two gun shows next week. Philadelphia may move forward on Democracy vouchers, after watching at Seattle’s success. Lastly, in Iowa, Democratic Candidates are discussing the connection between the inaction on gun regulation and special interests, specifically the NRA.
In other news, the American Legislative Exchange Council is hosting a conference in Austin to teach Texas Republicans about redistricting. In the largest gathering of hackers, experts demonstrated just how easy it is to hack into our voting systems. Lastly, Desmond Meade wrote an op-ed published in the Tampa Bay Times highlighting why we must organize and work with Congress to pass the For the People Act and the Voting Right Advancement Act.
In 2018, the 10 largest individual donors funneled more than $436 million to Super PACs in the most expensive midterm elections ever. Big money in politics has overwhelmed the political process, granting wealthy special interests more power now than at any time in recent American history. The Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. FEC and other court decisions left Congress and the states constitutionally prohibited from putting limits on raising and spending money in elections, unleashing a flood of corporate dollars in U.S. elections and opening the door for the super-rich to fuel their own interests in our government at the expense of ordinary Americans. While this trend has been decades in the making, these decisions further dismantled our campaign finance laws. – By Sen. Tom Udall
In addition to encouraging greater coordination between authorities at the federal, state and local levels, U.S. government officials are also pushing much stricter measures to secure online election information from potential cyber-attacks. Two new reports – a bipartisan Intelligence Committee report from the U.S. Senate and a report on election security from a San Mateo grand jury – highlight the degree to which fears about election meddling and tampering are now part of the current political zeitgeist in the U.S.
Election officials are quick to note that the scenario these hackers are working under – unlimited time, machine broken open, chords popping out, beer cans in their hands – they’re nothing like a real Election Day. And there’s still no evidence any votes were changed in the 2016 election or any election prior to that. But the hackers here still say it’s important to do this kind of work. It lets people understand the equipment companies are providing since there are no rules to provide any sort of public disclosure. It’s Alex’s first time getting a look at the technology. And he hasn’t been impressed.
Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons, both D-Delaware, joined Sens. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico; Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire; Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and the entire Senate Democratic Caucus in introducing the Democracy for All Amendment — a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United v. FEC and other court decisions, help get big money out of politics and put power back in the hands of the American people.
The Republican Party of Florida is planning to hold two voter registration drives at a South Florida gun show one week after two mass shootings ended with 31 people dead in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. The party’s regional field director emailed supporters Thursday asking for volunteers to help register voters at the Pembroke Pines gun show that will take place Saturday and Sunday.
There is rarely a subject today that the country agrees on. But I can safely say that you believe at least one of: 1) our election campaign finance system is broken, 2) the people have little control over elections, 3) elections are controlled by those having money and 4) there is too much money in politics.
This month, on the 54th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act, the fight is in Congress, and now is the time to organize. We show up and demand our right to participate in this democracy. We call our elected officials and urge them to vote on the For the People Act in the Senate and, soon, the Voting Rights Advancement Act in the House. We register to vote and call our local board of elections to make sure there aren’t discrepancies holding up that registration. We join together as a community at the grassroots level, not based on partisanship, but in a common love for the values this country holds. We do not take this lying down. – By Desmond Meade
Democratic presidential candidates on Saturday placed responsibility for inaction on gun violence in the hands of President Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association, in the face of broad national support for some gun control measures. “If most Americans insist that something be done and it doesn’t happen, it means we need fundamental reform,” Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, said at a presidential forum on gun violence in downtown Des Moines.
North Carolina Updates
Amici served as Governors of North Carolina for 36 straight years,” the document states. “During that time, we experienced highs and lows in the functioning of state government. The highs came when members of different political parties worked together to move our State forward, and when all three branches respected the separation of powers at the core of our constitutional system. The lows came when progress took a back seat to partisanship, and when the legislature sought to expand its own power at the expense of the executive and judicial branches.
It’s been over a year since City Council last had a hearing on Council member Derek Green’s campaign finance reform package, which would have established a new public financing option for local elections, and moved from annual contribution limits to cycle limits—two changes that would be expected to make our elections more competitive. Some good news out of Seattle about the success of their democracy vouchers program in the recent municipal elections could help renew interest in this idea in the next Council session.
Last year, Republican congressional candidates took 51% of the vote statewide, Democrats 49%. Yet Republicans wound up winning 23 of the state’s 36 congressional seats. Democrats finally seem to grasp how important the state contests are. Former Attorney General Eric Holder’s group, the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, made a big 2018 push at the state level. “We flipped six state legislative chambers. We broke supermajorities in four chambers. We made really significant gains in seven additional chambers,” Holder told The New York Times’ podcast The Daily.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is hosting two workshops during its annual meeting in Austin, Texas, teaching Republican legislators how they should navigate the redistricting process. Lawmakers in a number of GOP-controlled states gerrymandered congressional and legislative district lines at historic proportions the last time the maps were redrawn in 2011 in an attempt to insulate their control over state legislatures.