PEOPLE FOR BLOG

Marriage Equality: A State-By-State Guide

As North Carolinians go to the polls today to cast their ballot on an anti-gay constitutional amendment which would write discrimination into the state’s constitution and potentially harm all unmarried couples regardless of orientation, The Guardian put together an interactive feature summarizing the state of LGBT equality across America.

The infographic examines each state’s laws pertaining to LGBT persons’ right to marry, visit loved ones in the hospital or adopt a child, as well as protections from hate crimes and from discrimination in employment, housing and schools. While progress has been made, there is much work to be done.

Regardless of today’s vote, North Carolina will not be adding a dark red section to the outer ring, since state law already prohibits same-sex marriage. The proposed amendment simply inscribes discrimination into the state constitution.

Unfortunately, not all Americans have access to the all the protections and responsibilities that only marriage can provide, and this map demonstrates striking differences from state to state and region to region. That’s why we need the federal Respect for Marriage Act more than ever – to ensure that all Americans, straight and gay, are treated equally under the law.

PFAW

Wisconsin Republicans Rally Against the Recall

Over the weekend, Republicans and right-wing activists gathered for a rally in Oshkosh, WI. The Oshkosh Northwestern filmed the event, and our friends at We Are Wisconsin PAC clipped some highlights (below).

The rally seems to have consisted of right-wing politicians spewing one distortion after another about the Walker administration’s policies and their opponents’ intentions. The interviews with the audience members unfortunately show a typical “tea party” misunderstanding of the issues, and that Republicans’ talking points about collective bargaining and teachers’ health benefits have taken root with at least the party’s avid supporters.

Some of the highlights included in the video above show U.S. Senate candidate Eric Hovde angrily railing against public unions (and completely rewriting the history of Scott Walker’s union busting in the process), a downright bizarre song-and-dance number mocking the protests against the Walker administration’s anti-middle class policies and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch noting the national importance of the recall elections. (Kleefisch begins 1:54 into the video.)

You can support PFAW’s Recall the Right campaign to send Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his right-wing cronies packing on June 5 here >>

 

 

 

PFAW

Voter ID likely off the table for Wisconsin recall

You heard the good news from Connecticut and Louisiana. Now it’s Wisconsin’s turn.

Voter ID is likely off the table for the recall election!

Last May, Wisconsin Governor and ALEC Alum Scott Walker signed Act 23 (aka AB 7), a voter ID law that also counts ALEC affiliated legislators among its sponsors. It has been challenged in two cases: one brought before Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess by the League of Women Voters, and the other brought before Dane County Circuit Judge David Flanagan by the Milwaukee NAACP and Voces de la Frontera.

Back on April 16, the state Supreme Court refused to immediately take up the pair of cases, sending them back to regular order in the lower appeals courts.

NAACP and Voces got their ruling on April 25, where a temporary injunction will stand at least until late June and the conclusion of post-trial briefing before Judge Flanagan. The LWV ruling came on April 26, where Judge Niess’s permanent injunction remains in force pending appeal.

Though the battle is far from over, since no further rulings are likely prior to June 5, voter ID mostly likely won’t be required when voters go to the polls for the general recall election.

These are the cases furthest along, but other challenges are being mounted, including from the Advancement Project and ACLU. On April 23, the ACLU plaintiffs filed a motion for preliminary injunction and an expert report.

PFAW Foundation

UPDATE: “Gut and go” used to move up proof of citizenship in Kansas

UPDATE: Representative Scott Schwab, an ALEC member who chairs the Committee on Elections, brought H Sub SB 17 to the House floor. It passed by a 67-53 vote on May 8, and now goes to the Senate, which supports delayed enactment. Representative Ann Mah, a voting rights supporter: “Putting this before them and asking them to vote on it gives them one more chance to be the hero and act like the adults in the room.” Regardless of the date, the law could be vulnerable following the ruling against proof of citizenship in Arizona. Click here for more from the Topeka Capital-Journal.

In 2011, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback sign into law HB 2067. Sponsored by Representative Lance Kinzer (an ALEC member), this law contained requirements for ID when voting and proof of citizenship when registering. While the effective date for ID was set at January 1, 2012, it was delayed a year and set at January 1, 2013 for citizenship.

Last month, the Kansas House passed HB 2437 to move the citizenship effective date up to June 15, 2012. Last week, the Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections decided not to vote on it.

Enter Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, no stranger to ALEC or Right Wing Watch.

Kobach and his supporters used a backdoor maneuver known as “gut and go” to bring HB 2437 back to life. Essentially they stripped the contents of SB 17 and inserted HB 2437. Now known as H Sub SB 17, it is has a new life and a viable path to Governor Brownback’s desk.

For more information, check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation.

PFAW Foundation

Senators Hear from Americans Concerned about the Courts

After 150 activists from 27 states met with senior Administration officials to discuss how to resolve the unprecedented vacancy crisis in our nation's courts, they spent the afternoon visiting their senators' offices on Capitol Hill. Democratic and Republican senators alike heard the same message from concerned Americans: Courts Matter. For those Republicans who may have thought the obstruction that is keeping our court system from functioning properly had gone unnoticed, it must have been an unpleasant surprise to learn their constituents are paying attention.

At the end of the afternoon, the activists from across the country all gathered together to discuss their meetings and steps they can take going forward to make sure that senators know their constituents recognize the importance of our nation's courts. In addition, they also heard from and spoke with two key senior Senate staff members whose work is central to advancing nominations at each stage of the Senate process: Serena Hoy (from the office of the Senate Majority Leader) and Jeremy Paris (from the Judiciary Committee). Their commitment to getting the president's nominations through was clear.

By the end of the day, senators from 27 states and the highest levels of Senate leadership saw the grass roots energy behind Americans' commitment to our nation's system of justice. And those Americans saw reflected back the leadership's commitment to turn their energy into action in the Judiciary Committee and on the Senate floor.

PFAW

Political Spending Resolutions Filed at 3 Corporations

Thanks to Citizens United, corporations have been spending unprecedented sums for political purposes. Short of a constitutional amendment to overturn that flawed decision, good government advocates are pressing a variety of strategies to minimize the undue influence corporations currently hold over our electoral system.

Requiring disclosure of corporate political expenditures is one powerful way to return some of the balance of influence to the American people. Activists are pressing for the passage of the DISCLOSE Act and the Shareholder Protection Act, and also submitted a record-setting action to the Securities and Exchange Commission calling for a rule requiring publicly-traded companies to disclose their political spending.

This week, the Corporate Reform Coalition is taking this call to the true owners of public corporations: the shareholders. This coalition of organizations, which includes People For the American Way, Public Citizen and others, is supporting first-time “political spending” resolutions and helping to organize rallies at the annual shareholder meetings of 3M and Bank of America, which are taking place this week, and also at Target Corporation, which will meet on June 14th.

The message is simple: Leave democracy to the people. Corporations should stop spending money on influencing our elections and focus on what they were created to do: make a profit for their shareholders. And if these corporations refuse to cease using their vast treasuries for political purposes, they at least should disclose their activities so that shareholders can make informed decisions.

These reforms speak to many Americans because so many people are shareholders. If you’ve ever bought a stock, had a 401(k) account or a pension, then you’re a shareholder – and it is your money might be spent on a candidate, cause or attack ad you don’t support, without your knowledge. We all have a right to know if our money is being spent to influence our democracy, and we should have the power to say no.

PFAW

North Carolinians Voting Today on Anti-Gay Constitutional Amendment

North Carolina voters today are casting their ballots on Amendment One, an extreme measure that would write discrimination into the state’s consitution and potentially take away important protections for all unmarried couples, gay and straight.

The amendment states that “marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic union that shall be valid or recognized” in North Carolina. It would not only deal another blow to gay and lesbian couples in the state, who are already prohibited by law from marrying, but endangers protections for all unmarried couples, including domestic violence protections and health insurance coverage.

The Coalition to Protect North Carolina Families is running a handful of powerful ads showing Amendment One’s potential devastating impact. Here are a couple:

President Bill Clinton also recorded a robocall on behalf of the anti-Amendment One campaign. You can listen to it here.

North Carolina voters can find your polling place here.
 

PFAW

Holder, Ruemmler Urge Action on Judicial Vacancies

In a summit at the White House yesterday with 150 grassroots and legal leaders from 27 states, Attorney General Eric Holder and White House Counsel Kathy Ruemmler stressed the importance of maintaining fair and effective federal courts, and criticized Senate Republicans for creating gridlock that has left one in ten federal court seats vacant.

Holder stressed President Obama’s effort to nominated qualified and diverse nominees to the federal courts. 46 percent of the president’s confirmed judicial nominees have been women and 37 percent have been people of color, more than under any other president in history. “Our people are diverse, they are qualified and they will serve the American people well in their time on the bench,” he said.

While President Obama has nominated dozens of highly qualified, diverse Americans to the federal bench, his nominees have met with unprecedented obstruction from Senate Republicans.

“Republican obstruction and these delays on the floor aren’t happenstance. They’re strategic and they’re having a devastating impact,” Ruemmler told attendees.

Ruemmler said that the conservative movement “understands the important role courts play in all of the issues we care deeply about as a country.”

Today’s summit was a sign that progressives are beginning to care deeply about the courts as well.

“This matters. This really matters,” Holder said. “This is a key legacy for any president. It’s one of the ways that a president’s success can be measured.”
 

PFAW

More good news on the voting rights front, this time in Louisiana

I just shared with you that Connecticut is on the verge of enacting same-day registration, but there’s more good news where that came from – a strong stand taken on behalf of public assistance clients in Ferrand v. Schedler.

On May 3, Judge Jane Milazzo of the Eastern District of Louisiana ruled in Ferrand that the National Voter Registration Act requires public assistance agencies to offer all clients the opportunity to register to vote, including those that have remote contact, not just those that seek services in-person. Now the Court must decide whether Louisiana is in violation of the law.

New Orleans Attorney Ron Wilson:

We intend to move forward quickly and forcefully to ensure all Louisiana citizens are provided with an opportunity to register to vote in advance of the upcoming elections.

Ernest Johnson, President of the Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP:

The Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP is committed to ensuring that our most vulnerable citizens are not denied their voting rights.

Debo Adegbile, Interim President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc:

We are a stronger nation when every segment of our society is encouraged to vote, and we trust that Louisiana will come to see the wisdom of this basic principle.

Sarah Brannon, Director of the Public Agency Voter Registration Program at Project Vote:

The court’s ruling will ensure that low-income individuals will not be denied voter registration services because of advancing technology. The court recognized that the mandates of the NVRA are not limited to in-person visits to public assistance offices.

Judge Milazzo’s ruling lends hope not just to Louisiana voters but to all public assistance clients nationwide who deserve equal access to voter registration under the NVRA.

PFAW Foundation

Good news for voting rights in Connecticut

The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation, details the worst of the worst of the Right’s fight to suppress the vote. Many states have indeed taken up this fight with voter ID, proof of citizenship, and other suppressive legislation.

This weekend it was refreshing to see Connecticut buck that trend.

On May 5, by a 19-16 vote, the Connecticut Senate passed HB 5024, the same-day registration bill introduced by Representatives Christopher Donovan (D-84) and Brendan Sharkey (D-88) and Senators Donald Williams (D-29) and Martin Looney (D-11). It passed the House on April 30 by an 83-59 vote. Governor Dannel Malloy is expected to sign it into law.

Governor Malloy:

Despite the pervasive climate across the U.S. to restrict voting rights, Connecticut has moved in the opposite direction—one that ensures the integrity of our electoral process and fair, accessible elections.

Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman:

These reforms allow more people to have their voices to be heard in a place where it truly matters – the voting booth . . . And I believe there is nothing more important than that.

Secretary of State Denise Merrill:

This common sense yet long overdue reform is something we have tried to implement in Connecticut for years, and now we have made history by moving elections in our state into the 21st Century.

Other voting rights supporters who cheered the news include Miles Rappaport, former Connecticut Secretary of State and current President of Demos, Cheri Quickmire, Executive Director of Common Cause Connecticut, and others.

HB 5024 is also notable for its creation of online voter registration, an issue also before the Governor in Hawaii.

PFAW Foundation

Judicial Obstruction By the Numbers

Today, a few representatives from People For the American Way joined 150 Americans from 27 states at a White House summit to discuss the state of vacancies in the federal courts.

We’ll write more about the summit in later posts, but first, a summary of the problem. PFAW’s graphic designer, Nicole, put together this infographic showing how unprecedented obstruction of judicial nominees has created an unprecedented vacancy crisis in the federal courts, and slowed down President Obama’s effort to bring qualified, diverse judges to the federal bench:

(Click image for larger pdf version of the infographic.)

PFAW

Push for voter ID marches on in Missouri

At the end of March, Cole County Circuit Court Judge Pat Joyce struck down Missouri’s proposed voter ID constitutional amendment (SJR 2) on the grounds that the ballot summary is “insufficient and unfair.” The St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorialized, “In a perverted, poetic justice kind of way, it's pitch perfect that in their alleged attempt to stop voter fraud, Missouri Republicans committed, well, fraud.”

Prospects for an appeal are unclear, but the legislature immediately began working on contingency plans.

HCR 53 has already passed the House and made it out of committee in the Senate. It reconsiders last session’s bill with a new amendment, but the Secretary of State’s office has said that the General Assembly can’t correct its mistake by going this route. Enter a brand new bill, HJR 89, which could hit the House floor any day now.

If and when Missouri passes a constitutional amendment, the legislature will have to pass, or already have passed, enacting legislation. HB 1104 is out of the House and through committee in the Senate.

Representative Shane Schoeller, an ALEC member who is running for Secretary of State, is behind all three proposals.

Though Representative Schoeller’s separate effort (HB 2109) to pass proof of citizenship for voter registration made it out of House committee at the end of April, it may be stalled given the ruling against proof of citizenship in Arizona.

Missouri’s legislature is expected to adjourn at the end of May.

For more information, check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation.

PFAW Foundation

Walker's Millions and the Right's "Special Interests" Lie

On Wednesday, PFAW president Michael Keegan sent the following message to PFAW members:

Scott Walker is truly the worst governor money can buy. In 2010, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision, Walker shattered state fundraising records in his campaign to be Wisconsin’s next governor. Now, faced with a recall election, he’s doing it again -- and then some.

It was reported this week that in the last three months, Scott Walker raised $13.1 MILLION to beat back his recall challenge. And that figure does not include the money being spent by right-wing Super PACs to support him and bash his opponents. To put this feat in perspective, Walker’s two leading Democratic challengers, Kathleen Falk and Tom Barrett -- currently locked in a primary in which they are spending resources against each other -- have raised $977,000 and $750,000 respectively.

Walker has milked his “golden boy” status among the ideological mega-funders of the right-wing movement. His aggressive attacks on workers’ rights, funding for important social programs and equal rights protections have made powerful corporate interests like Koch Industries and activists like Grover Norquist eager to host fundraisers for him around the country, from Oklahoma to New York. Amazingly, the Right continues to accuse our side of being fueled by “special interests” (as always, mischaracterizing “special interests” as people willing to stand up for their rights).

Many have called the Wisconsin recall election the second most important election battle of 2012 (second only to the presidential race), and it’s certainly shaping up to be the most emblematic of the crossroads at which America finds itself post-Citizens United. This recall battle is definitively one of Big Money vs. the People.

Mark Hanna, William McKinley’s right-wing millionaire campaign manager in 1896, famously said, “There are two things that matter in politics. The first is money and I can’t remember what the second one is.” We MUST prove him wrong in Wisconsin ... we must prove that People Power can win the day.

With the help of Hanna and the robber barons of the era, McKinley won his race with only 51% of the popular vote after outspending his Democratic opponent 23 to 1. It’s up to us to make sure 2012 is not a repeat of 1896.

We won’t be able to outspend them, but what we do have we will spend smarter to help turn out the people’s vote. With your help, we’ll outwork Walker and his billionaire allies and RECALL THE RIGHT in Wisconsin.

Thank you for standing with us in this fight. Please stay tuned for more important information about the Wisconsin recall elections and People For the American Way’s campaign the Recall the Right.

Sincerely,
Michael Keegan, President

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was in Wisconsin this week campaigning for Scott Walker and said, “For the next five weeks, America is going to find out the answer to what is more powerful, the people or the money and special interests from Washington, D.C. Wisconsin will answer that question."

Republicans are really going all in on the claim that the big money being spent in the recall election is coming from the Walker’s opponents. Jaw-dropping chutzpah considering Walker has already spent $20 million in his own defense, has another $25 million on hand and is being supported by outside groups with limitless funding from wealthy corporate interests. Meanwhile, the amount of money raised and spent both by the Democratic candidates and outside groups opposing Walker (including unions – the so-called ‘special interests’ to which Chris Christie was alluding) is hardly a fraction of Walker’s behemoth war chest. Oh, and for all the Republicans' handwringing about out of state money fueling the recall effort, it was reported a few days ago that two-thirds of Walker's money has come from outside of Wisconsin.

There's no question this race is a question of the grassroots versus big special interest money, but Scott Walker isn't the on the side of the grassroots.

PFAW

New Lawsuit Challenges Voter ID in Pennsylvania

This week, voting rights supporters in Pennsylvania filed suit against HB 934, the state’s voter ID law whose original sponsor, Daryl Metcalfe, is an ALEC member. They claim that it deprives citizens of their basic and fundamental right to vote. Witold Walczak, Legal Director of the Pennsylvania ACLU:

The commonwealth's phantom claims of in-person-voter fraud cannot be allowed to trump the very real disenfranchisement of long-time Pennsylvania voters. People need to wake up to the reality that not every voter has or can get photo ID, so making it a requirement will prevent many people from exercising one of our most precious rights.

Viviette Applewhite, a 93-year old woman from Philadelphia, is the lead plaintiff in the suit. Working as a welder during World War II and marching in support of civil rights with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Georgia, she has been voting since President John F. Kennedy came into office.

College students will also be greatly impacted come Election Day. Many college IDs in Pennsylvania will not be accepted as a valid form of identification since most lack an expiration date.

A recent study released today by PennPIRG and a broad coalition of voter protection groups found that Pennsylvania’s new photo ID voting law could potentially disenfranchise more than 80% of the state’s college students….Out of the 110 surveyed colleges and universities only 15 schools have student identification cards for all students that meet the requirements of having a photo, name and expiration date on the card.

Though the law will not be in full effect until the November election, its soft rollout during the April primary showed that the concerns of voting rights supporters are not without merit. For example, 91-year old Joyce Block attempted to acquire a photo ID but couldn’t. And we heard reports of several signs posted at polling places stating boldly, “ID Required to Vote”, with much smaller print (or none at all) clarifying that the requirement would not apply until November.

For more information, check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation.

PFAW Foundation

An ALEC Bill's Journey

Bloomberg Businessweek put together a handy infographic charting the path of one particular piece of ALEC model legislation, the Private Attorney Retention Sunshine Act, on its journey from approval as a model through introduction in 12 states across the country, and eventually becoming law in three. Shielding corporations from liability for causing harm to consumers and the environment is a major ALEC priority, and this legislation makes it harder for states to hire law firms to bring suits against businesses.

ALEC claims that it is just a library for bills and falsely states on its IRS returns that it conducts no lobbying, but documents submitted by Common Cause to the IRS last week all but prove otherwise. Internal documents show that ALEC actively engages in all the hallmarks of lobbying – from advocating for bills to tracking their progress through statehouses nationwide.

PFAW Foundation