Change.org is running a great contest to get ideas for real change and innovation from the public and presenting some of the best ones to the Obama transition team.
What's Your Big Idea for Change in America?
President-Elect Obama says he wants to hear ideas from all Americans, so we're taking him up on his offer. Submit your ideas for how to change America, discuss with others, and vote for your favorites.
The "Top 10 Ideas for America" will be presented to the Obama Administration on Inauguration Day. We will then build a national campaign to advance each idea in Congress, marshaling the resources of Change.org, MySpace, and our dozens of partner organizations and millions of combined members.
There are a bunch of issue categories under which you can enter ideas. I already entered National Early Voting as a People For the American Way-sponsored idea in the Civic Engagement category. Please read more and support the idea by clicking the vote count button so it can make it to the second round.
A Washington Post article today points out that even not counting the two yet-undecided Senate contests in MN and GA, the Democrats could have the filibuster-proof 60 votes to move several key pieces of legislation by picking up a few Republicans. The article highlights several possible bills - two of which are civil rights bills of particular interest to People For the American Way.
First up: DC Voting Rights. The right of voters to be fully represented in Congress is paramount to the health of our democracy. Shamefully, the institutional disenfranchisement of Americans is probably most egregious in our nation’s capital, where 600,000 taxpayers have a congressional representative with no voting power.
Voting rights in Congress for the District of Columbia is another example. Legislation to expand the House of Representatives from 435 to 437 seats by giving the District and Utah an additional vote each were three votes shy of the 60 needed to end a filibuster in September 2007. Eight Republicans voted with the Democratic majority, which is 51 to 49 and includes two independents.
In addition, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act - for which People For the American Way was far out front in leading the fight - could have the support it needs to correct a terrible Supreme Court decision (a decision supported by both of President Bush's right-wing Supreme Court nominees, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito).
In April, 50 Democrats and six Republicans supported legislation that would have amended the 1964 Civil Rights Act by allowing more time for workers to file discrimination complaints. Five new Democrats will be replacing Republicans who opposed the legislation named after Lilly Ledbetter, the female employee who lost her suit against Goodyear Tire and Rubber over discrimination claims. The Supreme Court ruled that Ledbetter should have filed her claim within six months of the alleged incidents.
Most of the information to be included on a website seems to be pretty obvious:
Answers to common voter questions such as “Am I registered to vote?” and “Where do I vote?”
A mapping service to show polling locations.
A sample ballot that is identical to the ballot issued for the election.
Information on the registration and voting process.
But a point later on might be easy to overlook.
Well designed interfaces that are easy to navigate.
God bless the District of Columbia, but its Board of Elections and Ethics website is kind of a mess. I’m sure they include everything they ought to, but for the life of me, I couldn’t find information about in-person absentee voting and it took me forever to find my sample ballot. I have to imagine that if the site were designed by, say, these guys, I’d be able to find everything just fine.
Just one of the many ways in which voting can (and should) be made less cumbersome.
There are still several hours left to cast a ballot, even on the East Coast, where polls don't start closing till 6 p.m. (many states' polling places are open even later than that). So here's a quick reminder that if you run into problems while voting or have questions, call the nonpartisan Election Protection hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE.
1-866-OUR-VOTE. Tell your friends! Tell your enemies! Tell people about whom you feel utterly indifferent!
The hotline has logged nearly 30,000 calls so far today. You can see -- and search! -- a database of the problems they've been reporting at their website, www.ourvotelive.org.
Even more people out there now. I walked across the street and down the one block to Stroud elementary, and turned the corner to see the line. I have voted in this neighborhood for the past seven years, and the longest line I've ever seen was one snaking out from the gymnasium where the booths are, to the front door, about 20 feet away.
This morning, the line stretched past that point, out through the cast iron gates, turned to the left, and went nearly halfway down the New York City block street to Washington Avenue. It was 6:00 a.m. There were hundreds of people already on line, waiting patiently to cast their vote.
The guy behind me, in the line, was telling another voter that he hadn't voted or even registered to vote in 20 years. He had been moving around a lot and didn't have the time to register or give much thought to elections. He had recently moved from Louisiana to Texas, but this time he registered to vote. He registered twice to make sure that he'll get his card on time. I turned back and smiled at him when he said that. He was in his late fifties and looked excited to be there.
My precinct (68) has 1,740 registered voters, 814 of which turned out for the presidential primary. Voting at the precinct could be done by computer or paper ballot, and there were two paper ballot counting machines. The one I slipped my ballot into had already counted nearly 400 others, suggesting that the primary numbers may already have been topped before noon. My precinct may see something like 70% turnout on the day. Absolutely remarkable.
I waited in line for three hours to vote the other day. What amazed me was all the different people out there voting. There was this ridiculous line and a single mother was in front of me, she was trying to feed her child in her arms and scooted the baby carrier on the ground with her foot. I saw men and women in uniform, I saw elderly in wheelchairs, elderly standing in the line wheeling oxygen tanks along with them. When I got up to the poll worker who printed off my ballot for me, I asked her if it was like this every day. She said for the past week or so it had been, averaging thirty thousand people a day coming in to vote early. Then I read in the paper this morning about how Ohio is expecting an 80% voter turnout. It is absolutely amazing
6:45 am at Northgate - line going out the door already. 7:05 in the voting room - all booths full, lines for booths three people deep. Never thought I’d want to take a picture of me and a ballot before. I wish I had volunteered to work at a polling place, I want to be around that kind of vibe all day long!
And there are more. If you have a voting story you'd like to share, you can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
And, of course, if you have any trouble voting, you should be sure to call 1-866-OUR-VOTE.
If you're anything like me, you're counting down the minutes until the polls close and we can finally see how this election will turn out.
For people like us, Nate Silver at 538 has a cogent explanation of why one should ignore the allure of exit polls and wait for the real data to come in.
Silver has shown himself to be one of the sharpest statisticians in the game, and I have no reason to doubt a word he says. Still, if someone shows me exit poll data, will I really be able to ignore it? Probably not.
On a special Sunday episode of her show last night, Rachel Maddow made the great point that long voting lines — which people have been facing these past few weeks when casting early ballots, and will likely face tomorrow — are, in effect, a new kind of poll tax.
Not everyone, she points out, can afford to take five or six or seven hours off from their job to wait in line to vote. Not everyone has an understanding boss. Not everyone has the physical stamina to wait for periods that long, either.
The Austin-American Statesman has a story on a 109 year old woman – the daughter of a slave – who cast a vote for Senator Obama in this year’s election.
Jones' father herded sheep as a slave until he was 12, according to the family, and once he was freed, he was a farmer who raised cows, hogs and turkeys on land he owned. Her mother was born right after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, Joyce Jones said. The family owned more than 100 acres of land in Cedar Creek at one point, she said.
Amanda Jones' father urged her to exercise her right to vote, despite discriminatory practices at the polls and poll taxes meant to keep black and poor people from voting. Those practices were outlawed for federal elections with the 24th Amendment in 1964, but not for state and local races in Texas until 1966.
Amanda Jones says she cast her first presidential vote for Franklin Roosevelt, but she doesn't recall which of his four terms that was. When she did vote, she paid a poll tax, her daughters said. That she is able, for the first time, to vote for a black presidential nominee for free fills her with joy, Jones said.
Something to think about if you’re stuck in a long line on Election Day.
Last night, volunteers in DC gathered to do People For the American Way Foundation’s part in a project that will touch hundreds of thousands nationwide.
People For the American Way Foundation partnered with the SEIU to produce educational voter ID palm cards that inform voters of what they need when they show up to cast their ballots. They are specific to the following states (based on where there are bad voter ID laws and where we expect to see aggressive voter suppression efforts): AZ, CA, CO, DC, FL, GA, IN, KS, MI, MO, NC, OH, PA, TX, and VA.
The volunteers were so excited to help distribute these materials. About 20 people crowded three different areas of People For the American Way Foundation’s DC office and didn’t rest until every activist who placed an order had what they needed. In this historic moment, their energy should give everyone hope for the future.
If you are not a palm card recipient, fear not – also available are voter ID toolkits and two-page flyers for the same states as we have palm cards for. People For the American Way Foundation created these in collaboration with the NEA, SEIU, and other state and local partners. We've been getting them to election officials and allies as a resource in training poll workers and people doing voter protection work. These materials are available for you to download and print at http://site.pfaw.org/VoterID.
For more information about voting issues, please visit People For the American Way Foundation at http://www.pfaw.org or http://govote.org/. Report all voting incidents to 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683).
Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, and Rosie Perez are helping the Election Protection coalition get the word out about the Election Protection hotline — 1-866-OUR-VOTE — which voters can call through Election Day for help if they're facing voter suppression tactics or they just have questions about voting. People For the American Way Foundation is part of the EP coalition. The L.A. Times did a nice writeup of the campaign here.
Check out the PSAs below, and please spread the word about the hotline: again, the number is 1-866-OUR-VOTE.
Just caught this item on politico.com about Republican Governor Crist of Florida extending early voting hours to the dismay of some of his fellow Republicans. Dismay that more people will find it easier to vote in this historic election? I think Governor Crist got it right when he said: "This is not a political decision. This is a people decision." You can read the full post by Ben Smith here.
Simply ask them if they're going to. So says Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize-winning psychologist:
You call and ask people ahead of time, "Will you vote?" That's all. "Do you intend to vote?" That increases voting participation substantially, and you can measure it. It's a completely trivial manipulation, but saying 'Yes' to a stranger, "I will vote"...
According to Kahneman, making this sort of commitment -- even to someone they don't know -- can help motivate people to get to the polls on Election Day.
With just over a week to go until the election, things are popping at People For. I want to let you know how we're using your support to make an impact on many fronts.
The Voters Alliance: Building Progressive Power
People For the American Way's federal political action committee is helping build a progressive majority in Congress. We were thrilled that an extremely successful online contest run by the Voters Alliance raised more than $130,000 for 24 progressive House candidates. And now the Voters Alliance is working with Oscar-winning director Errol Morris and volunteers from the award-winning advertising firm Chiat Day (of Apple fame) to create short but powerful online profiles of moderate voters who have decided that Obama has earned their vote. The spots are being digitally filmed and edited this week in time for a final pre-election push. I'll let you know when they're ready to watch online and forward to your friends.
Sounding the Alarm: The Court is at Stake
People For the American Way has succeeded in getting media and progressive candidates talking about the importance of the Supreme Court in this election. Now we're kicking it up a notch, with TV spots for Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Oregon, reminding voters that senators have hurt their interests by backing Bush's extreme judges. People For the American Way Action Fund has been running radio ads holding John McCain and other senators accountable for voting to confirm Bush's worst judicial nominees.
Confronting Homophobia and Anti-Gay Discrimination
In California, where the Right has stirred a vicious backlash against a state Supreme Court ruling protecting marriage equality, People For the American Way Foundation's African American Ministers Leadership Council has launched a radio ad campaign calling on African Americans to reject anti-gay discrimination. Check out the ads here. This work is part of a long-term effort to engage clergy and challenge homophobia in the Black Church and in African American communities. Rev. Kenneth Samuel, the courageous and inspiring head of AAMLC's Equal Justice Task Force, is on the ground in California now, and he'll be leading this groundbreaking effort to create social change in the months and years ahead.
Calling out the Promoters of Fear and Hatred
We're also challenging campaign tactics that are stirring up a dangerous brew of fear and bigotry. For example, when John McCain falsely accused a progressive voter registration group of trying to steal the election, its offices were barraged with hateful and threatening messages. We made it impossible to ignore this hostility and bigotry by posting images and audio of the actual messages online for the world to see. And with a full-page ad in the New York Times and other media outreach we have worked hard to help people understand that bogus charges of voter fraud are meant to give cover to the real threat to the election from right-wing voter suppression. Our Right Wing Watch blog has been all over the Religious Right's bigotry and fearmongering.
Overcoming Voter Suppression
People For the American Way Foundation's Democracy Campaign staff have been traveling the country training community organizers who are running election protection efforts and distributing in-depth, state-specific voter protection toolkits. With the help of SEIU, NAACP, NEA, Unity 08, Democracia Ahora and other partners, our Foundation has distributed more than 180,000 palm cards in key states to help voters understand and protect their rights. The Foundation is working with allies to recruit poll workers where they're sorely needed and will be distributing inexpensive video cameras to members who will document what happens on Election Day. There's no way to stop all the dirty tricks that the Right has in store, but People For Foundation has been working hard to put protections in place, and after the election it will work hard to figure out what went wrong this time, and fight for legal and regulatory fixes. Two New York Times editorials in the past week have confirmed that voter fraud is a myth and affirmed the importance of the Election Protection work the Foundation is doing to help voters understand and assert their rights.
Change is in the air, but as you know, it doesn't just happen. We all need to make it happen. With your help, we and our allies are going to change the country! Thanks so much for making it all possible.
You've seen a lot on this site about the inflammatory campaign being waged by the McCain-Palin team and the RNC against ACORN. It's a desperate political ploy to cast doubt on the integrity of the elections and to divert attention from the real problem: voter suppression and intimidation taking place across the country. Check out this exccellent video from Brave New Films that tells this story.
And click here to read a letter from House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers and Subcommittee Chairs Jerrold Nadler and Linda Sanchez to Attorney General Mukasey and FBI Director Robert Mueller asking for assurances that "the full weight of the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation will be brought to bear" to protect the right to vote and the safety of citizens "who serve our democracy by educating, registering, and turning out voters."
In his book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, Al Franken recalls an episode in Paul Wellstone’s 2002 run for re-election when, prior to his untimely death, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) ran an ad called “Pork” that savaged Wellstone for voting “to spend thousands of dollars to control seaweed in Maui.”
The implication, as Franken pointed out, was that Wellstone had “prioritized seaweed control over national defense.” The only problem was that while Wellstone had in fact voted for the legislation, so did “Strom Thurmond, Trent Lott and 84 other senators. That bill did appropriate the seaweed control spending—but it also provided $21 billion for veterans' health care, $27 billion for veterans' compensation and pensions, and block grants to assist New York City's recovery from 9/11.”
When Wellstone’s son David confronted then NRSC-chair Bill Frist about the ad at his father’s memorial service, Frist declared that “it wasn't personal,” to which David responded "'My dad took it personal.”
And so it is only fitting that this time around, with Franken running against Norm Coleman, the man on whose behalf the NRSC ran that original ad, they would again stoop to such tricks.
Take a look at this ad the NRSC is running against Franken – especially the clip playing in the background of a screaming Franken while the narrator declares him prone to “violent outbursts” around the fifteen second mark:
That’s right, the NRSC took clip of Franken telling this anecdote about Paul Wellstone and his son, stripped it of its context and then used it to try and portray Franken as dangerously unhinged.
I was reminded of this today when I stumbled upon this “breaking news” piece from Minnesota Democrats Exposed that recounts how, after a recent debate, Franken supposedly attacked Norm Coleman and to be all but dragged away from him:
According to dedicated readers of Minnesota Democrats Exposed who were at tonight’s U.S. Senate debate in Duluth, Al Franken got in U.S. Senator Norm Coleman face as soon as the microphones were off at the end of the debate.
My sources said that Franken was very upset and was speaking with a raised voice. Mrs. Franken reportedly ran on stage to get Franken away from Coleman … Franken, visibly upset, continues to get in Senator Coleman’s face. Franken is seen on film staring Coleman down as he finally recognizes that Mrs. Franken is trying to get his attention.
Wow. That sounds pretty heated. I can only imagine what that scene must have been like. Oh wait:
Apparently, talking to your opponent after a debate is the equivalent of being on the verge of a complete meltdown. Maybe next time, Franken should just snub his opponent all together.
An ominous e-mail has been causing quite a bit of confusion for voters recently. With an urgent warning to recipients, the e-mail claimsthat election officials have the right to turn away any voters wearing campaign paraphernalia to the polls. So what's up? Can you rock that "Obama Mama" T-shirt to cast your vote on Nov. 4?
In most states, you're in the clear. Wearing campaign paraphernalia—a button, a sticker and, of course, a T-shirt—in support of any candidate is seen as passive electioneering. Some states are more lenient. In Kentucky, Marylandand Florida, election officials most often make no fuss about voter attire. The only thing banned there is the display of excessive campaign garb (i.e. head-to-toe Obama gear) or outright solicitation. Wearing campaign paraphernalia and lingering in the polling station is also a no-no in those states.
Other states, such as Pennsylvaniaand New York, maintain laws on passive electioneering while remaining lax in enforcement. In New York, for example, refusing to comply with the request of election officials to remove an item is considered a misdemeanor, but arrests have rarely—if ever—been made.
Not everyone is as laid-back about the issue. In the District of Columbia, strict rules apply. Prior to entering a polling station in the District, everyone is required to remove or cover up any exposed campaign paraphernalia. No exceptions.
Takeaway: Find out from your state's board of elections (find a link to yours here) what's acceptable and what's not.
It's cool to be excited about your candidate, but you don't want your campaign bling (fabulous as it is) to make it harder for you to actually cast a ballot on Election Day.
A portion of Katie Couric’s interview with Sarah Palin that aired Tuesday focused, among other things, on equal pay. The transcript:
Couric: Where do you stand on the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act?
Palin: I’m absolutely for equal pay for equal work. The Ledbetter pay act - it was gonna turn into a boon for trial lawyers who, I believe, could have taken advantage of women who were many, many years ago who would allege some kind of discrimination. Thankfully, there are laws on the books, there have been since 1963, that no woman could be discriminated against in the workplace in terms of anything, but especially in terms of pay. So, thankfully we have the laws on the books and they better be enforced.
Couric: The Ledbetter act sort of lengthens the time a woman can sue her company if she's not getting equal pay for equal work. Why should a fear of lawsuits trump a woman's ability to do something about the fact that women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. And that's today.
Palin: There should be no fear of a lawsuit prohibiting a woman from making sure that the laws that are on the books today are enforced. I know in a McCain-Palin administration we will not stand for any measure that would result in a woman being paid less than a man for equal work.
Couric: Why shouldn’t the Ledbetter act be in place? You think it would result in lawsuits brought by women years and years ago. Is that your main problem with it?
Palin: It would have turned into a boon for trial lawyers. Again, thankfully with the existing laws we have on the books, they better be enforced. We won't stand for anything but that. We won't stand for any discrimination in the workplace - that there isn't any discrimination in America.
At first blush, it looks like Palin is just rehashing McCain’sargument against Ledbetter: “I don’t believe that this would do anything to help women except maybe help trial lawyers and others in that profession.” She does manage to eke out the lawyer-bashing McCain line, while asserting that McCain-Palin “won’t stand” for discrimination, but after that she appears to get a little lost. She seems to think that the “fear of lawsuits” Couric refers to in the second question are people suing women to prevent them from enforcing “the laws on the books.”
But a closer look reveals an even more fundamental misunderstanding. She says that “thankfully, we have the laws on the books." Well, yes, but thanks to Samuel Alito, that law means a lot less than it used to.
Ledbetter v. Goodyear, the Supreme Court decision that led to the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, involved a woman, Lilly Ledbetter, who worked at a Goodyear Tire plant for almost twenty years, for a salary much less than her male co-workers. The “laws on the books,” as read by Justice Alito and the rest of his voting bloc, said that Ledbetter’s discrimination claim needed to be filed within 180 days of the first discriminatory paycheck. The only problem: Ledbetter first found out about the unequal pay through an anonymous tip, sixteen years after that first paycheck.
Of course, it’s not surprising that Palin doesn’t know the substance of the Ledbetter case—apparently, when asked to name Supreme Court cases, the only one she could produce was Roe v. Wade.