Registering to vote for Election Day

The Supreme Court has eviscerated the 1965 Voting Rights Act

votingrightsact_0It’s Election Day in the United States. One of the things that needs explaining to the ABC Wednesday folks from outside the US is that each state gets to set the rules for voting; the window for registering, what is required for registering, the hours the polls are open, et al.

Someone noted on Facebook that Oregon provides automatic voter registration unless the person opts out. The story was from 2015, but there were recent comments suggesting that this method should be in the US Constitution.

Of course, changing the Constitution is difficult. Still, many of the amendments after the first ten, the Bill of Rights, are about voting. #15 allowed blacks to vote, at least theoretically. #19 provided women’s suffrage. #24 prohibited a poll tax. #26 permitted 18-year-olds to vote. And there are others.

A guy named Frank S. Robinson is no relation to the baseball Hall of Famer, as far as I know. He says he was “a devoted conservative Republican for 53 years,” but feels “today’s Republican party must be exterminated (electorally).” He explains this all in about 1000 words on Facebook. I’m going to quote just a part of the stuff related to elections.

“Republicans have… become masters of vote suppression, imposing ID requirements, reducing early voting, closing polling stations, and purging voter rolls, all cunningly targeted against non-white, elderly, and poorer voters likely to back Democrats. Stopping them from voting.

“For example, North Dakota has passed a law requiring a street address for voting. Indian reservations — guess what? — don’t have street addresses. This will probably mean defeat for Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp.

“Meantime, such vile voter disenfranchisement tactics may well have made the difference in three key states Trump narrowly won in 2016, giving him the presidency. (And they have the chutzpah to talk about ‘election fraud.’)

“Democratic governors can veto Republican gerrymandering and vote suppression schemes. One noteworthy governor’s race is Georgia’s where Stacey Abrams, a black woman with a tremendous background of accomplishment, faces a cringeworthy Trump sycophant flaunting his almost sexual love for guns.

“He’s also the Georgia secretary of state overseeing the election (refusing to recuse himself) and trying to keep as many blacks from voting as possible. He’s canceled more than a million voter registrations, including 50,000 new ones — mostly by blacks. To steal the election.

“‘Disenfranchisement’ was an overused buzzword some years back. But now it’s a huge reality, with the Supreme Court having eviscerated the 1965 Voting Rights Act; it even upheld North Dakota’s atrocity.”

I’ve complained about most of these tactics in the past, but it’s nice to read them all in one place. If you’re in the US and CAN vote, do it!

For ABC Wednesday

Voting for coroner; turn over the ballot

The possibility exists of one bill bundling “amendments into ‘the big ugly’ which is what many call the annual end-of-session bill. It lumps scores of often-unrelated legislative compromises into one up-or-down vote.

If you live in Albany, NY – heck, in most of the country, the election polling places this week will experience the sound of crickets, despite the fact that the mayor, president of the common council, and several other positions will be up for the vote.

Including two county coroners. Albany County is among 35 counties in NYS that have an elected coroner. “Although two-thirds of all New York counties follow a coroner system (including counties where the district attorney is the elected coroner), most of the state’s population resides in counties with medical examiner systems. Many major metropolitan areas — including Buffalo, Long Island, New York City, Syracuse, and Westchester — are overseen by medical examiners.”

And coroners are party affiliated, at least here. As a registered Democrat who hates the one-party Democratic party system here, I have traditionally voted for the Republican candidates, pretty much out of spite. For the first time since I’ve lived in Albany County, and that goes back to 1979, I’m voting for one Democrat, the guy I voted for in the Democratic primary in September, albeit on the Working Families line this time. (New York State allows for cross-endorsements.)

I’m HOPING, though, that there will be a larger than average turnout because of the statewide Constitutional Convention vote, one of three items on the back side of the ballot. I went to a debate about the issue last week between women from the League of Women Voters (pro) and the NYCLU (con). Even the LWV advocate admitted that the organization’s support is a combination of hope and frustration with the status quo.

The LWV rep said that, at 55,000 words, far longer than the US Constitution or most state constitutions, the New York State constitution could lose about 20% of its content and have zero impact on anything; regulations superseded by others but the old rules were never removed, for instance.

Watch Constitutional Convention 2017 Explained. A YES vote means that candidates, three per state senate district plus 15 statewide delegates – (63X3)+15= 204 delegates – will be chosen in November 2018. The legislature could theoretically pick the 15 themselves.

Anyone, theoretically, could run, but it would be much harder, as it now stands, for someone not affiliated with a political party to get on the ballot. In the first three months of 2019, the state legislature could theoretically change some of the rules – make three districts within the state senate districts, instead of three at large seats, e.g.

Will state legislators run? They could, but they would be on the ballot twice, once for their legislative slot and one as a delegate, and quite possibly get paid for both. How would the voters feel about that?

Here’s an NYCLU piece against ConCon. Because whatever gets passed in the ConCon ultimately has to be ratified by the voters in 2019, I’m only slightly concerned about some large disruption of rights.

However, the possibility exists of one bill bundling “amendments into ‘the big ugly’ which is what many call the annual end-of-session bill. It lumps scores of often-unrelated legislative compromises into one up-or-down vote. It is the epitome of the worst Albany horse-trading.” That happened at the 1967 convention, which is why it was shot down by the voters.

Presumably the delegates will be more savvy and put up a half dozen packages on different topics, such as election reform and ethics. That is if ConCon passes, which I still hope it does not.

Mourning edition: Donald Trump

Now the media who wanted him, have him,

mourningI was watching 60 Minutes on Election Day evening because watching early returns are not good for one. And there were stories about war, pestilence, and America’s toxic political mood, which prompted “viewers to invoke divine intervention.” It showed, as though we didn’t already know, that we are a fractured people, unfriending political opponents.

I can’t help but think how much America really wanted Trump all along. The Daily Kos blamed his rise on the (deliberate) failure of TV news, and one could make that case. Hey, it’s all infotainment!

But the comedians wanted him too. Just this past weekend, John Oliver made an impassioned final plea for Americans to reject Donald Trump, during which he shows himself, back on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, begging Trump to run.

And when he DID run, Stewart, before he retired in August 2015, thought DJT quite amusing. The news organizations loved the boffo ratings of the Republican debates, which were four TIMES greater in the summer of 2015 than four years earlier. It was all great theater, I suppose, but I never thought it was all that humorous.

Finally, on the late, lamented Nightly Show in December 2015, they were doing a skit when a couple of the actors, Mike Yard and Ricky Velez, told host Larry Wilmore that doing Trump schtick just wasn’t funny anymore. I noticed recently that someone was complaining that the comedians were all bashing Trump more than Hillary; I figured it was penance.

The 16 Republicans who ran against him were largely intimidated that he might slap a nickname on them. The guy’s been in the public eye since the 1970s; where was their opposition research?

And now the media who wanted him, have him, ironically a guy who has promised to be a threat to press freedom, who inspires claims of Lügenpresse (lying press), and gins up his followers to intimidate specific reporters.

Yeah, yeah, maybe Bernie could have won, and easily, I think, because he had passionate followers, one of the reasons I supported him in the primaries. And maybe the FBI director James Comey’s announcement of a new investigation less than two weeks before the election sunk her.

I admit I don’t understand why these angry people think Donald Trump, of all people, is the fellow to fix things. But the people wanted someone who insults people and abuses women and hypocritically attacks others for the same misdeeds he’s been criticized for, whose rhetoric encourages extremism, and who eschews science. The people have spoken.

Obviously, I think “the people” are wrong. I realized it fully last April, when my daughter expressed interest in seeing Donald Trump when he was in Albany. She didn’t support him, just wanted to see him. And I vetoed it, not for political reasons, but because I worried for her safety and mine. THAT’S who we just elected President. (NOW will he release his income tax returns?)

This is a blow I have to muse upon a bit more.

ADDENDUM: I wrote on Facebook yesterday:
Ah, it’s November 8. According to Wikipedia, what happened on this date?
1519 – Hernán Cortés enters Tenochtitlán and Aztec ruler Montezuma welcomes him with a great celebration.
1644 – The Shunzhi Emperor, the third emperor of the Qing dynasty, is enthroned in Beijing after the collapse of the Ming dynasty as the first Qing emperor to rule over China.
1923 – Beer Hall Putsch: In Munich, Adolf Hitler leads the Nazis in an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the German government.
Anything interesting happening today?

What Do We Tell The Children? “Tell them, first, that we will protect them.”

U.S. Election Day is November 3, and you probably won’t vote

THE competitive race in Albany is the city school board, eight candidates for three slots.

vote.angleI always vote. ALWAYS. There was a Democratic primary between two guys, both named Dan, for the county executive race in September, and that was the only race on my ballot. It was on a Thursday, which meant squeezing it in after coming home – the bus was a half-hour late – and then having to go back out to sing in the choir. But I voted, along with only 20% of the eligible voters on that day, because people have literally died trying to vote in this country.

And the struggle continues: “Alabama just closed 31 drivers license bureaus in counties with the highest percentage of Black voters. Every county with over 75% of registered voters that are African American will have their DMV office closed.” And when the feds come in to investigate – and they should – some will scream federal government overreach.

This November, there’s a dearth of interesting races in my town. One of the Dans won the county exec race and is unopposed, except by a Green Party person who has zero chance. Three of the four judges’ races have no opposition.

There’s a County Comptroller, County Sheriff, and two County Coroner positions up. As a lifelong Democrat, I nevertheless ALWAYS vote for the Republicans in the Albany coroner races. And since Albany is mostly a one-party town, the Democrats ALWAYS win, but it’s my little protest.

There are county legislator races up, but the incumbent in my district – I had to look up his name, he’s so impactful – will get reelected easily; if he has a competitor, I know nothing about him or her.

THE competitive race in Albany is the city school board, eight candidates for three slots, who will be debating on October 20. This is interesting that while I know only one of them personally, FOUR of them (not the guy I know) have invited me to “like” their Facebook campaigns. I met one of the other candidates at a public event recently, and she seemed quite pleasant; at that same event, TWO of my long-time friends told me she’s a crazy person.

Frankly, the school board is NOT a position that I would want. We had a terrible state commissioner of education, who got kicked upstairs to the federal level. Now that Arne Duncan is leaving as U.S. Secretary of Education, John King will be the interim Secretary. Arrgh!

Election Day (tomorrow)

Tomorrow, Albany will almost certainly elect its first woman mayor in its long history.

I was at my allergist’s office last month for my every-28-day injection, and she asked if I wanted a reminder card. “Nah, just tell me the date.” “November 5.” “Oh, that’s Election Day, easy to remember.”

This led me to mention that Election Day is the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, so it will fall on November 2 through 8, but NOT on the 1st. When asked WHY, I admitted that I didn’t know, but that it was probably tied to the fact that it was All Saints Day, and/or it’s easy to forget that a new month has started.

So what IS the real story why Congress (in 1845) select the first Tuesday in November as Election Day?

From Information Please:
“. . . For much of our history, America was a predominantly agrarian society. Law makers therefore took into account that November was perhaps the most convenient month for farmers and rural workers to be able to travel to the polls. The fall harvest was over… but in the majority of the nation the weather was still mild enough to permit travel over unimproved roads.

“Why Tuesday? Since most residents of rural America had to travel a significant distance to the county seat in order to vote, Monday was not considered reasonable since many people would need to begin travel on Sunday. This would, of course, have conflicted with Church services and Sunday worship.

“Why the first Tuesday after the first Monday?… First, November 1st is All Saints Day, a Holy Day of Obligation for Roman Catholics. Second, most merchants were in the habit of doing their books from the preceding month on the 1st. Apparently, Congress was worried that the economic success or failure of the previous month might prove an undue influence on the vote!”

From the Wikipedia:
“The actual reasons, as shown in records of Congressional debate on the bill in December 1844, were fairly prosaic. The bill initially set the day for choosing presidential electors on “the first Tuesday in November,” in years divisible by four (1848, 1852, etc.). But it was pointed out that in some years the period between the first Tuesday in November and the first Wednesday in December (when the electors are required to meet in their state capitals to vote) would be more than 34 days, in violation of the existing Electoral College law. So, the bill was reworded to move the date for choosing presidential electors to the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, a date scheme already used in New York.”

As I’ve noted, I ALWAYS vote. ALWAYS. Tomorrow, Albany will almost certainly elect its first woman mayor in its long history. I must say that I didn’t vote for Kathy Sheehan in the primary, and that one of her campaign workers inadvertently talked me into that position. I said to the volunteer that I was voting for this guy Darius Shahinfar for city treasurer in the primary, and he told me something I already knew, which was that Kathy, the current treasurer, was aligned politically with Darius, so they’d sure to get along. But given the long-time shenanigans of the Albany Democratic machine, maybe having someone NOT aligned would be better.

I was reminded that when I was growing up, in New York State, there was often a Republican governor and a Democratic comptroller, or vice versa. Since there IS no functional Republican party in the city of Albany, the primary IS the race. I voted for Corey Ellis for mayor in the primary. But Sheehan (and Shahinfar) won the primary, as expected. And the city has a bunch of economic woes, caused in no small part by 20 years of one mayor, and not long before that, 41 years of another mayor.