Building confidence in US elections (2005)

“Measures to encourage and achieve the greatest possible participation in elections”

“I wish that we could just have someone out there say in 2005, Jimmy Carter and James Baker did the Carter-Baker Commission to both tried to expand voting and make it more secure. They had 87 recommendations. Adopt them all. It means you won’t have ballot harvesting, but it means it will be easier to vote.”

I heard someone suggest this on one of those talking-heads shows two months ago. It made sense in building confidence in US elections.

The Commission had “five sturdy pillars.”

“Voter registration that is convenient for voters to complete and even simpler to renew and that produces complete, accurate, and valid list of citizens who are eligible to vote.”

This means not having wholesale purging of voter lists. Voters who move more often – students, renters, e.g. – should not be disenfranchised.

“Voter identification, tied directly to voter registration, that balances election integrity without introducing new barriers to voting, including the casting and counting of ballots.”

Prior to the pandemic, I never had to show my ID when I voted. The last two times, once involving early voting at a central location, and the other in an alternative site, I did. This is not to say it might not be onerous for others.

I’m suggesting something that’s a bit of a bugaboo for some: an option for people to receive an identification card that is FREE and not onerous to obtain. Or, in the alternative, a wider array of verification documents that don’t discourage the franchise.

When requiring, say, a driver’s license/non-driver’s license and the nearest DMV is two bus rides away with long lines, THAT is a barrier to voting. Too often, the ID requirements have been used to, de facto, disenfranchise.

More participation

“Measures to encourage and achieve the greatest possible participation in elections by enabling all eligible voters to have an equal opportunity to vote and have their votes counted.”

Having one drop-off box for ballots per county may seem fair in the abstract. But when one county has a few hundred and another has a few hundred thousand – well, no. People standing in long lines because there are too few polling places in “selected” communities.

I’ve been consistent in giving ex-felons the right to vote. It’s our duty as a nation to rehabilitate. How does that happen when the formerly incarcerated are denied the franchise?

“Voting machines that tabulate voter preferences accurately and transparently, minimize under- and over-votes,
restricting mail-in voting and allow for verifiability and full recounts”

This means non-hackable computers and paper records.

“Fair, impartial, and effective election administration.”

This would preclude a former elected person from asking an official to “find” him some votes.

My great fear is that if we can’t find a way to have elections that most people recognize as legitimate, the country will not exist. That may seem melodramatic, but I firmly believe it.

Amendments 15, 19, 24, 26

As I’ve noted many times, the arc of the Constitution bends towards greater participation in voting by its citizenry. Letting black people and women and 18-year-olds vote. Getting rid of the poll tax. Ultimately, we should be heading forward in making

BTW, the suggestion was offered up by Sarah Isgur, a veteran of the Trump Justice Department, who’s now a political analyst for “The Dispatch.” She suggested it on the July 11 episode of This Week

Read the 2005 report. It’s only 113 pages long, and it has pictures! What do you think can be done to create a more perfect union that enough people can get behind?

The Call of Wisdom (Proverbs 1)

Big Lies

WisdomAt my church yesterday, the liturgical Old Testament lesson was Proverbs 1:20-33. It describes a personified Wisdom, and, not so incidentally, as a woman.

The New Revised Stand Version (NRSV) reads, in part:

Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares, she raises her voice.
At the busiest corner she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?”

But there is a Bible translation called The Message, by Peterson. It was the preferred translation by my late friend Keith Barber.

This take is far more pointed:

Lady Wisdom goes out in the street and shouts. At the town center, she makes her speech. In the middle of the traffic, she takes her stand. At the busiest corner she calls out:

“Simpletons! How long will you wallow in ignorance? Cynics! How long will you feed your cynicism? Idiots! How long will you refuse to learn?”

The birth of the Big Lie

And it feels like she’s addressing, oh EVERYTHING that is happening. Mark Evanier pointed to an essay by Lucian K. Truscott IV, and quotes this section:

“The legacy 9/11 has left us is that there is no common set of facts we can agree on about anything: Not about the COVID pandemic and masks and vaccines; not about the climate change that has killed hundreds and left town after town burned to the ground or underwater and destroyed by tornadoes and hurricanes.

“We cannot agree that votes counted amount to elections won or lost. We cannot even agree on the common good of vaccines that will save us, that science is worth studying, that learned experts are worth listening to.”

As a librarian who tries to find facts for people, this blatant disregard for truth has continually made me, at first, angry, but ultimately very, very sad. And I don’t know what to do about it.

Proverbs 1 (Peterson):

What if catastrophe strikes and there’s nothing to show for your life but rubble and ashes? You’ll need me then. You’ll call for me, but don’t expect an answer. No matter how hard you look, you won’t find me…

Don’t you see what happens, you simpletons, you idiots? Carelessness kills; complacency is murder. First, pay attention to me, and then relax. Now you can take it easy-you’re in good hands.

Soon-to-be governor Kathy Hochul

Erie County

Kathy HochulSomeone from outside of New York State asked me what I thought of soon-to-be New York State Governor Kathy Hochul. The answer is that I had hardly thought of her at all. In fact, a month ago, if someone had shown me an unlabeled picture of her, it’s only about 50/50 that I would have been able to identify her.

This is a good thing, actually. She wasn’t tied at the hip to Andrew Cuomo, and has, so far, said the right things about cleaning house.

Daily Kos notes: “Hochul will be New York’s first governor from the Buffalo area since none other than Democrat Grover Cleveland, who won the top job in 1882 after a short stint as mayor. She’s also the first bona fide Upstate resident to hold the post since Republican Nathan Miller of Cortland County left office in 1922.”

From Buffalo to Albany

This upstate/downstate issue has been an issue in the state since approximately forever. Heck, where upstate begins – Poughkeepsie, maybe – is subject to debate. (And that doesn’t even count the people who’ve decided that Buffalo’s actually in the Midwest US because it’s closer to Detroit, Mi (255 miles/411 km) than New York City (374 miles/601 km).

Daily Kos: “As distant as her geographic roots are from the Queens-born Cuomo’s, so too does her personal style differ. As Roll Call’s Jim Saska puts it, ‘Where Cuomo was feared, Hochul is beloved; where Cuomo had judged, Hochul has empathized.'”

Her relatively conservative record when running for Congress a decade ago became a liability when running for lieutenant governor. She was primaried twice and did less well in her primaries than Cuomo did in his. I voted for her opponents both times. I picked in 2014 legal scholar Tim Wu, who lost 60-40, and in 2018, low-profile New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams, lost by only a 53-47 margin. So since I’ve not voted for Cuomo in 2014 or 2018, I’ve never voted for her.

Enough is Enough

Still, I’m very willing to give her a chance. After Andrew, she’ll be a refreshing change. She says she’s running for governor next year, and she absolutely had to announce that. If she didn’t, she’d be an instant lame duck. It’ll be a contentious primary in June 2022.

From the Times Union: “She has led Cuomo’s 10 regional economic development councils, chaired a task force on heroin and opioid abuse and addiction, and led the governor’s ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign to combat sexual assault on college campuses. She is married to William Hochul, the former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York, who is now in private practice. They are the parents of two children.”

The history community is excited to see her in the new job. As IHARE notes: “The incoming Governor is far better qualified… I say this not because she has a background in such history but because of her training in office. For the past few years, she has held what is routinely regarded as a ‘ceremonial’ position. As such she has spent a lot of time outside of Albany traveling to a multitude of local events. These events from time to time include history sites and conferences.

I wish Kathy Hochul good luck as the state’s first female governor.

War on the United States Postal Service

Postmaster general Louis DeJoy is an RNC megadonor.

United States Postal ServiceThere has been a war on the United States Postal Service. It did not start this year, or with this regime, or even in the past decade.

Back in 2006, the Republican Congress passed legislation to impose extraordinary new financial burdens on the USPS. It required that the entity prepay retirement health benefits 75 years in advance. According to the American Postal Workers Union, the mandate is responsible for more than 90 percent of Postal Service net losses since 2007. It is a threat to its economic viability. Check out John Oliver’s piece from May 2020.

That said, the attack on the USPS has escalated this year. As many outlets have reported, IMPOTUS has confirmed it. He’s killing the Post Office to also destroy the election.

The postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, was appointed in May 2020. He is a megadonor of the regime but has no prior expertise pertaining to the Postal Service. He has disrupted the mission of the United States Postal Service, which is to deliver mail to Americans in a timely fashion.

In the last couple of months, mail delivery has dramatically slowed down. “The efforts to sabotage the United States Postal Service are anything but subtle.” It includes mail sorting machines removed without reason, shelves detached to slow down hand sorting, and postal drop boxes being taken away.” Fortunately, in the short term, due to the outcry, these measures have been temporarily stopped. Still, the handpicked postmaster general isn’t threatening to destroy the Post Office; he’s destroying the Post Office.

Reorganization?

This month, there was a major shake-up at the Postal Service. Twenty-three executives were reassigned or displaced, taking out those who might complain. As The Washington Post reported, Postal Service employees with decades of experience have disappeared from the organizational chart. “DeJoy has created a whole new structure, with all new people, to execute his inside attack on the service.” This isn’t coincidental. Or subtle.

“The reshuffling threatens to heighten tensions between postal officials and lawmakers, who are troubled by delivery delays. The Postal Service banned employees from working overtime and making extra trips to deliver mail.” They are “wary of the administration’s influence on the Postal Service.” As well they should.

Last week, djt “made it clear that he was attacking the Post Office explicitly to destroy its ability to handle mail-in ballots. “They want $25 billion for the Post Office. Now they need that money in order to make the Post Office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots. But if they don’t get those two items that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it.”

In fact, the United States Postal Service has notified 46 states and the District of Columbia that they may be unable to deliver some ballots cast by mail for the November election in time to be counted. IMPOTUS is publicly opposing any effort to strengthen the Postal Service because he’s afraid it will enable more voters to vote safely by mail in November.

RNC cronies

“This isn’t just a Trump effort… Not only are Republicans meeting with DeJoy to plan the destruction of the Postal Service, but this also isn’t the first time most of these Republicans have met DeJoy.” He was a top National Republican Committee money guy who was actually in charge of fundraising before being handed the keys to one of the nation’s most vital institutions.

The NRC is engaged in a massive campaign to limit mail-in ballots. They are spending tens of millions of dollars on lawsuits to limit the franchise. They fight against states attempting to expand mail-in ballots and for ballot restrictions.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has done nothing to defend the Postal Service, allowing the Senate to fill the board of governors with IMPOTUS appointees. By extension, he has limited Americans’ ability to vote in the most important election of our lifetimes. (Note: he’s yup for re-election in 2020.)

The post office was codified in Article 1. Section 8 of the US Constitution. Why destroy a public service? These efforts delay not only elections but the delivery of checks, bill payments, legal documents, Census forms, and vital medications in the midst of a pandemic. And yes, with millions of people planning to vote by mail, we need to ensure that our ballots arrive and are counted.

An odd sidebar: IMPOTUS Suddenly Urged Florida Voters To Use Mail Ballots. Perhaps he is afraid of losing in his newly-adopted state. He’s done so himself, with some difficulty. “It may be the tactically correct move. But it just comes at the cost of completely undermining his attempt to delegitimize the process. He began with such little credibility outside his support base that he may not care.”

This should happen

I’m happy to see the USPS inspector general is investigating changes at post offices. The story notes: “The Democrats also requested that the IG assess whether DeJoy and his wife – who ‘reportedly own assets worth tens of millions of dollars in Postal Service competitors and contractors have fully complied with ethics requirements.” This is according to a statement from Senator Elizabeth Warren’s office.

Also, Louis DeJoy has agreed to testify at a Congressional hearing on August 24.

The Senate should pass H.R.2382, the USPS Fairness Act. This legislation would specifically repeal the harmful and costly requirement that the U.S. Postal Service prepay retirement health benefits 75 years in advance. This bill would unsaddle the USPS of an immense and unnecessary financial burden.

The USPS board of governors should require the Postmaster General to permanently reverse this assault on America’s Postal Service, or else remove Louis DeJoy from the position.

“Hey, Maybe We *Should* Postpone The Election”

A crony running USPS

postpone the election.Abe LincolnJust the other day, I was kvetching to my wife. I said, “You know, I’d rather NOT write about him. But then he keeps doing worse crap.” To wit, suggesting, on Twitter, naturally, that perhaps the United States should postpone the election of November 3 until we can get everyone to the polls safely.

This was so egregiously wrong that Steven Calabresi called for a second impeachment inquiry into him. He is the co-founder of the conservative Federalist Society, This was in a New York Times opinion piece in late July, “where he falsely characterized mail-in voting and proposed the delay of the 2020 presidential election in November, which the executive branch cannot enact.”

Please understand the weight of the complainant. Calabresi has “he’s voted Republican in the presidential election since 1980.” He also “opposed the investigation into Russian election interference by Robert Mueller and was against the impeachment into Trump regarding withholding aid to Ukraine.

As for the Federalist Society, it is “a right-wing organization with 60,000 lawyers, law students and scholars.” It has been “characterized as a ‘conservative pipeline to the Supreme Court'” by the Atlantic. Recently confirmed judge Brett Kavanaugh joined the group while at Yale.

Calabresi wrote, “Until recently, I had taken as political hyperbole the Democrats’ assertion that President Trump is a fascist. But this latest tweet is fascistic. And it is itself grounds for the president’s immediate impeachment again by the House of Representatives and his removal from office by the Senate.” Which won’t happen, mind you.

Preciscient?

Ed Morrissey in Red State: “Good grief. For months, Donald Trump’s allies and even a few of his critics have blasted Democrats and a handful of media figures for their baseless theories that the president would cancel or delay the national election. [Presumptive Democratic candidate Joe] Biden got ridiculed for saying that in April. ‘Mark my words: I think he is gonna try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can’t be held,’ even though the law and the constitution are clear that presidents can’t do that.

“And then…

“The best that could be said for this tweet is that Trump’s just spitballing, but even that’s an indictment of its own. No president should just be spitballing a suggestion like this, not in public and not even in private, where it would leak to the press quickly enough anyway. The US held an election in the middle of its Civil War in 1864. We can hold an election in the middle of a pandemic, especially when the president himself keeps insisting we can and should reopen for business.

“Rather than recognize those [Constitutional] impossibilities and leave it as a paranoid-conspiracy theory for the Left, he has essentially vindicated Biden and the paranoids. And for what purpose? Trump can’t do what he’s suggesting, Congress wouldn’t entertain the thought for one hot second… and it won’t work anyway. What could possibly be gained from tweeting out this absurd idea, other than perhaps distracting from the bad GDP report everyone was more or less expecting anyway?”

Of course, the tweet was sent the same day it was announced that the U.S. gross domestic product dropped at an annual rate of 32.9%. Reports of polling putting Biden far ahead of him in the November election.

Properly, securely and safely vote

The argument for delaying has to do with people being able to get to the polls without risking their lives. During this primary season, we’ve seen people standing in long lines during a pandemic. Of course, those were almost always DEMOCRATIC primaries, so it didn’t seem to matter to IMPOTUS.

A real problem, even prior to COVID-19, but certainly exacerbated by it, is a dearth of poll workers. There is a national effort to recruit more poll workers. These are healthy people “to ensure that those workers most susceptible to the coronavirus are given the space to take care of their health, while still keeping polling sites open and available for efficient in-person voting.”

“We can also demand change from our local officials, who in most cases can take needed steps without waiting for the federal government to help. New voting technologies, training standards, polling place opening and closing hours, and poll worker recruitment practices are all decided at the state or local levels.

“State legislatures and state secretaries can expand, rather than shrink, the number of polling places, reversing the harmful trend of polling-place closures in recent years. They can also invest in more early voting sites, and keep them open for longer, reducing the number of voters who cast ballots on Election Day itself.”

Undermining the Postal Service

Meanwhile, the US Postal Service is experiencing days-long backlogs of mail across the country. It is after a top djt donor running the agency put in place new procedures “described as cost-cutting efforts, alarming postal workers who warn that the policies could undermine their ability to deliver ballots on time for the November election…

“Postal employees and union officials say the changes implemented by the Trump fund-raiser-turned-postmaster general Louis DeJoy are contributing to a growing perception that mail delays are the result of a political effort to undermine absentee voting.”

One recent study found mail-in voting doesn’t benefit one party over another.

Still, since every state has its own deadline for when you need to request an absentee or mail-in ballot, start looking into the options now. Verify that you’re registered to vote and if you’re not, do so right away.

With more voting options this year, the US Postal Service is encouraging voters to plan ahead. If you wait until the last minute to decide how to vote, you could be cutting it close, or even become disenfranchised. We’re now less than 90 days away from the election – time to make a game plan.

Finally, since IMPOTUS’ bogus call for postponing the election took place on the same day as John Lewis’ funeral, tell your members of Congress to support The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. For it is voter suppression that is the real threat to democracy in the United States.